This temptress of swimsuits and posters is gliding sleekly around the aisles at Madison Square Garden, a few minutes late by design, blissfully aware of the stares and salutations—"How ya' doin', Carol?"; "Lookin' good, sweetheart,"—while her big Saskatchewan lug of a husband starts inelegantly up ice. She greets the ushers by name as she passes, flashing each a dazzling smile, searching out some unseen destination at a gracefully determined pace. Carol Alt needs a seat.
One of the few things in New York that money, contacts and fame cannot buy is a Rangers season ticket at center ice, loge level, among the plush corporately owned red-cushioned seats. Alt has tried. Her husband, Ron Greschner, the captain of the team, has tried. So at each game one of the most recognizable faces in the Big Apple scours the Garden for a vacant "red" after the opening faceoff, occasionally finding one and then being unceremoniously booted out by a tardy ticket-holder.
"Two right here that aren't going to be used," an usher tells her, and she thanks him, shaking her luxuriant dark hair as she sits, waving to yet another admirer two rows back, seemingly unaware of the game. Meanwhile, Greschner, the puck-scarred, corseted veteran, has just completed his glacial progress into enemy territory, pulling up at the blue line and threading a pass to an open winger, who feeds a Ranger in the slot, who finishes the ticktacktoe play with a shot. And a goal. With a roar, the fans rise as one. It is impossible that she has seen it, you are thinking, but this blue-eyed, fresh-faced fantasy cuts her sentence short and is suddenly on her feet, right fist in the air, transformed into one of the most beastly creatures in all of sport—a Rangers fan. She is screaming. In a moment Alt composes herself and sits down, her dewy complexion slightly flushed. "Excuse me," she says.
The crowd settles to a buzz, the play resumes, the game now tied 2-2, and the public-address announcer gives the account of the goal. The second assist goes to Greschner.
"I thought so," Alt says with an absolutely genuine smile, no dazzle at all this time, pure sunshine. A smile that wrinkles her nose.
It is obvious. She adores him. Alt actually remembers the day they first met: March 6, 1982. She was on a roll at the time. A month earlier she had been on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S annual swimsuit issue, which, in turn, had led to her first appearance on Good Morning America. As a model she was known more for her face than for her figure, for her complexion and her azure eyes, features that were beginning to appear on magazine covers with regularity (she estimates she has been on more than 500 covers in eight years of modeling). Alt was 21, a small-town Long Island girl whose feet were on the ground even as her career was soaring.
Things were not quite so rosy for Greschner in March '82. He was 27 and had just spent SXA weeks in traction for a back ailment that had kept him out of the Rangers' lineup since November. His future as a hockey player was in doubt. Doctors were recommending surgery to remove two damaged disks, an injury suffered when he crashed into the boards in Toronto while throwing an errant hip check. The surgery might well have ended Greschner's playing career. And while it was not a career that would one day put him into the Hall of Fame—he has been selected to but one NHL All-Star squad in his 13 years with the Rangers—it was a career worth salvaging. In 1982 Greschner was already the highest-scoring Ranger defenseman of all time, and while today he stands seventh on the club's career scoring list with 174 goals and 397 assists in 791 games, he will almost certainly move up to fifth before the season is through.
Alt was having a drink—if that's what you call a cup of hot water and lemon—at Oren & Aretsky's, a trendy watering hole on Manhattan's Third Avenue, when Ken Aretsky, one of the co-owners, pointed out Greschner. The big defenseman had given Rangers tickets to Aretsky several times in the past few months. Aretsky had, in turn, passed some of them on to Alt. "That's the guy whose tickets you've been using," Aretsky said.
Alt wanted to thank Greschner. That really is all she wanted to do. She is the type of person who sends thank-you notes for favors—a thoughtful, organized person. She was going out with actor and rock singer Rex Smith at the time, and their relationship was stormy enough without some gossip columnist writing about the SI cover girl being seen with the injured jock. So she asked Aretsky to invite Greschner over for a drink on the condition that Aretsky sit with them. Greschner, who was having a beer and talking to a couple of girls at the time, said he would be by in a minute.
Time passed. But Greschner didn't budge. Alt grew irritated. It is a well-known fact that the way to a beautiful woman's heart is to ignore her, but the truth was Greschner wasn't really interested in gaining access to Alt's heart. He didn't like models. He had met several in his years with the Rangers—the Blueshirts had quite a reputation in the late 1970s—and they had mostly been on the wild side of pretty. "My career was going bad enough without getting involved in all that," Greschner says now.