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April 6, 2018

One Generation To The Next, A Tradition Lives On

The bonds run deep for longtime Rangers ticket holders, with their team and with one another. Together, they have created a second family, and The Garden is their second home.

Just how devoted is Marc Rovner to his beloved team? Including every single home playoff game since 1978 and dozens of road games, he estimates he has seen 1,400 Ranger games in person. (Photo: Jared Silber/MSG Photos)

The Rangers’ near-mystical hold on Marc Rovner began on a winter night in 1970 when he and his father rode the escalators to reach the top of Madison Square Garden — or as he saw it, the top of the world.

The details have never left him. It was Feb. 8, 1970. His father’s all-time favorite, Eddie Giacomin, was in goal. The Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings. The score was, 5-1.

“First goal, Donnie Marshall,” he recites. “I’ll never forget.”

After all this time, Rovner remains the keeper of a flame. His father became a season ticket holder 48 years ago, planting roots in the old blue seats: Section 429, Row B, Seats 5 and 6. Over the years, gradually moving closer to the ice, Rovner and his family have never allowed the tradition to falter. 

Over the last two seasons, Madison Square Garden has enhanced the way it sells tickets, inviting in new fans with more partial season packages and selling a greater number of tickets for individual games. But Rovner is part of a singular breed — generational fans who have turned a rooting interest into a way of life. Seated shoulder to shoulder with others just like them, sharing the Rangers’ boom times and lean times over many years, they have transformed sections of The Garden into small close-knit communities.

 

Welcome To Section 113

Rovner, now positioned downstairs on the west end of the rink and holding four seats, watches his team with a sense of history, and an excitement for the club’s future. 

Want to hear about Pete Stemkowski’s goal to end a triple-overtime playoff drama in 1971? Or the “unreal” feeling in The Garden when the Rangers beat the Islanders to advance to the championship round in 1979? Or anything about the 1994 Stanley Cup run? Rovner can fill in the color.

At 55, an attorney and the father of four, he remains, in his way, a young fan who relishes a new wave of fresh-faced players. Rovner carries himself with a quiet intelligence, and before a recent game he sounded more like a talent evaluator. Mindful the season is coming to a close, he said, “I really like the direction we’re heading.”

With a sweep of his arms, he welcomed a visitor to Section 113 and made introductions as if opening up his home. 

“Here are the Morellis, Rich and Maria,” he said. “They have three daughters. The oldest one is getting married. Our kids have grown up together, and really, we are family. We take road trips together.”

Another dear friend, Charlie Williams, sits in adjoining seats with his daughter, Jeanne. He supports the team’s decision to rebuild, but he said, “The young players, they have to put on some pounds.”

Williams treasures memories of his wife sitting beside him, and even those times when she stayed at home. With any controversial play or close referee’s call, his friends in the section would say, “Phone Donna and ask her what the TV commentators are saying.”

 

61 Pucks, And Counting

For Rovner, like many of these fans, Rangers history threads deeply into his own family story.

His father, Errol, routinely sent the latest box scores and articles to his brother — Rovner’s uncle Brion — who was serving during the Vietnam War. Even after his father passed away, Marc’s mother, Deanna, held onto those tickets. Marc and his younger brother, Brett, would take the 6:17 p.m. train from Lynbrook on the Long Island Railroad, and scamper to catch the 10:10 p.m. home.

Wearing a blue Chris Kreider jersey before a recent game, Marc Rovner said he stills mourns the loss of Rangers memorabilia, washed away when Hurricane Sandy hit his East Rockaway home. Still, his collection of pucks signed by Rangers, past and present, is at 61. (He showed off the list he keeps on his cell phone.)

Marc’s 16-year-old son, A.J., seated next to him, was keeping score in a looseleaf binder and said, “My father is still teaching me about the game.”

Finally, the records show that Rovner’s memory is spot on. Giacomin was in goal that night in 1970. Donnie Marshall did score the first goal Rovner ever saw in person, at 5:08 of the first period. Rovner remembers, too, his father, next to him, cheering heartily.


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