For four consecutive days, people in sports jerseys of different colors entered and exited Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station. For some, it was the destination. For others, it was a turning point. But in one metropolitan area he was an unrivaled and engaging spring hub of playoffs for fans of his five teams competing in two sports.
In the United States and Canada, many cities host professional basketball and hockey playoff games. But nowhere was the action richer than in the New York metropolitan area, where all five of the professional winter season teams took part in the postseason.
It’s the first time since 1994, when Madison Square Garden became a pulsating star at the center of the sports world, that five hometown teams reached the playoffs at the same time. The Rangers and Knicks traded nights at the Gardens in the spring of that year, from April until he finished in the NHL and NBA playoffs in June, and the Rangers won his Cup against Stanley. In the process, he had all five teams date in that one arena during the playoffs.
By Sunday, three teams had played at the Gardens this year, but all five were the Islanders of Nassau County, New York. Brooklyn Nets. Knicks and Rangers of Manhattan. The Newark, New Jersey Devils competed in a first-round playoff game somewhere in a relatively densely populated metropolitan area.
“The area is definitely booming,” said Islanders defenseman Ryan Plock after Friday’s 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
It was the first playoff game held two years ago at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, about a 35-minute drive from Penn Station on the Long Island Rail Road. That same night, basketball fans took the train (or subway) to Pennsylvania Station and walked upstairs to watch the Knicks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-79 at the Gardens in Game 3 of the series. I could see it.
The crowd and building were ready for the moment, with Knicks guard Jalen Brunson calling the atmosphere “unreal.”
“Being in this environment, there are no other replicas,” he said. “Nothing comes close to it.”
Those playoff runs of the New York-area teams, which have been budding for several years, began Thursday when the Devils and Rangers played in Newark for Game 2 of that series. Some fans from New York, including many Rangers fans, jumped on the New Jersey Transit train from Penn Station. At the same time, barely 14 miles away, the Nets, who once shared an arena with the Rutherford Devils in East New Jersey, hosted the Philadelphia 76ers at the Barclays Center, losing Game 3.
The basketball playoffs continued Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, but it was over for the Nets after they were eliminated in a first-round sweep by the 76ers.
But those looking for more playoff action can catch the Number 2 train back to Penn Station and watch the Rangers welcome the Devils to Game 3 at the Gardens on Saturday night. It must have been. In that series he leads 2-1. On Sunday, the Knicks beat the Cavaliers in the Garden, where he went 102-93, giving him a 3-1 lead in the series. On Sunday at UBS Arena, the Islanders lost 5-2 to the Hurricanes and he is now trailing 3-1 in the series.
Eight playoff games in four arenas over four days with five local teams: the New York and New Jersey playoff jackpot.
“It’s great for the local fans,” said Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri. “I grew up as a local fan and watched all these teams.”
He also played in two of them. Palmieri was born on Long Island in Smithtown, New York and moved with his family to Montvale, New Jersey as a boy. He played for the Devils from his 2015 season until he was traded to the Islanders in 2021, just as he played in Tampa Bay on June 23, 2021 in his 3–2 overtime game against the Lightnings. Old Nassau arrived in time to attend the Isles’ final game at his Coliseum. .
Even though he’s currently focused on his own club’s series against Carolina, he can still marvel at all the local teams playing at the same time.
“It’s special to have everyone involved,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
More than 140,000 people were expected to attend Sunday’s playoff games. One of his was Lucas Whitehead, 27, a Canadian who was in the area to attend a conference at the United Nations. He bought an Islanders jersey and UBS marveled at the atmosphere of his game in his first playoff at the arena.
“The energy here has never been seen before,” he said after the game on Friday. I’ve been to Canada a lot, and this was the craziest.”
However, the Garden came alive again for Saturday’s Rangers vs. Devils game. Rangers fans made their presence felt in Newark, but at home, when the team scores, the crowd sings the goal song, and the walls vibrate, the team has the momentum.
After Friday’s practice, about two hours after the Knicks practiced at the same building in Westchester County, N.Y., Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said, “It’s amazing. This is one of the coolest experiences you’ll ever have.” It’s hard to explain to someone, who’s not on the ice and you can’t be a part of it in the moment.”
As the playoffs move into May, the number of local teams will dwindle. But there may be more excitement ahead. His two rivals, whose fanbases generally dislike each other, will face off in the second round if the Rangers and Islanders win the series. It was the first postseason matchup since the Rangers swept the Islanders in the fateful spring of 1994.
It suits Filip Kittil, a Rangers center originally from the Czech Republic. Before joining the Rangers in 2017, Chitil played professionally for Czech team PSG Zlín for a year and said his rivalry with HC Cometa Brno was intense. It will get even more intense.
“That’s great,” Kittil said on Friday. “It’s a big ‘if’ at the moment. But we don’t have to travel much. Just take a bus. ”
Or, if the team so desires, there are plenty of trains going in and out of Penn Station.