Knicks, Rangers have area biz buzzing

NEW YORK -- There's no doubt the New York Knicks and New York Rangers' playoff berths have brought the buzz back to Madison Square Garden. Just check ticket prices for Friday night's Game 3 of the Knicks-Celtics series.

But has it had any effect on businesses around the Garden?

As former Knicks announcer Marv Albert would say, "Yes!"

"People want to be around Madison Square Garden," said Mark Collins, owner of the watering hole, Feile, which is a two-minute walk from the Garden. "This is where the energy is, this is where the buzz is."

Collins, who has worked near the Garden in non-playoff seasons, has noticed a distinct difference in the number of patrons this spring.

"If neither team was in the playoffs, these people wouldn't be here. It would just be a normal Wednesday night," Collins said as he looked at the crowd at Feile for Game 3 of the Rangers-Capitals series.

Next door at Stout, on 33rd Street near 7th Avenue, the crowd pulsated with every Rangers shot on goal and Henrik Lundquist save. A night earlier, the place was packed with Knicks fans banging thundersticks and watching Carmelo Anthony's heroics in New York's Game 2 loss to the Celtics.

Noelle Mooney, a part-owner of the bar, said crowds are coming earlier and staying later to watch playoff games. She's also getting more than the regulars who showed up from late October to early April.

"I find Ranger fans are die-hard and Knicks fans have been good this year, but now you have New York fans," Mooney said. "People just want to be out to watch near the Garden."

Over at the Modell's in Herald Square, manager Matt Krenza said foot traffic in the store has increased significantly on game days. He said the store receives and sells out of a shipment of Knicks apparel each day. Rangers sales are usually a little slow but have picked up significantly in recent weeks.

A Modell's spokesman said sales of Knicks apparel have increased "ten-fold" since late March, when compared to the same time period last year.

Of course, everything is better for business when the home team wins. Late Wednesday night at Local, across the street from MSG on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue, the crowd let out a groan then sat in stunned silence after a Rangers miscue led to the Capitals game-winning goal in the second overtime of Game 4.

Less than two minutes later, half of the crowd filed out of the bar.

"It always helps when they win," Stout manager George Papas said.

Papas is optimistic about the turnout for Friday night's Knicks-Celtics game. It's the first time in seven years that the Knicks will host a playoff game and the first year since 1997 that the Knicks and Rangers have been in the postseason in the same spring.

"There's a different kind of buzz here now," Papas said. "It started with Carmelo and has continued with the Rangers clinching a playoff berth. It's been great."