Rick Nash Made Hockey Fun

The news of Rick Nash’s retirement hit me particularly hard on Friday, in a way that sports-related news hasn’t in a while. In my experience, age has brought with it a true understanding of the famous Seinfeld axiom about rooting for laundry. Emotional attachment to individual athletes is something that has mostly receded from my sports fandom in recent years. But Rick Nash was an exception to that rule.

Watching Rick Nash play hockey was simply fun. His game was a unique blend of power and finesse, cerebral hockey sense and brute force. His most famous goal, scored almost exactly eleven years ago to the day for Columbus against the Coyotes, was a total anomaly. In many ways, one of his last goals for the Rangers was actually the purest distillation of the player, and perfectly encapsulated what made him great.

This is a goal that is beautiful because of its simplicity. There’s no pretty deke or passing play that precedes the finish. It’s a goal that happened simply because a great athlete executed the fundamentals of his craft to perfection. Notice Nash’s body and stick position and his ability to read the play. Then, the seamless transition from defense to offense. Even the shot itself is so perfectly placed, yet doesn’t jump off the screen the way a top corner snipe does. A bullet to the low blocker is just as effective, and often just as hard for a goalie to stop. This attention to detail is something he brought with him to every single game.

There were 145 goals in all scored by Nash as a Ranger (plus another 14 in the playoffs, by the way), most of them in the vein of the one detailed above. A lot of them were game-winners. At the peak of his abilities, Nash was dominant, and in 2013 you could argue that he was the best athlete playing in New York at that time, in any sport. I couldn’t wait to watch him play, and I feel lucky to have seen him live and in person.

When the Rangers traded for Rick Nash, he was meant to be the missing piece to a Stanley Cup contender. That never came to fruition, and Nash certainly shares in the blame along with every member of the organization. He turned into a natural scapegoat because of the expectations that preceded him, of course. However, the lack of a championship should not detract from his legacy. Would the Rangers have even been in position to make those memorable Cup runs without Nash? No way.

The reason Nash’s retirement struck a chord with me was because of how quiet it was, and how little acknowledgment it was given outside of deep hockey circles. He deserved more recognition, both from New Yorkers and the wider sports world. More importantly, this player deserved to leave the game on his own terms, which he didn’t. He made the right decision to value the quality of his life over his desire to compete, but it’s one he shouldn’t have had to make.

Many people will remember Rick Nash as the avatar of missed opportunities for the Rangers. That’s a cynical view, and one I certainly don’t share. Rick Nash was a hell of a hockey player, and he deserves to be remembered as such. I hope the Rangers do the right thing and honor him with a pregame ceremony (not a number retirement) at some point in the near future. It would be a small gesture that the man probably wouldn’t want but he would fully deserve.

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  • New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has recalled defenseman Ryan Lindgren from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL).

    The beginning of bringing up the kids for a cup of coffee to see what they look like. This should be interesting, and fun to see young legs out there instead of the freight trains like Mc Quade, and Staal!!!!!!!!

  • “Igor Shesterkin posted a shutout in both appearances he made with SKA during the past week, and he stopped all 54 shots he faced in the two games (23 saves on Jan. 8 against Avtomobilist and 31 saves on Jan. 10 against Lokomotiv). Shesterkin was named the KHL’s Goaltender of the Week for the past week. The Rangers’ fourth round pick (118th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has posted an 18-3-1 record, along with a 1.23 GAA, a .947 SV%, and 8 SO in 22 KHL appearances with SKA this season. Shesterkin’s eight shutouts this season are tied for his career-high in the KHL (he posted eight shutouts in 39 appearances during the 2016-17 season). He is tied for the KHL lead in shutouts, ranks second in the league in SV%, and ranks third in the league in GAA this season. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Shesterkin has posted a 73-9-4 record, along with a 1.55 GAA, a .938 SV%, and 23 SO in 89 KHL appearances”.

    I’ve never seen this kid play but his numbers are very impressive. Of his 86 starts, and 89 over all appearances, he has 23 shut outs, wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Lundqvist looks frustrated and detached. I wish he would wave his NTC. Not only would that give him a shot at Lord Stanley Cup, it would sped up the Rangers rebuild process.

  • Nash might be the last of the fundamentally sound, low key, dominant players. Other than the flashy goal against the Yotes, he was never the guy your eyes went to on the ice, yet he commanded the respect of his opposition by constantly drawing defenders to him. Just an all around great hockey player, and seems like an even better person.

  • When Nash was with the Rangers, you knew you were going to get 15-20 minutes, however many he played, of skill and effort. There were times when he made the game seem ridiculously easy, stopping the opponent’s attacks, taking the puck, undressing the other teams’ D-men and goalies. All that and he never seemed to cause any waves, quietly going about his trade, and his life. He was a credit to the game, a man of class and dignity, who was forced from the game too early. He will be missed by those who understand hockey, and life.

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