Author Howard Freidman
I grew up in NYC as a NY Ranger fanatic. In ’79 the Rangers and cross-town rival Islanders played in the semi-finals—the winner to compete for the NHL championship. The teams split the first two games on Long Island, and came to Manhattan for game 3.
The Rangers sell out every game. Naturally, playoff games are a super hot ticket. This was no ordinary playoff game — it was the hated crosstown rival, and extra emotionally charged because a couple months earlier the Rangers Ulf Nillson was injured (ultimately ending his career) against the Islanders, after a check by Denis Potvin. To this day, MSG crowds chant “Potvin Sucks” when the Islanders visit—this game 3 permanently etched that not so dignified twist into the Rangers-Isles rivalry.
The first two games were thrilling — they raised the heat to fever pitch. Suffice to say it was a very hot ticket—I can’t adequately describe just how hot.
I split a Rangers season ticket, but my end of the deal didn’t include playoff rights. Nonetheless, a buddy and I headed to MSG to bask in the electric pregame atmosphere. Then we planned to head to one of the countless Irish bars close by (junior highs schoolers could do that in NYC back then).
It was a circus in front of Penn Station and around MSG. Like Gators vs. Bulldogs crossed with Times Square on New Years. Tickets were selling for the price of cars. For good seats, a nice car.
With game time nearing, we set out for the bar. As we did, a man in a trench coat approached us: “Need tickets?” He startled me—scalpers usually wear parkas or windbreakers. Before I could say no, my friend asked what he had.
He held out 2 ticket with 115 (or thereabouts) and “1st Promenade” clearly visible. Rarified air—red seats—the “suit section”. In the 6th row, just off the red line. The best of the best.
I’m not sure what my buddy would have said if they were “normal” tickets— we couldn’t have afforded them either. As it was he just said “no thanks,” and the gentleman responded “Don’t you want to go to the game?” And before either of us could state the obvious—that we couldn’t afford them—he said “If you want to go to the game, they’re yours—I don’t want any money for them.”
He reached forward, put the tickets in my hand, said “Have a great time. Lets go Rangers.” and started walking away. After a few steps, he turned around, smiled a big smile, and said “Pay it forward”.
I’ve done the same thing three times since, with hot tickets. But that game was like the Super Bowl and Masters combined, so I’l be doing it a bunch more times just to break even.