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A fan’s guide to watching live sport in New York City

For any sports fan New York City is utopia. Whether your passion is basketball, baseball, ice hockey, gridiron, boxing, tennis, horse racing, athletics, lacrosse or rugby, the Big Apple has it covered. Even soccer has three professional teams these days in New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and New York Cosmos.

With choice, though, confusion can soon set in and for the uninitiated the myriad of options can be daunting. Our sport fan’s guide to negotiating New York’s live scene focuses on three of the city’s most popular pastimes: Baseball, basketball and ice hockey.

Each of these sports are unique in their own way but at the same time are unified, in that they have all long-since been sown into a city’s sporting tapestry that is matched by few. What better way to spend part of your travels than to share a beer and a hot dog with a grizzled New Yorker lamenting the Knicks’ form or the Rangers’ failure to recapture former glories?

New York is a city that loves its sport and even if you couldn’t recognize Babe Ruth if he came round for dinner, there’s something special about attending a sporting occasion in Manhattan and the Boroughs beyond.

Don’t just take our word for it, though, sample life courtside yourself. But first, read our guide and make an informed choice about a sporting sojourn Stateside.

BASEBALL

Baseball heads have a choice of four different teams to watch, with four of the five boroughs represented. The New York Yankees and the New York Mets are the Major League big hitters, playing at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Flushing, Queens respectively.

Alternatively, a cheaper but in its own way equally intriguing experience, is pitching up for some Minor League baseball. Brooklyn Cyclones at Key Span Park and the Staten Island Yankees at Richmond County Bank Ballpark are all easily accessible by public transport from Manhattan.

If I only go to one game, who should I see?

If the Yankees are in town, get a ticket. In terms of global reach the Bronx-based outfit are without question one of the world’s most success sports clubs.

Steeped in a history shaped by some of the sport’s leading luminaries such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, the Yankees have won the World Series a record 27 times. According to Forbes they are baseball’s most value team, worth a cool $2.5 billion.

When do they play?

The baseball season runs from April to October. There are 30 Major League baseball teams comprised from the American League (AL) and National League (NL), which in turn are each made up of three geographical based East, Central and West divisions.

A Major League team will play 162 games each season, before five teams from each league play in a post-season tournament that culminates in the two best sides contesting a best of seven World Series. In layman’s terms, there are plenty of tickets to go round! It is not uncommon for the New York Yankees (AL East) and New York Mets (NL East) to play six days in a week.

Where do I buy tickets?

The best place to start is the Yankees’ official website. The sheer number of games keeps ticket prices really accessible for the casual spectator and that’s great for visitors to the city. If you’re not precious about your seat/view it’s possible to pick up tickets at around the $15 mark but if you are after a superior vantage point, anything skywards of $35 should see you right.

It’s worth noting that ticket prices vary according to the importance of the game, or the opposition, so if you have your heart set on being present for the visit of  bitter rivals Boston Red Sox the quicker a ticket is secured the better. The best tickets in the house can fetch thousands of dollars if the game is hot.

How do I get there?

A straightforward subway ride is probably the best option. The stop is 161st street and the Yankee Stadium is situated directly across from the station.

Take subway line 4 or D and expect to take around twenty-five minutes coming from Manhattan.

Fancy a bet?

The New York Yankees are 7/1 at the time of writing to win the American League, with the New York Mets out at 14/1 to do likewise in the National League. Odds for World Series glory come in at 14/1 for the Yankees and 25/1 for the Mets respectively.

BASKETBALL

New York is the proverbial basketball hotbed as it hosts three professional teams. NBA outfits New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, along with WNBA side New York Liberty, are all possible options for travellers chasing a slice of the hoop dream.

The Knicks play at Madison Square Garden, in the Borough of Manhattan, whilst the Nets are housed at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. It was only in 2012 that the then New Jersey Nets moved to the Borough, hence the change in name to Brooklyn.

If I only go to one game, whom should I see?

If you would like your New York basketball stop-off to be one steeped in history and no little show business, then you can’t go far wrong with the Knicks. Established by Ned Irish in 1946, the Knicks were one of the founding members of the Basketball Association of America which later when on to become the NBA in 1949.

The 1990s proved a halcyon period for the Knicks when Patrick Ewing was at the height of his powers but since 2000, they have never quite recaptured former glories. In 2012-13 they won their first title in 19 years before falling short in the play-offs. The chance to take in the sheer drama and flamboyance of a Madison Square Garden sporting spectacle should not be sniffed at either.

No sports club in the world has a celebrity following to match the Knicks, something they aggressively celebrate with their Celebrity Row.

When do they play?

The basketball seasons runs from October to April. The NBA has 30 franchised member clubs, with its players the world’s best paid sportsmen, by average annual salary per player.

The organization as it stands sees thirty teams divided into two conferences (Eastern and Western) of three divisions with five teams each. The New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets both play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.

The season usually comprises of 82 games, which allows teams to play three times per week for half the year.

Where do I buy tickets?

Tickets can be pre-ordered from the official NBA website, which houses individual sections for each of its members. Ticket agencies such as vividseats.com, ticketmaster.com, stubhub.com and cheaptickets.com all hold tickets for Knicks games but it is always advisable to first check for availability with both the franchise and the venue – in this case Madison Square Garden.

There is no guarantee of securing a seat by paying on the day – particularly for a big game – but it’s nonetheless worth trying if you are desperate to sample what is a truly unique atmosphere. Don’t hold your breath about being seated next to Jack Nicholson on Celebrity Row though!

A recent study found that the average median resale ticket price across the NBA was $96.57, with Knicks fans shelling out an average of $110. Shop smart though and that figure can be reduced significantly.

How do I get there?

Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan at Four Pennsylvania Plaza (7th Avenue between W 31st St and W 33rd St).

Metro-North’s Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven lines bring you to Grand Central Terminal, and it’s a short subway trip to Madison Square Garden. Take the 42nd Street Shuttle to Times Sq-42 St, then the one stop south to Penn Station-34 St.

Fancy a bet?

The Brooklyn Nets are at the time of writing 125/1 to win the 2015/16 NBA Championship, with New York Knicks currently coming in at 150/1.

ICE HOCKEY

If ice hockey is being factored in as part of your itinerary for NYC, then you’re in for a treat. To many newcomers to American sport, those that are attending sporting events more as spectacle than contest, baseball can be laborious (three hours isn’t uncommon) and football complicated, but there is an honest to goodness rough around the edges appeal to hockey that somehow makes it instantly accessible.

The New York Rangers are the city’s flagship side; they play at Madison Square Garden and are regarded as one at ice hockey’s ‘Original Six’. Outside of Manhattan the New Jersey Devils play at Newark and enjoy/endure a spiky rivalry with the Rangers.

Across the bridge in Brooklyn, the New York Islanders make up NYC’s triumvirate of National Hockey League (NHL) sides.

If I only go to one game, whom should I see?

The New York Rangers are the best bet for an ice hockey first timer. Rangers are steeped in a rich history having been the first NHL franchise in the United States to win the Stanley Cup, with their last of four titles coming back in the 1993/4 campaign. Their current line-up won the Presidents’ Trophy last term, having also claimed the Metropolitan League title.

If you get to a Rangers game and decide halfway through that ice hockey isn’t in fact for you, there is still the possibility of doing some serious celeb spotting. Liam Neeson, Kate Upson, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee are all Rangers regulars.

When do they play?

The ice hockey season runs from October to April. It’s fair to say Americans don’t tire easily when it comes to ice hockey, with games played Mon-Sun in term time. A regular season in ice hockey sees each team play 82 games to determine their standing.

From that, the top three seeded teams in each division and two wild card teams per conference enter a play-off tournament to compete for the Stanley Cup. The National Hockey League is divided into Western and Eastern Conferences, with two divisions (Pacific & Central and Atlantic & Metropolitan) under these respective banners.

New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders all play in the Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division.

Where do I buy tickets?

Ticket prices for New York Rangers games start around the $30 mark and can go all the way up to $1000+. It’s always better to buy tickets in advance, with Madison Square Garden’s website the first port of call.

If you’re already in New York and buying tickets on the hop, try to get to the MSG box office prior to the day of the game – or risk disappointment and/or a hefty dent in your wallet if only the dear seats are left!

How do I get there?

Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan at Four Pennsylvania Plaza (7th Avenue between W 31st St and W 33rd St). Metro-North’s Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven lines bring you to Grand Central Terminal, and it’s a short subway trip to Madison Square Garden. Take the 42nd Street Shuttle to Times Sq-42 St, then the one stop south to Penn Station-34 St.

Fancy a bet?

If you fancy a bet on the NHL Ice Hockey 2015/16 Stanley Cup, the New York Rangers are priced at 10/1 at the time of writing, with the New York Islanders at 18/1 and New Jersey Devils way out at 90/1.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

    5 Comments

  1. My advice: Save your money (but women’s sports do need support) and participate in your sporting event – like the New York Marathon.

    FYI: Although I love NYC, I’m not a fan of any teams mentioned. I’m from New Jersey but the Philadelphia suburbs.

    • Thanks for sharing your thought Rashaad :) Tourists traveling to a destination like NYC though probably wouldn’t have the option to participate in sporting events themselves, so I think the spectator experience is something the NY tourist would prefer to go for.

      Excellent tip for locals though, it really is amazing being part of an event like that yourself :)

    • Thanks for your response. Although I’ve never been inside of Madison Square Garden, the train I take to New York always drops me off at Penn Station so I usually see Knicks and Rangers banners in the vicinity.

      Although not within the five boroughs, I did attend a match between Olympique Lyonnais and Montpellier at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. RBA is really a beautiful stadium and accessible via the PATH train.

  2. Thanks for this useful guide. I think you should make a small correction to the basketball section. The season runs October to April not April to October.

    • Hi Rafal thanks for catching that on the NBA, obviously me being a bit dyslexic! I’ve edited to the correct season. Appreciate the heads up :)

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