I just got home from the Rangers Town Hall they did for season ticket holders with David Quinn, Jeff Gorton, and Glen Sather, and have a few quick thoughts. I’m not going to break down every question, or even give any particular highlights. Instead, I want to talk about how we’ve got a new kind of organization on our hands, and how this era we’re entering is going to be different, at least from this starting point, but hopefully still even more as time goes on.
Last spring when the Rangers placed Brendan Smith on waivers, they admitted something big. With the roster move that sent him to Hartford and the letter to the fans, Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather told the world what we already knew: that this team wasn’t good enough. That’s a big move in a city that allegedly won’t tolerate a rebuild, a significant step towards a more honest and forthcoming stance, and a way of telling the fans “we feel it too.” That’s not easy for a multimillion dollar sports franchise in the largest city in the country to do, and especially given that the Rangers are one of the few profitable teams in the NHL, that means something big. It means, whether you look at it cynically or through rose-colored glasses, someone, and likely everyone from the top down, realized that big changes were necessary, that this was more important that pride.
This event was a step in the right direction – they didn’t shy away from tough questions about Kevin Hayes’ contract, why it’s OK for Brett Howden to develop on the fourth line but not Lias Andersson, and, my personal favorite, what role analytics will play in the future of this team. That last one was pretty significant to me because it was asked by my dad, a season ticket holder since 1968, and answered individually by each of Quinn, Gorton, and Sather.
It wasn’t just that they picked him to ask it though, it was the way that they answered it, and the way they answered all of the questions. They were honest, self-deprecating at times, but broadly optimistic and basically showed the fan base that any difficult issue that we might see with this rebuild, well, they see it too. They know it’s going to be tough to win a Stanley Cup, and they’re leaving no stone unturned. It was the opposite of what we see from failing organizations, and although you could take a grim look at things and say “well everybody says they want to win, but not everybody does the right things to make it happen” I beg to differ. This braintrust showed yes, I’ll say it, character in front of their harshest critics, and they handled it with grace.
Young and old, newcomers and decades-long Garden gnomes, everyone had their chance to speak and be heard. The decision makers seemed happy to listen too, genuinely aware that what they get to do is a gift, and that they’re in the business of generating joy. It was the kind of thing that brought the distant organization and the fans closer together, and although some of the answers may have seemed empty or unsatisfactory to some I think the act of answering means more. This is a team that will tell us when it’s not good enough, so that we know when we get there it’s been a group effort every step of the way. As Opening Night looms, nothing could be more important to me, that we’re in it as a community, and that this organization recognizes the importance of that.
Let’s Go Rangers.