Flames excited to keep win streak alive at Madison Square Garden

‘That, for me, is the No. 1 rink in the NHL and even thinking about it, it’s so special to play there,’ said MacKenzie Weegar

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MacKenzie Weegar wants his young teammates to enjoy the moment.

You only get to skate at Madison Square Garden for the first time once, after all, and it’s the sort of thing you might remember for the rest of your life.

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So yeah, the Calgary Flames need to stay focused on the task at hand on Monday night and try to extend their winning streak to five games when they take on the New York Rangers at the world’s most famous arena.

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But there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself a moment to take it all in.

“I’ll watch them go out for warmups,” Weegar said. “I like watching the rookies because I was there once, too, and you can just tell they’re looking around and in my head I was there again, being that rookie playing that first game at MSG.

“I remember it like it was yesterday.”

There’s a magic to Madison Square Garden, no doubt about it. Maybe it’s the history, knowing that Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier at the venue or that everyone from Elvis to John Lennon to Taylor Swift have played there.

Or maybe it’s just the feeling of taking centre stage in a city where they famously say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

But playing at Madison Square Garden is bucket list for just about every NHL player.

New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers is congratulated by teammates Jacob Trouba #8 and Vincent Trocheck #16 after Panarin scored during the second period against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden on January 8, 2024 in New York City. Elsa/Getty Images

“I think it would be a really cool experience, it’s up there with the Bell Centre,” Connor Zary said a couple of weeks ago. “When you get that opportunity to play in that building, it means a little extra, especially getting that first time.

“It’s something to cherish. It’s probably one of the most historic venues in sports, so it’s pretty cool just to know who’s been there. Even as a fan, to be able to go there and watch a game, whether it’s basketball or hockey or whatnot, it’s always a cool experience.”

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If playing at MSG is a big moment for a young player, the good news for the Flames is that Zary hasn’t shied away from big moments in his rookie season.

The 22-year-old is fifth in NHL scoring among rookies and third in points-per-game, which has landed him squarely in the Calder Trophy conversation.

He’s scored in Boston, Toronto and Montreal, too, so it’s almost as if he has a special propensity for scoring in high-profile buildings against Original Six opponents.

Madison Square Garden just happens to be the most famous of them all.

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And in Weegar’s eyes, it hits a little different.

“It’s No. 1, for me, in the whole league,” Weegar said. “It’s got such a vibe to it, it’s a special place. You go in there and even just walking in, you get goosebumps and can feel the history.

“That, for me, is the No. 1 rink in the NHL and even thinking about it, it’s so special to play there.”

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What would make it even more special for the Flames would be getting a win.

Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, left, celebrates his hat-trick goal against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., on Saturday, Feb. 10., 2024. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Last year, the Flames and Rangers played in arguably the most entertaining game of the year when they squared off at MSG in early February, with Alex Lafreniere giving the New Yorkers the win with his goal 1:47 into overtime.

Winners of four in a row, the surging Flames would love nothing more than to reverse last year’s result and earn themselves a win.

Because playing at Madison Square Garden is special.

But winning there is even better.

“It’s sick,” Weegar reiterated. “The fans are unbelievable, they’re always chirping. But it’s even that you’re taking a sip of water and you see a celebrity and you’re like ‘what the f— is going on here, they’re watching me?’ It’s special. I’d say for everybody it’s No. 1.”

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X: @DannyAustin_9

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