-by Patrick Hoffman

While the New York Rangers may be one of the hottest teams on home ice this season at the partly renovated Madison Square Garden (5-1-1), the team’s fans don’t exactly feel at home just yet.

While it is hard to fully pass judgment on the arena given that only one of three phases has been completed, it’s clear that Blueshirts’ bloggers are quite opinionated when it comes to their “new” arena.

In fact, one Rangers’ fan/blogger and season ticket holder of six years feels that not only do the renovations make MSG worse, but it also makes it a place that shuns die-hard Blueshirts’ fans.

“The building is quieter than it has been in years – either because of the way they have physically changed the place or because they raised prices and lost True Blue subscribers”, Rangers’ blogger Scotty of Scotty Hockey said. “Lower ticket prices to get more of the real fans back.”

Garden ticket prices was something that came up in my first piece on this subject. Kevin Baumer, the Rangers’ writer for Blueshirt Bulletin fan publication/online outlet, said that the ticket prices could lead to the team losing some of its fans.

“If the primary concern is price, as I think it is for many people, then it will be hard for fans to be satisfied,” Baumer said. “They’ve gone up pretty dramatically over the last decade and although you can still find some good deals on StubHub and the like, buying face value tickets means digging deep into your wallet.”

Scotty, who was also part of my first piece on this subject, added that Rangers’ fans might have to find other options if the tickets don’t work for their price range.

“When you charge $60, $70 for nosebleeds, how many of the blue collar fans will bring the wife and kids to several games a season?” Scotty asked. “Not many. They will sit at home and watch it on television, where it becomes just another program.”

From www.nypost.com

Losing some of the Garden faithful isn’t the only thing that bothers Scotty. In fact, the blunt and realistic Rangers’ blogger feels that his viewing experience has been negatively impacted by the new upgrades.

“There are more obstructed view seats than ever – at least one handicapped section that I know of and the 400s under the West Balcony,” Scotty said. “There has been an extension cord sticking out of one of the walls into the arena itself near my seat, something they couldn’t be bothered to at least cover up or get rid of”.

Another Rangers’ fan/blogger that agrees with Scotty is Dave Shapiro of the Blue Seat Blogs.

“Aside from the crowded concessions on the main level, the biggest issue is that the new upper tier level blocks the view of a lot of 400 level seats that are at the corners,” Shapiro said. “I had an issue with my season tickets (since refunded, minor inconvenience), but I was not thrilled to realize I couldn’t see half the rink from my seats.”

Even Mike Brophy, an NHL and Toronto Maple Leafs analyst/writer for Rogers Sportsnet, was not exactly excited by the renovations done to MSG when he was there for opening night against the Leafs back on October 27.

“I wasn’t blown away by the new-look MSG,” Brophy said. “It lacks a real ‘wow’ factor and remains one of the darkest arenas in all of hockey.”

While both of these bloggers/fans point out the negatives, they each throw out a few positives as well, which points to the wishy-washy reaction to the Garden renovations. Even Scotty had a few positives things to say about the arena.

“The new West Balcony is a lovely place to watch some hockey as it gives a majestic view over the ice”, Scotty said. “Supposedly the ice level luxury areas are quite nice and the arena staff are nicer than ever, likely a mandate from above but still nice.”

Unfortunately, fans don’t get to play in here. Photo from www.nytimes.com

Shapiro, without the sarcasm, is pleased with the aesthetics of the “new” arena.

“The new seats are extremely comfortable, and the new concourse looks very nice,” Shapiro said. “The newly created tier area above the 400s made from the old box seats provides great views of the rink, and has an entire food court.”

One Rangers’ blogger/former season ticket holder that was a bit more positive than the two bloggers mentioned above was Kevin DeLury of The New York Rangers Blog. DeLury especially loves the features that allow Blueshirts’ fans to be around each other.

“I love the new observation and party decks that have been added as it allows Rangers fans to be more social during the game,” DeLury said.  “You can meet up with a group of people you may not be sitting with to hang out, grab a drink and not miss a second of the action.”

DeLury, who for the first time in five years does not have season tickets, also likes some of the new technology that has been installed in MSG.

“There are sections of seats that have personal HD TVs installed,” DeLury said. “That’s pretty sick.”

Even with all the positives DeLury mentioned, like the other bloggers, he too noticed some negatives.

“Despite being widened, the concourses actually seemed more crowded and a lot of the food courts weren’t opened yet,” DeLury said. “It is basically still a construction zone and even the completed areas are missing those finishing touches.”

With only the first phase done and several negatives noticed by passionate Blueshirt fans/bloggers, it will be interesting to see which fans continue to come to MSG, and which fans leave.

The renovations have people sitting on the fence. We’ll wait for completion before making a final ruling.

***

Patrick covers the NHL for Kukla’s Korner, the Red Light District Hockey Blog and TheGoodPoint.com hockey section. You can follow Patrick on twitter at @pathoffman35, and email him at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.