Like most NHL teams. the New York Rangers have had their share of eccentric fans.
There was Sally Lark, a buxom, platinum blonde, interior decorator from Brooklyn, who was a fixture at the Old Garden during the 1940s and 1950s. Her seat was directly adjacent to the penalty box and she was given the nickname “Sin Bin Sally.”
Sally was the center of quite an uproar during the 1957 Stanley Cup playoffs when the Canadiens were playing the Rangers in the Garden and the games were being televised back to Montreal. Each time the camera zoomed in on the penalty box, there was the lovely Miss Lark, seemingly planted there by the Rangers to distract the Habs. Montreal fans were irate and wrote letters to the newspapers but were later calmed down when it was proven that Sally was indeed a devoted season ticket holder and not a ploy to derail the Canadiens. The Blueshirts did win one of their two home games that round but the Habs prevailed winning the series 4-1.
Herbert Khaury, better known as Tiny Tim of ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips” fame, a native of Washington Heights was a huge Toronto Maple Leaf fan and was a regular at the Garden during the mid-1960s. His disheveled appearance, falsetto voice, unkempt hair, and crammed shopping bags would often disrupt fans in the side promenade. The players used to call him “Alice” and being a Maple Leaf fan in the Garden didn’t help. “The fans used to throw beer at me when I sat in the balcony,” recalled Tiny in a 1969 interview. “But then I got a good seat by the ice where I sat with my big Leafs button and pennant.”
And then there was “The Trombone Guy” otherwise known as John Gerecitano who was a long time season ticket holder. Wearing a gold lame jacket and beret, Gerecitano would play a few bars on his trombone upon arrival to let everyone know that he was there. Then he would take his seat in the Ninth Avenue end of the Garden and not be heard from again unless the Rangers were losing by a lopsided score, in which case he would play “Taps.” A tailor by trade, he designed his own clothing and ran “John G. Originals” on 48th St in Brooklyn. He would also often toss bags of peanuts to nearby fans.
Bob Comas was a short, skinny, bespectacled guy that they called “The Chief” among other things. He was that crazy dude who ran around the New Madison Square Garden from the early 70s to the mid 90s wearing an Indian headdress that had certainly seen better days.
Comas had been a die-hard Ranger fan since 1954. He got the idea for “The Chief” character while attending a Rangers – Bruins game in Boston Garden in the early 70s,
“Brad Park had just scored for the Rangers and I began whooping it up,” Comas told me in a long ago interview. “A Bruin fan said ‘Hey chief, do you do that in New York?’ and the concept was born. And for the next 25 years, from 1971 through 1994 “The Chief” played to a packed house every night in the Garden.”
In the early years “The Chief” confined his act to running up and down the aisles whenever the Rangers scored. He soon became the Rangers unofficial cheerleader and paraded around the main walkways leading each section in a cheer by spelling out R-A-N-G-E-R-S with his body.
His performance drew mixed reactions from both fans and Garden employees. At first he was chased back to his seat by the ushers as upper management kept a wary eye on him. But as time went by they realized he was just a harmless, yet avid fan and “The Chief” was allowed to perform.
The fans however were a different story. While many considered him part of the Garden’s Hockey Night atmosphere, and mainly ignored him, others in the crowd often abused “The Chief,” showering him with both garbage and profanity. But in retrospect Comas looked upon his years as “The Chief” as a positive experience and was grateful to every fan and to MSG management for their support. “I wouldn’t have lasted 25 seconds let alone 25 years without it,” he said.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Comas was a graduate of Kingsborough Community College where he majored in Radio Broadcasting. He worked periodically as a staff announcer and consultant for MSG Network and did a Ranger Recap on Steve Somers’ WFAN radio talk show.
In 1998, Comas ran for public office as the Republican candidate for the State Senate in the 21st District, which included Sheepshead Bay, Mill Basin and other parts of southern Brooklyn. Bob was unable to collect enough signatures to make the ballot and so the Republicans did not have a candidate in the election. However, Comas ran as a Conservative and managed to get 3,255 votes, or 7.64% of the total votes counted, losing to incumbent Carl Kruger, who was convicted on federal bribery charges in 2011. Shortly after his bid for public office failed, “The Chief” moved to Florida, where he lived until his death in September 2009.
The Garden has since priced eccentricity out of the building and “The Chief,” “Sin Bin Sally,” “Tiny Tim,” and “The Trombone Guy” are long gone. But to Ranger fans of a certain age, they will certainly never be forgotten.