By Sean Hartnett
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For years, the Knicks and Rangers were viewed as failing franchises that were considered embarrassments to their former glories.
Botched trades and failed free agent signings dragged both teams through hell but eventually, progress was made.
The shift toward prominence began when the Knicks and Rangers focused on making smarter draft selections and surrounding them with acquisitions that weren’t just brought in for ‘star value.’
Now in 2012, the two teams are playing under Madison Square Garden’s roof that are worthy of representing the hardworking spirit of New Yorkers. The Rangers and Knicks have finally become teams that metro area fans can relate to and their players are proud to pull on these famous uniforms.
Linsanity or Lundsanity? Take your pick. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
The Knicks and Rangers have become the two most compelling teams in their respective sports and every game they play is must-see TV.
Jeremy Lin has become the Knicks’ unquestioned leader and has brought hope to a fanbase that has suffered through mediocrity for far too long. The overlooked point guard that nobody wanted took like a duck to water once he was finally given the opportunity to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
He has immediately galvanized his teammates and taken the Knicks on an unforgettable ride that has produced an unexpected six-game win streak. Every game Lin has found a way to outdo himself. He has not backed down from the challenges of leading a shorthanded Knicks past superstars such as Deron Williams, John Wall, Kobe Bryant and Ricky Rubio.
In the span of just six games, Lin has already produced a number of trademark moments that are only reserved for the biggest of stars.
His latest exploit was pulling the Knicks back into a game that looked lost and hit the game-winning three-pointer with .05 remaining to defeat the Raptors. Through it all, Lin has remained humble and doesn’t appear to be letting stardom change his personality or approach to the game in any way.
Meanwhile, Henrik Lundqvist has taken his All-Star abilities to new heights. His sensational play in net game after game has helped the Rangers open a 9-point lead for first place in the Eastern Conference.
All season, he’s been a brick wall for the Blueshirts. Last night, Lundqvist kept the highest scoring team in the East scoreless as he shutout the Boston Bruins who peppered him with 42 shots on goal.
Henrik is a fiercely intense competitor between the pipes but off the ice, he’s laid-back and comfortable with celebrity as they come. Even on cold winter nights, he willingly signs autographs for fans outside the Garden and has taken on a number of worthy charitable causes.
He is a spokesman for The Garden of Dreams Foundation and has taken on a number of initiatives that has helped raise awareness for the foundation which brings hope and raises the spirit of children facing obstacles.
Both Lundqvist and Lin are two athletes that New York can easily relate to but the Rangers and Knicks’ rosters are full of players whom New Yorkers rally behind.
Whether it’s the hardworking efforts of Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi on the ice or the hustle of Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert on the hardwood, both teams have won the hearts of New Yorkers. There’s a different feeling inside of the building this year.
The belief of the Knicks and Rangers has transmitted itself into the confidence of fans and soul is back inside the Garden.
While it may be too early to compare this to the Spring of ’94, it’s clear that Madison Square Garden has again become ‘The Mecca Of Sports.’
Has MSG again become the center of the sports universe? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.