Matt Harvey and Rangers: Mutual admiration society
It's way too early for scoreboard-watching in baseball. But it's exactly the right time for scoreboard-watching in hockey.
That's why Mets pitcher Matt Harvey isn't sweating what NL East teams are doing these days. The Connecticut native and new Manhattan resident is keeping an eye on the NHL's Eastern Conference, where his beloved Rangers are fighting for playoff spots with the Islanders and other teams.
Harvey is friendly with many Rangers, including fellow New Englander Brian Boyle and star goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Harvey has gone out for meals with the hockey players and they follow what he is doing for the Mets -- which is pitching very, very well in his first two starts (2-0, 0.64 ERA).
"I saw what he did the other day," Boyle said the day after Harvey's most recent outing on Monday night against the Phillies. "Nine strikeouts, one earned? I think it's cool to kind of follow him. He's a humble guy. I hope he turns into a superstar. You really do root for a guy like that."
The feeling is mutual. Or Met-ual.
Harvey briefly was a good-luck charm for the Rangers before he left for spring training. The Blueshirts won three in a row with Harvey in attendance, and Rangers fans gave the phenom a rousing ovation when he was shown on the Madison Square Garden scoreboard.
"I grew up a Rangers fan," Harvey said. "I've always been really into hockey. It was a lot of fun. Those guys more than welcomed me. Hopefully, when we get back, I'll be able to check out a game or two. Hopefully, they'll make a run and try and sneak into the playoffs."
Harvey's hockey-playing background is limited to roller hockey and ice hockey in his cousin's backyard rink in Vermont. He said he hasn't been on skates in about 10 years. But Boyle, a 6-7, 244-pound forward from Dorchester, Mass., paid Harvey what might be considered a hockey player's ultimate compliment.
"He'd fit in great in here," Boyle said in the Rangers' locker room at their practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. "He's a good dude. Works hard, obviously. He's happy. Enjoys life. He's just like one of us, I'd say.
"With us, guys in here, we take our job very seriously, and then when we go out for dinner, you enjoy the time you have with your friends. I think we all know we're pretty lucky to be doing what we're doing. I'm sure he's no different."
The first NHL players Harvey met were members of the Los Angeles Kings, through an association with his California-based agent, Scott Boras. Harvey later met some New York players and became almost an honorary Ranger.
"He's a great guy," Lundqvist said. "I don't watch baseball much, but we keep in touch."
Said Harvey: "Henrik's pretty busy right now. So him and I shoot a 'good luck' text to each other, something like that. It's kind of tough right now to get out to dinner."
The Mets spent Thursday's off day in snowy Minnesota. Harvey is scheduled to pitch Saturday afternoon, but frigid weather Friday night -- hockey weather -- and rain Sunday could cause postponements and send the weekend into chaos.
So guess where Harvey and some of his Mets buddies spent Thursday night? At the St. Louis Blues-Minnesota Wild game. Pretty cool.