While the Western Conference Finals pits a pair of warm weather foes (the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes) who have combined for one trip to the Stanley Cup and are likely unfamiliar to casual hockey fans, the Eastern Conference Finals features an East Coast rivalry that is almost sure to be fondly recalled by even people who normally don’t pay attention to hockey.
The top-seeded New York Rangers and sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils, whose home arenas are separated by just nine miles and the Hudson River, are playing each other in the conference finals for the first time since their epic 1994 series, which the Rangers won in seven games. The Rangers won Game One of this seven-game series, 3-0, Monday, May 14 at Madison Square Garden. Game Two is scheduled for tonight, May 16, before the series shifts to New Jersey’s Prudential Center for Games Three and Four Saturday, May 19 and Monday, May 21.
Jason Berger of Connecticut’s AllShows.com told TicketNews today demand for Rangers’ playoff tickets at MSG was high to begin the playoffs and has only increased as the Rangers survived seven-game duels with the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers.
“The Rangers being in first place this year, people have high hopes for the Rangers, and as we’ve gotten closer to the Stanley Cup, every series seems to be more and more popular and we’re getting more and more activity,” Berger said.
Berger also said the scheduling of the series, as well as the prestige of MSG — and the relative anonymity of the Prudential Center, which is less than five years old — has made tickets to Rangers games far more popular than tickets to the Devils’ home games, at least among the corporate clientele that drives the resale market. A search of StubHub this afternoon revealed 872 tickets available, beginning at $190, for Game Two tonight and 2,369 tickets available, beginning at $140, for Game Three.
“We’re seeing a lot more corporate spending at MSG and a lot more consumer spending at Prudential Center, which would tie into the fact that the games in New Jersey are on Saturday and Monday, which generally are not a big corporate entertaining night,” Berger said. “Tuesday through Thursday are usually popular for that.”
The 2012 edition of Rangers-Devils has quite a high bar to clear to match the drama of 1994. The Rangers, who hadn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1940, trailed three games to two back in ’94 but won Game Six when captain Mark Messier — who had, a la Joe Namath, guaranteed a victory prior to the game — scored a natural hat trick (three goals in a row) in the third period to single-handedly mount a Rangers comeback and won Game Seven in double overtime on Stephane Matteau’s goal, which inspired Rangers radio broadcaster Howie Rose’s euphoric and oft-quoted “MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!” The Rangers then, of course, finally won the Stanley Cup by edging the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.
The Rangers haven’t won it all since then while the Devils have won the Stanley Cup three times since 1995 — the second-most in the NHL in that span behind only the Detroit Red Wings — and could stake a claim as the best team of this generation with a fourth crown. So ticket brokers could benefit if this series extends to a sixth and/or seventh game and further reminds fans of 1994.
“I can tell you there are a lot of people waiting for Games Five, Six and Seven,” Berger said. “The first two games at MSG weren’t as popular as games five and seven [the last two Rangers’ home games] of the last round.”