Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
Savor this, Rangers fans, because nothing like it ever has happened before.
The team's near-total takeover of the modern New York-area sports media agenda has been remarkable to behold for those of us in the minority of Americans who recognize hockey as the best spectator sport.
1994? Sorry, no. As memorable a ride as that was, the Rangers had to share the stage with the Knicks.
1979? Sorry, no. As much as the Rangers-Islanders semifinal riveted the region, followed by the Rangers facing the Canadiens in the Final, it happened 27 years before Twitter, eight years before WFAN and three months before ESPN.
This is unprecedented, and it is reflected not only in talk radio buzz but also in TV ratings.
So jazzed is New York that an average of 3.7 percent of area homes watched Game 7 of Kings-Blackhawks on Sunday, nearly as high a rating as the 4.8 in Los Angeles. (Chicago averaged a 22.7 for Game 7, by the way, which is why Blackhawks-Blueshirts would have been even better for NBC.)
Meanwhile, the secondary ticket market is much more efficient (and much more legal) compared with 1994, and prices have gone through the Garden roof as a result.
TiqIQ, which monitors resale sites, said as of Monday, the average asking price for the three potential Rangers home games was $2,424.64, including $2,827.85 for Game 6.
SeatGeek, another resale market aggregator, reports actual prices paid rather than asking prices. By that measure, the games in New York are more than twice as expensive as those in L.A. As of Monday, the average paid for a ticket to Game 1 in L.A. was $679, compared with $1,626 for Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. The lowest prices SeatGeek reported were $495 for Game 1 and $1,087 for Game 3.
For those fans who prefer to send their children to college and watch on TV at home, NBC will carry Games 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7, with Games 3 and 4 on its NBCSN cable arm.
Play-by-play man Doc Emrick will miss Game 1 because of a death in his family. He'll be replaced by Kenny Albert, who in turn will be replaced on the Rangers' radio team by Don La Greca. Emrick is expected back for Game 2.
NBC will have its analysts on sets both inside and outside Staples Center and the Garden for each game.
The network has had more than its fair share of puckheads in high places, including former Williams College captain and current executive producer Sam Flood, who said Monday he is excited about the matchup.
"I think it's fun and big and you could see [Sunday night] with the huge rating that people are paying attention to hockey," he said. "It's beyond New York and L.A. I think there's a buzz about some of these amazing games that we are capturing."
Flood did not deny that the Blackhawks would have been a somewhat better ratings draw than the Kings, but he said having Los Angeles back in the Final, especially against a New York opponent, should benefit the NHL and NBC in the long run in continuing to cultivate the game in Southern California.
Unlike in 1994, the last year in which a local cable channel was allowed to carry the Final, MSG will be limited to non-game coverage, meaning Sam Rosen will continue to focus on studio work.
But that will not prevent the network from loading up on Rangers content, beginning at 6 a.m. Tuesday with all seven games of the 1994 Final against the Canucks.
Starting Tuesday and on all subsequent non-game nights, MSG will present "Rangers Stanley Cup Insider," with news of the day, interviews and features.
On game nights, the network will start 90 minutes before faceoff with a one-hour preview from Rangerstown Hockey House, followed by a half-hour pregame show. Later, there will be a 60-to-90-minute postgame wrap-up.
And why not? These days, New York seems happy to take as much Rangers as it can get.