By Peter Schwartz
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Paul Cartier’s worlds are about to collide.
He is the organist for both the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum and the Yankees, so it’s only fitting that he will play the organ on Wednesday night when the Islanders host the Rangers in the Stadium Series showdown at Yankee Stadium.
Needless to say, he’s pumped up for what should be a very special evening.
“Not only am I excited as the organist for both teams, I’m excited as a huge Islanders fan,” said Cartier. “Ever since the inception of the Winter Classic I’ve wanted to see an Islanders-Rangers outdoor game. Take the loudness, the intensity and the rivalry and magnify it by about three times.”
Cartier started with the Islanders back in 1979 and worked during the team’s Stanley Cup dynasty. He then worked off and on for the Islanders until reclaiming full-time duties 14 years ago when he replaced the late, great Eddie Layton.
Ironically, Cartier was Layton’s hand-picked successor in the Bronx.
“I knew Eddie for 20 years before I took over for him,” said Cartier. “I’m flattered that he chose me to be his replacement. He always encouraged me to work hard and keep on playing.”
Growing up, Cartier liked to arrive at Yankee Stadium early so that he could hear Layton play the organ. He was also inspired by former Shea Stadium organist Jane Jarvis, but it was Layton who provided so many lasting memories for Cartier, who now sits in his mentor’s chair.
“I can still hear in my mind the sweet sound of Eddie at the Hammond organ and the way the wind at the stadium would play with the sound,” recalled Cartier.
After taking over for Layton, Cartier has been at the Yankee Stadium organ for a decade and is heading into his 11th season in the Bronx. Combine his time on 161st Street and River Avenue with his experience on Hempstead Turnpike and Cartier has enjoyed quite a career. He has worked for both teams when they enjoyed championship seasons.
“I have to pinch myself,” admitted Cartier. “I’m blessed to be able to represent two teams with great histories. As for the Yankees, I was part of the 2009 championship and proudly wear my World Series ring.”
The Islanders will be the home team on Wednesday night, but the Rangers will certainly be well-represented by their fans. So it appears as if Cartier is someone who will have a true home-field/ice advantage on a chilly night in the Bronx.
He’ll be working an Islanders home game in his other home, but that also comes with a potential pitfall.
“My biggest challenge for this game will be my lack of hearing the crowd,” said Cartier, who plays the Yankee Stadium organ in the Delta Suite where he watches the game on a monitor because he can’t see the field.
The situation is different from what Cartier experiences for Islanders home games at the Coliseum, where he enjoys a wonderful spontaneity with the fans. But on Wednesday night, he’ll have to get a feel of playing the organ for a hockey game in a baseball stadium.
Cartier did some homework on Sunday at the Rangers-Devils game in the Bronx to make sure that Devils organist Pete Cannarozzi didn’t have any issues. He also wanted to see how the game was being directed by game operations.
Since Yankee Stadium and Nassau Coliseum have different feels, Cartier will have to make an adjustment to his normal baseball routine. Usually, he interacts with the fans in the Delta Suite while keeping an eye on the ballgame. But on Wednesday night, he’ll have to follow the game more closely and pay less attention to the fans in the suite.
“Hockey is more intense,” said Cartier. “Not to say that baseball isn’t exciting, but the intensity level is different. Baseball may only have a few of those moments per game. Hockey tends to keep you on the edge of your seat more.”
Game operations for previous NHL outdoor contests in stadiums like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field have included some baseball elements, including music. There are selections that work for both sports, so how will Cartier balance his baseball and hockey playlists?
“I am prepared to lean more toward my normal hockey routine,” said Cartier.
That routine is a bit different from what he is used to in the Bronx. Because of sponsorships and commercials at hockey games, Cartier doesn’t have an opportunity to play much in the way of long-form music.
But at baseball games, he has some freedom that he would like to have at the Coliseum.
“At the stadium, I get anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to play what I want, to roughly an hour before game time,” said Cartier. “I wouldn’t mind being able to do that before this game. I’m not sure of the plan yet.”
The Stadium Series game will be the latest in a long line of memorable moments for Cartier during his career. He’s performed during the World Series, All-Star Game and the Stanley Cup Finals. And now the hockey battle of New York on the ice at Yankee Stadium!
“It’s very exciting because this may be the only time I get to do this,” said Cartier. “This has never happened before and may not happen again.”
Despite a 40-minute delay because of sun glare, Sunday’s Devils-Rangers game was a big hit in front of 50,105 people. A similar atmosphere is expected on Wednesday night for the latest chapter in the Islanders-Rangers rivalry.
Cartier has played many of these games at the Coliseum over the years. He’s also seen many memorable moments at Yankee Stadium. Now his two worlds come together for what should be a very special evening in the Bronx.
“Yep, I have to pinch myself,” said Cartier.
Somewhere, Layton and Jarvis will be looking down on him and smiling!
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