A Smorgasbord of Sports at Rambling House Bar
By Lennin Reyes
The northern Bronx neighborhood of Woodlawn is known as a quiet, heavily Irish community. But things grow lively between April and June when many major sporting events take place. The NBA playoffs, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Triple Crown of horse racing, Major League Baseball, and boxing, bring big business and excitement to the often mellow neighborhood.
Community bars, such as Rambling House on Katonah Avenue, broadcast games on dozens of television screens. On April 26, the New York Rangers played game seven of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators. Fans at Rambling House were nervous because of the Rangers’ overall performance in that round. “The Rangers have been too soft,” said long-time Rangers fan and Woodlawn resident Gary Pauls, clad in a customized Rangers jersey. “They need to fight in order to survive the Senators.”
And fight they did, as Chris Neil and Artem Anisimov would exchange some words during the match. After a scoreless first period, the Rangers continued their stellar defense, thanks in part to crucial blocked shots by Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Bronx resident Jim Tenny arrived at Rambling House during the second period. Shortly after, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi scored two goals for the Rangers. The bartender dubbed Tenny, “a good luck charm.”
Despite the lead, fans were cautious. “I’m scared until the last minute,” patron Kaity Hyland said. She was right as Daniel Alfredsson scored a goal for the Senators. But after a stellar play by Lundqvist, who had 26 saves for the game, the Rangers held on to win 2-1. The Rambling House crowd went crazy.
Thursday’s drama was only a prelude to Saturday as three big games were on the dial; game one of the Stanley Cup Semifinals between the Rangers and Washington Capitals, game one of the NBA playoffs first round between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat, and a New York Yankees’ baseball game against the Detroit Tigers. If that wasn’t enough, the Washington Nationals were debuting the highly touted 19-year-old right fielder Bryce Harper against the Los Angeles Dodgers later that night.
Daniel McDermott was celebrating his 33rd birthday with a pub crawl across Woodlawn. “I hope the Nationals lose so my Mets reach first place,” he said. “I also hope the Knicks win at least one game against Miami.”
Like Tenny on Thursday, McDermott seemed to be a good luck charm as the Knicks trailed Miami by four points in the middle of the second quarter. But the close game was overshadowed by the cheers erupting from Anton Anisimov’s goal against Washington in the hockey game. Minutes later, the cheers became facepalms as Andy Dirks hit a three-run home run off Freddy Garcia to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead over the Yankees. “I’m not really worried about the Yankees since it’s a regular season game,” Johanna Bellissimo said. Despite Nick Swisher putting the Yankees on the board with a solo shot, Garcia was removed from the game for giving up three more runs, for a 6-1 Detroit lead. “The Yankees have a better bullpen anyway,” Katelyn Nee said.
If the 6-1 Detroit lead dampened enough spirits at Rambling House, Jason Chimera’s game-tying goal for Washington and the Miami Heat’s 23-point lead at half-time only worsened the mood.
While Miami pulled away further from the Knicks, the Rangers woke up, thanks to a go-ahead goal from 20-year-old rookie Chris Kreider, who debuted in the NHL just weeks after college graduation. For insurance, Brad Richards added a goal of his own to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead, and eventually the victory to give New York a 1-0 series lead over Washington.
As one rookie celebrated, another went down due to injury as the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert was hit by Miami’s Mario Chalmers. Shumpert’s injury overshadowed the Knicks’ fate, as they lost 100-67 to Miami. “We might’ve tied for the fewest points in a playoff game, but we’ll take game two,” an optimistic Tommy Walker said. The same spirits were captured for Yankee fans, whose team lost to Detroit 7-5.