New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad kneels on the ice...

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad kneels on the ice after his team lost Game 6 to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference finals on June 1, 2024. Credit: AP

The Mets had just won Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, a generational New York sports moment.

As I walked out through the Shea Stadium parking lot toward the 7 train, I noticed a dozen or so people huddled around a portable television set.

What were they doing? Watching the postgame coverage, perhaps? Trying to stay warm by the glow of the screen?

Nope. They were watching the Giants play Washington on “Monday Night Football.”

That’s New York, where we always are on to the next thing.

That is true in situations such as that long-ago Monday night in Queens, but it is even more true when our teams fall short of the big prize.

In the moment, the entire area gets caught up in the excitement. Unusual stuff starts to happen, like sports talk radio discussing hockey.

But as soon as it’s over, it’s over.

It feels that way this week after the Rangers’ elimination by the Panthers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final on Saturday night.

Game 7 would have been Monday night at Madison Square Garden. But instead of feeling empty, all but the most diehard fans already have recalibrated.

Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are old news, just like Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart before them. Aaron Judge and Juan Soto are all that matter now. (Plus how the Mets plan to approach the trade deadline, I suppose.)

Partly this is a defense mechanism of sorts. Partly it is the reality of the city that never sleeps.

Instead of some of the best hockey players on Earth doing their thing at MSG, we have some of the best cricket players on Earth doing their thing in East Meadow.

The wheel never stops turning, even in a town that has not seen an NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB championship since Chris Kreider was a rookie.

But before we fully move on to the summer and autumn sports seasons, let’s take one last look back at the winter and spring that were.

The Knicks and Rangers, in particular, deserve that.

We in the media game force-fed comparisons to the Garden in 1994 because it served our narrative purposes but also because it was kinda true.

The combined buzz from the Rangers and the revived, reborn, remarkably likable Knicks was like nothing we have experienced this millennium.

As much as championships matter in pro sports, the journey matters, too, just as in life itself. And diminishing that part is a mistake.

If you are a Rangers or Knicks fan, your entertainment life was enhanced by what went down on 33rd Street and environs over the past seven or eight months.

Brunson now might be second only to Judge on the list of biggest New York-area sports stars.

(Who would have guessed that our biggest basketball star would be smaller and thus more relatable than our biggest baseball star? Seems backward.)

Igor Shesterkin is a goaltending pillar in his prime.

Even the Islanders figured out a way to sneak into the playoffs again, for the fifth time in the past six seasons. It has been the second-best run in the history of the franchise.

To get back to the original point, though: The weather now is warm, the days are long, and the next basketball and hockey seasons seem far away.

The super-engaged fans will follow every nuance of the offseason, which is as it should be. But for the majority of sports followers around here, there is no use being tense about all that.

The present tense is all that matters.

The last time the Yankees played in the Bronx, the Rangers were only one game into their series against Florida.

Judge and friends return Tuesday after a long West Coast trip to find themselves the only relevant game in town.

The Rangers will be in Westchester County this week packing up their stuff for the summer. Few will notice. It’s better that way.

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME