Rangers booed at home charity event

Interesting article in today’s New York Times about the Ranger fans towards their team in the Sather era (error).The crowd at Madison Square Garden had applauded the introductions of the celebrities, the former Rangers stars and the youth players as they took the ice, one by one, for the team’s sixth annual Super Skate fund-raiser. Then the introductions were finished with the words, “To complete the festivities, welcome the New York Rangers.”

As the current team skated onto the ice, boos descended from nearly every fan who had come to the Garden, which appeared to be less than half full, for the charity event yesterday.

Although Coach Glen Sather did not appear, saving him the now-familiar chant calling for his dismissal, the crowd’s vocal displeasure was only slightly louder than what emerged from the team’s locker room after the embarrassing 9-1 loss in Ottawa on Saturday night. With Jaromir Jagr’s debut in a Rangers uniform, that game was supposed to usher in the team’s latest new era. Instead, it continued a seemingly endless procession of high-priced disappointments.

The defeat prompted Bobby Holik to say, “I believe, fundamentally, we are the worst team in the National Hockey League.”

It also prompted the team to arrive early at the Garden yesterday for an unscheduled practice session and team meeting.

“Nothing will help us but ourselves,” Holik said yesterday. “We’ve said everything. Last year, this year, we’ve said everything — at least twice, if not more.”

Holik offered a thought on how the team might improve. “If everyone wants to go out there and try to make us better,” he said, “that will make a difference — every one of us.”

Tom Renney, a Rangers assistant coach, said he understood what inspired Holik’s comments.

“We take it as a guy speaking in the emotion of the moment, which we all can do,” Renney said. “We realize that we’re a good enough team to make the playoffs and perform well when we get there. To dwell on comments made in the heat of the moment is not necessarily the smartest thing to do.”

Holik said that representatives of the team had spoken to him about his comments, but he did not soften his stance yesterday.

“What I said last night, I believe it’s true,” Holik said. “I’m not saying it to make a point. It’s what I felt, feel. I think all of us have to be better. There’s no reason to analyze it anymore. It is what it is. And our record is just not good enough.

“Our record of late is terrible. Look at the facts. Don’t read into things more than they are. The facts are we lost four in a row when we need to win games to stay in the hunt.”

The Rangers (18-20-7-4) are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, 6 points out of the final playoff berth, and they have been outscored by 22-6 over the four-game losing streak.

Jagr was given an ovation by the fans yesterday as he stepped onto the Garden ice for the first time as a Ranger, winning one of the skills competitions with the fastest shot and winning the hearts of fans who are desperate for the team’s fortunes to change. But he, too, had no explanation for the troubles the Rangers have endured.

“It would be unfair to talk about it because I don’t know,” Jagr said. “After one game you cannot judge. It’s tough for me and anybody. That kind of game happened to me before. It’s not pretty. I was surprised. Everybody was surprised.”

Preferring to dwell on what he hopes will be a rosier future, Jagr said: “We have 32 games to go, and our goal right now is to make the playoffs. I truly believe if we make the playoffs, we can do a lot of damage there.”

Brian Leetch, a Ranger since 1988, is aware that the only way the team can quiet its skeptics, and silence the angry chants, is by winning.

“And until we do that,” he said, “really, it doesn’t matter what you say. We need to win.”