Blue seats are back, KHL fans want their stars back too and ECHL Skills Competition participants

 

The blueseats, like those from this picture in 2007, are back at MSG, though the spirit of the section never left. (Firefox13/Wikimedia Commons)

The blueseats, like those from this picture in 2007, are back at MSG, though the spirit of the section never left. (Firefox13/Wikimedia Commons)

The famed blue seats of Madison Square Garden are back according to Ken Belson of The New York Times. The World’s Most Famous Arena has undergone a massive amount of changes and renovations the past three years, part of which included taking out some of the balcony seats in order to extend the lower bowl. The building has a brand new feel to it, though new isn’t always better for those loyal fans in the balcony. But the familier sight returned with the Rangers’ home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. From Belson:

At the Rangers’ home opener Sunday, fans returned to find new seats that matched the blue in those installed in 1968, when the Garden opened. Television screens have been added, as well as new concession stands and bathrooms. The sections were slightly reconfigured, but the structure of the balcony was untouched and the vibe unchanged.

“This is where the true fans sit,” said Leo Strauss, who has had season tickets in the Blue Seats since 1968. “We bleed blue.”

From great sight lines for watching plays develop to truly unique characters, the MSG balcony offers fans an experience they won’t get with the most expensive seats down below. More from Belson:

“You see the same people up there, and you just laugh, the guy who curses, the guy who gets drunk, the woman who knows her hockey and can be pretty sarcastically vicious,” said Steve Kupietzky, who shares a pair of blue seats with Neal Lipschitz, who has had them for more than 40 years. “When you go further down, it’s a different culture.”

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Many of the star players that made this such a memorable and exciting season for fans of the Kontinental League are now back in North America, but there is hope some of the best players in the world will make a return to the KHL in the near future.

From the offensive explosion for the Metallurg Magnitogorsk thanks to Evgeni Malkin, Nikolai Kulemin and Sergei Gonchar to the improvement of one of the KHL’s newest teams Donbass Donetsk with the help of Ruslan Fedotenko, Alexei Ponikarovski and Anton Babchuk, there were positives felt throughout Russia’s top league this season.

But one of the biggest stars, Ilya Kovalchuk who spent the first half of the season with SKA St. Petersberg, came the closest to staying and there was speculation he would finish the season in Russia due to bitterness over the NHL’s lockout. But that doesn’t mean he may not return soon, despite being in the third year of a 15-year deal. From the KHL’s official website:

But, as former Devils defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov, now a member of the KHL’s governing council, told Sovietsky Sport, it may be possible to buy Kovi out of his NHL deal before it is due to expire in distant 2025. “You can buy out a contract, especially if there are financial problems with New Jersey,” Fetisov said. “Ilya has done the right thing, he should complete this season with the Devils then talk to [general manager] Lou Lamorello about the future.”

If or when players decide to return to Europe, they now know there is another place to play and more fans waiting to cheer them on. The KHL took a step forward this year and certainly gained momentum to drive the league forward.

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Participants in the East Coast League’s All-Star Skills Competition, which will take place on Tuesday at 7:05 MST (9:05 EST) at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado, have been announced. Click the link above for the complete list of contestants.

Events will include the team skills course, shooting accuracy, rapid fire competition, fastest skater, hardest shot and breakaway relay. The event will be broadcast live on America ONE Sports, the official broadband broadcaster of the ECHL.

Each of the past nine ECHL All-Star Games has raised over $1 million for the local economy and since 2002, 39 players in the game have gone on to play in the NHL.

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