Column: Coping with Easter hockey

Sports Editor Mike Smith is a big-time Rangers fan, which sometimes makes him a grouch come playoff time. Contributed photo

Sports Editor Mike Smith is a big-time Rangers fan, which sometimes makes him a grouch come playoff time. Contributed photo

April 20 may have been Easter Sunday, but I have to tell you, I wasn’t feeling very Christian.

While most of my family was decked out in their finest duds and headed to mass, I also found myself in a state of constant prayer. Instead of packing in the pews with the rest of the church-going crowd, I opted to appease the hockey gods instead.

While it may be the holiest of days for most Christians, I traded in Saint Peter for Martin St. Louis and chose to root on the Rangers as they took the ice against the Flyers.

And it didn’t go well.

A big second period propelled the hated Flyers to their first playoff victory and turned me into something of a grump for the majority of my family’s Easter party.

I don’t mean to be a bad sport, but the hockey playoffs just bring out the worst in me.

In my hierarchy of sports fandom, I would put the Rangers behind the Red Sox and Giants, but firmly ahead of the Knicks. But for my money, there’s no better—or more stressful—time to have a rooting interest than in the NHL playoffs.

Baseball playoff series are a long grind, punctuated by the occasional big play. Football playoff games are a once a week affair, easily digestible even in losing efforts. But NHL playoff series are a different beast entirely.

Seven games of constant white-knuckle stress can take their toll on even the most relaxed hockey fan, and watching the Rangers blow a 2-0 lead at home to a hated division rival is certainly not conducive to the general merriment of a holiday party.

Of course, it didn’t help that my brother, a Philadelphia transplant, was cheering on the Flyers, or that my cousin Andy—ever the contrarian—was pulling no punches when deriding the Rangers’ largely ineffectual power play. I’m a pretty calm guy, but after the final horn sounded, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with my family.

Ultimately though, it was tough to dwell on the Rangers’ failure.

Watching my young nieces stumble around the backyard in their quest for brightly covered and hastily hidden Easter eggs, shrieking with delight at the discovery of each treasure, helped me to put things in

No matter how badly the Rangers might have played, it’s pretty much impossible to stay down in the dumps while being assaulted by four-year old balls of concentrated cute.

By the time everyone left, I had forgotten all about the game.

Sometimes, a dose of family is good like that. They can help you realize that most tough times—especially ones brought on by sports fandom—are fleeting.

So maybe I’ll be a little bit calmer on Tuesday when the Blueshirts head down to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3. Maybe I’ll be able to sit in my apartment, watch the game with my roommates and be able to remind myself, no
matter how bad things get, that it’s just a game.

Then again, maybe I’ll see if my nieces need a babysitter that night. I’ll need all the help I can get.

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.