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Rangers carry torch for New York teams who fell just short in famished sports city



These are edicts and bylaws that predate us by decades. We know that New York will never provide the kind of united front that other cities can. We know that for every Giants fan who celebrates, there is a Jets fan who agitates. We know that for every Yankees fan who revels in the team’s near-daily highs, there’s a Mets fan who reviles their seemingly twice-daily lows.

And local anthropologists report that there are actual living, breathing Nets fans who walk among us, too.

So, no: We aren’t about to see a surge of Islanders fans abandon lifetimes of fear and loathing for the Rangers. We aren’t expecting a swell of Devils fans to lay down their red-tinted vestments and suddenly invest in the blue. Unlike the other participants in the NHL’s final four, there will be dissidents. Dallas, Edmonton and South Florida don’t have that.

The Rangers, who are now carry the hopes of other New York teams that fell just shorts after big playoff runs, huddle up at the end of practice in preparation for their Eastern Conference Final showdown vs. the Panthers, which begins Wednesday. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

But this is about as close as it gets.

And when the Rangers host the Panthers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden — kicking off a best-of-seven Eastern Conference final that will yield one-half of the field for the Stanley Cup Final — they will hear New York in Sunrise, Fla., and in Alberta and in North Texas. They will hear the pleas of a famished sporting city, one that’s been wandering since February of 2012, searching for a champion in one of the four major sports.

“I hope they get there,” Josh Hart of the Knicks said a few weeks ago. “Not as much as I’m hoping for us to get there, but I’m rooting for them.”

The Knicks didn’t get there. Their quest ended at the Garden on Sunday amid a desperate, deafening din. So now it is the Rangers that take up the flag, the collective cause of every team since the 2011 Giants, who won the 59th New York championship among pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams dating to 1903.

They take up the cause of the other worthy teams since that have allowed the city’s hopes to flare with legitimate opportunity. They play for the 2017 and ’19 Yankees, who were twice ambushed by the larcenous Astros when they looked to be stride-for-stride as good as them, losing one Game 7 and one Game 6 in ALCS’s best remembered for beaten garbage cans, untorn jerseys and one regrettable hanging slider by Aroldis Chapman.

They play for the ’15 Mets, who seemed to be on exactly the kind of roll these Rangers are on before running into the fundie kings of Kansas City, and for the Knicks of 2013 and 2024, who both times ran into different iterations of Indiana Pacers who wound up severing their seasons prematurely.

And, yes, they play for the 2014 Rangers, another team whose karma and mojo seemed to grow game by game, series by series, another team hoping to honor the ’94 champs (celebrating a 20th anniversary then, a 30th now) that galvanized New York City. Those Rangers made their way through the first three rounds of the playoffs before running into the Kings and, specifically, Jonathan Quick — Igor Shesterkin’s backup now, but back then a goaltending unicorn who stopped 136 of the 146 shots he faced in that Cup final.

Follow The Post’s coverage of the Rangers in the NHL playoffs

They aren’t the Steelers, who know every citizen of Pittsburgh speaks on their behalf, or the Phillies, who own 100 percent of the baseball devotion in Philadelphia. We’ll never have that, and that’s OK.

New York Rangers left winger Chris Kreider celebrates his goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 16, 2024
New York Rangers left winger Chris Kreider celebrates his goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 16, 2024. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

Because this, starting tonight, is almost as good.

This, starting tonight, is just about perfect.

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