Stefanie Gordon arrived at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, N.Y., at around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. She was given her plane ticket, went through TSA security and walked to Gate 1 of Terminal A, where her Delta Flight was scheduled to depart at 10 a.m. Like the rest of the passengers, she patiently waited until the announcement for boarding was made, at which time former New York Rangers star Ron Duguay would scan her ticket before she embarked on a 17-minute flight to a hockey game in New Jersey.
"It was the most interesting way I've ever gotten to a sporting event," said Gordon, a Rangers fan from Manhattan.
Gordon and her cousin Allison Marden were among the Rangers fans that landed seats on Delta Flight 8857 from LaGuardia to Newark International Airport, where they were whisked away by bus to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
"I think we were in the air for about seven minutes. We taxied longer than the flight," said Gordon.
The flight was announced last week as the "Delta Rangers Fan Flight," billed as the "ultimate ride to the NY Rangers game." Fans went to the Rangers' official web site and signed up on a first-come, first-serve basis for tickets on the flight, and transportation to and from the game via a plane ride.
The majority of the fans on the Delta flight already had tickets to Game 3, which the Rangers won, 3-0, to take a 2-1 series lead. Gordon, however, was surprised when she was invited on the trip.
The Rangers, not exactly famous for social media outreach, contacted Gordon on Wednesday to offer her a place on the flight because of her prolific support of the Rangers on Twitter -- she has nearly 5,600 followers and has tweeted over 85,700 times. They offered her tickets to Game 3, and two seats on the plane.
"I grew up following my brother's travel hockey team. It's in my blood. I've been a Rangers fan for 34 years now. It's a way of life," she said.
Gordon wasn't quite sure what to make of the idea of flying from Queens to Newark for a hockey game.
"Is that even possible?" she wondered. "I thought they might take us in a helicopter. I didn't think it was logistically possible to fly from LaGuardia to Newark. I thought we'd go to LaGuardia and take a boat there."
Instead, it was a plane ride, and the experience was very much a normal one for any air traveler. Rangers fans had to submit ID and other information prior to the flight. They went through security like other travelers.
Then, admittedly, things were a little different at the gate:
There were Rangers signs, gifts and door prizes. Rod Gilbert and Duguay got on the loudspeaker at the gate and pumped up the fans before the flight. Duguay scanned their tickets as they boarded.
"Then it was like a regular flight. We all sat down, they did the 'in case of emergency' flight speech," Gordon said.
But Ron Duguay didn't do that too?
"No. But that would have been great, wouldn't it?"
Unlike most hockey road trips, Gordon said there wasn't observable alcohol consumption on the Rangers flight. Then again, there wasn't exactly beverage service on a plane ride that lasted around seven minutes.
(They spent more time on the tarmac at LaGuardia than Newark, to the surprise of no one that's ever flown out of both airports.)
Once at Newark, they were loaded on buses and traveled to the Rock by 11 a.m.
"It seemed like everybody had a lot of fun. It was a unique experience," she said. "I mean, it wasn't very green from the Rangers and Delta…"
Yeah, about that: The New York Daily News reported that the Airbus A319 burns 640 gallons of jet fuel per hour, selling at $3.10 per gallon. Factor in the environmental impact, and this wasn't exactly something that would put a smile on Al Gore's face.
Said Gordon: "It wasn't very green. It was probably the most ridiculous thing [environmentally] that could be done. But as a one-off thing, it was fine. It's not like they're going to do this again on Monday."
Even if it's a one-off thing, it was an incredible, surreal morning for die-hard Rangers fans — with a suitable ending at the arena, where fans who took to the skies to see their team watched New York ground the Devils.
"There were 'Let's go Rangers!' chants going on before the flight, during the flight and after the flight," Gordon, pictured left, said.
"The people on this flight were not the bandwagon fans."
(Thanks to Stefanie Gordon, for the time and the images. Please visit Mini-Sticks for Mikko, a very worthy charity effort for a 5-year-old player diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, for whom fans around the world are purchasing mini-hockey sticks. Gordon supports it, and so should all of us.)