Last Monday, I had the particular misfortune of attending the Bruins/Rangers game at the Garden, a 3-2 snoozefest of a win by the Blueshirts after both teams spent two periods aggressively playing like they really wouldn't mind losing this one. There was a flash of excitement in the last five minutes of the third when the B's rallied back from 2 goals down to tie it, but that was snuffed out by a Christopher Higgins goal with a minute and change left that looked more like women's billiards than ice hockey. I'm sure the Ranger fans were happy to see it, but it's not like they put an exclamation point on the night by ringing up another of of these beauties:
It was a crap goal and a crap game, and to make a long story short, the Ranger fans left feeling relieved instead of ecstatic, and Bruins fans saw their team try to win without a 60 minute effort again, and instead got just what they deserved, which was a regulation loss. Of course, if they were just gonna blow the game, they could have done us the favor of not blue-balling us at the end there.
Either way, the better bad team won, and no one headed home happy, except maybe Christopher Higgins, and fuck that guy.
So we filed out, and unlike a lot of buildings in the NHL, when you leave Madison Square Garden after a hockey game, the dispersal of fans is gradual and a little off-putting. There are so many other random people just walking around the city that after about a hundred yards, you're still in the middle of a crowd, but with each step, that crowd is made up of fewer and fewer hockey fans. One by one, the people who just shared an experience with you are replaced with those who didn't, until before you realize it, you're right back to feeling like the only hockey fan in America.
It's discouraging, especially after a crap game.
Of course, I was headed for the subway, so that feeling was diluted a little, seeing as I was waiting on the platform for the uptown C train, and could still see quite a few folks in hockey jerseys waiting not only on my side, but also on the express and downtown local platforms across the two sets of train tracks across the way.
I was walking north along the platform to kill a little time, and as I strolled past a trash can in the corner next to an empty bench, I just kind of sensed a disturbance in the force. People were gathered around, looking at something, I couldn't tell what, but there was a palpable excitement in the air, bordering on fear.
I swiveled my head around and saw it. There was a fat, nasty rat crouching behind the trash can, up on the platform, WITH US, knawing on something. People were maintaining a safe distance of about 20 yards or so, and kind of slowly rotating around the trash can so they could keep an eye on the rat.
Of course, rats in the subway are no big deal, provided they stay down on the tracks where they belong. But when one gets up on the platform, on the same level as you, that's an altogether different experience. I've seen it happen a number of times and it's always dramatic as hell when they run. People run, jump, scream, freak out, you name it. It's exciting, and that rat was cornered and definately going to run.
I joined the circle of onlookers, eyeing the nasty fucker and getting ready to jump if he headed my way. It felt like a game of Russian Roulette, the standoff at the end of the Good, The Bad and the Ugly, or basically, the way you're supposed to feel during the last five minutes of a hockey game that doesn't suck.
"That's poison he's eating now!" announced an authoritative voice. It came from an African American subway custodian who looked to be in his late 40's. He slowly approached the circle of onlookers, wearing a reflective vest over his blue MTA uniform. He was carrying a large, heavy shovel, painted yellow, and his eyes were fixed on his target. This wasn't his first rat. Not by a long shot.
This was turning into the best show in town.
The crowd, many of them still wearing hockey jerseys, gathered slightly closer, but not so close as to crowd the rat out from behind the can. Fans from across the platform craned their necks and angled for a good view from their limited sightlines.
Slowly but surely, the custodian edged up to the trash can, and with a quick lateral move, turned the corner of the bench, and simulataneously smashed down the heavy blade of the shovel. He narrowly missed the rat, who was off like a shot, southbound along the platform. And that's when the screams started.
As the mayhem increased, and people began jumping out of the way of the fleeing rodent, the custodian lowered his shoulders and broke into a sprint, the blade of his shovel knee-high like a hockey stick. He caught up to the rat after about 30 yards, and without breaking stride, took a high, hard slapshot with the shovel that sent it flying onto the tracks, where it landed hard, righted itself and scurried away.
As one, the crowd went wild.
Hands down, it was the best shot of the night.