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NEW YORK – The prediction was for at least eight inches of snow on Monday in New York City.
So the National Hockey League decided to hold a game in a park; unannounced, with little fanfare other than a mention or two on social media.
Well, snow's not the only reason. The League has two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium to promote – the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 26, which is sold out; and the Rangers and New York Islanders on Wednesday evening, Jan. 29, which is about 4,000 tickets short of one.
The NHL brought familiar names from the three area teams to Bryant Park in Manhattan for an announced hockey game between the retired veterans and some youth hockey players from North Jersey.
Oh, and one former NFL quarterback.
“I’m like a kid today. I don’t know who’s the bigger kid, me or the little guys,” said Boomer Esiason, the former New York Jet turned WFAN radio host, wearing his No. on a Rangers jersey.
Fun fact: Esiason choose No. 7 because it was the number of his favorite hockey player, Rod Gilbert. “I always remind him I was seven years old when I admired him,” he said.
Esiason joined Mike Richter, Brian Leetch and Dave Maloney of the Rangers; Patrick Flatley, Glenn Healey, Eric Cairns and guest EJ Hradek of NHL Network for the Islanders; and Devils alumni Ken Daneyko, Grant Marshall and Jim Dowd.
Did Boomer want to line up one of the Isles or Devils during the game for a check?
“I was looking for Daneyko, but he’s a fire hydrant on skates,” he said. “I told him, ‘You’re a nose tackle. You should be playing for the Seahawks or the Broncos next week!’”
Esiason is the co-host of “Boomer and Carton” on WFAN in New York, arguably the most influential sports talk station in the U.S. The morning show features more hockey talk than other day parts primarily because Esiason is the one injecting it into the conversation, usually to the chagrin of his on air coworkers.
“They try to make fun of me, and that’s a way to talk about it,” he said. “I don’t try to force feed it. It’s real to me. When my team loses to the Flyers when they sucked and the Islanders when they sucked and to the Devils when they hadn’t got a win … you could it hear it as a fan on the radio.
“We are bringing hockey to mainstream sports fans on WFAN, and I’m proud of that.”
Also a point of pride: Two NHL games being played in the Bronx this season.
“Even getting 35,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, that’s a huge success,” he said. “I would say hockey is on a roll and has great momentum.”
Enough that the NHL can take over a rink in Bryant Park, and have a small crowd of fans show up to watch without any promotion.
“It’s a great day for me. Selfishly,” said Esiason.
The game at Bryant Park also featured:
Like a fake fight between Maloney and a young player.
And a fake fight between Grant Marshall and a young player.
And a goal celebration in front of a mini-net. Eric Cairns sighting!