I had to do homework. That was the reason I wasn't in the old garden – the one on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Street – on December 9th, 1967, for the most hyped professional sports debut in this city in, well, all the time.
Bill Bradley made his NBA debut for The Kink after spending the past two years studying in Oxford after graduating from Princeton, for which he played while almost dismantling Cazzie Russell and No. 1 Michigan in the 1964 Vacation Festival in the Garden.
If you want to get a feel for how hyped it was when Bradley first hit Knick No. 24 the pregame warm-up against the Pistons was announced on the radio by Marv Albert.
"And Bradley is waiting for the ball in the layup line," the greatest game-by-play spokesman of his time said, or at least close. “Take a bounce pass [Howard] Komives, and put it out of the glass. "
They would have heard an ovation in the background, populating the amping capacity as if it were the game 7 of the 1970 finals against the Lakers that had been going on for almost three years, and Marv describes Bradley's "bending his right laces to bend bends" Knees, take a sweater from a height of one meter and, yes. "
You didn't even have to be there, you could listen to it. The final grade, 124-121 pistons and the latest statistics for Bradley, eight points on 3-of-6 shots from the ground and 2-of-6 from the line with five rebounds and two assists, were almost immaterial.
It was the hype you would remember.
Nobody announced the Rangers' warm-up exercises in the garden on Tuesday. Don Lagreca in the broadcast booth did not call Igor Shesterkin work on the rush line. It wasn't quite like that. But don't let anyone tell you that the goalkeeper's debut wasn't one of the most anticipated in franchise history.
The Knicks waited for Bradley for over two years. The Rangers had been waiting five-plus years for Shesterkin to design the native Muscovite in the fourth round of the 2014 Entry Draft. The Rangers waited for Shesterkin as long as the cowboys waited for Roger Staubach.
The first time Shesterkin touched the puck one to one in what became a 5-3 win over the Avalanche, fans roared as he turned a dump into a 100-foot headman pass on the band's Kaapo Kakko. The building groaned when the 24-year-old's first shot was deflected past him at 4:44. And then again when the third got renegade from him on a Nathan MacKinnon at 6:34.
One-to-three could win a punch title, but not the Vezina.
"It wasn't ideal how I wanted it to go," said Shesterkin through a translator. "But I didn't panic. I laughed at myself and gained confidence as the game progressed. I am very grateful for the support of my teammates and fans."
The Rangers were required to keep the puck away from the net at the Shesterkin end and which one to take at the other end while cashing opportunistically. The blueshirts kept their mistakes to a manageable number and kept in check with the league's highest point team to break their three-game losing streak.
Shesterkin played with balance. Hours after his hands were shaking so badly on the way to the building that he couldn't drink water – he told the story to himself – he was dripping every time he touched the puck.
It's not that fans have to wait for someone to replace Henrik Lundqvist at all. It's been that fans had been waiting for the heirs for five years while he recorded minuscule numbers in the KHL. It's not about what you've been doing for me lately, but what can you do for me next year and what you can do afterwards and those after that if the plan holds up, the Rangers should fight for the Stanley Cup ,
The fans knew Lundqvist when he came on stage in 2005 five years after he was drafted, but there was no feeling of anticipation. However, it only took three starts for the legend to be born. It was October 15, 2005, after a 5-1 victory over the Thrashers in the garden, when Lundqvist, when announced as the first star, had a lap of honor around the garden, raising his stick and glove in salute to the crowd that chanted his name ,
"I just wanted to show the fans the same respect that they showed me," he said. "The fans have been chanting for me for the past few years, but this is New York."
The fans also sang on Tuesday.
"Igor … Igor … Igor."
They sang for Shesterkin.
You can find more information about the Rangers in the latest episode of the podcast "Up In The Blue Seats":