Comic reliever / annoying attention grabber Larry Goodman of Sec. 407 has been a dancing fixture at New York Rangers games for longer than this writer cares to remember. Noting that Goodman’s Jumbotron gyrations are often greeted with chants of “Homo Larry” at MSG, the New York Times’ Katie Thomas examines what some have described as a “toxic atmosphere” at the World’s Lamest Arena. Dolan Inc. showing insensitivity to the paying customers? No fuckin’ way.

Kevin Jennings, a Rangers fan who is gay, said he stopped attending home games for about a month this season because he felt so uncomfortable with the homophobic epithets that are shouted to the players.

Ray Stankes, 50, of Bayside, Queens, said he canceled season tickets he had had for 25 years in part because of the antigay environment.

œThis is a place where I grew up, and I never really felt uncomfortable at the Garden, Stankes said. œI didn™t wear it on my sleeve that I™m gay. If I take a friend who is also gay who, for lack of a better term, is not as masculine, I™m always sitting there a little tense. Like, is somebody going to say something to us? And it™s made it not quite as fun as it used to be.

Other fans recalled that the crowd booed when the name of the New York City Gay Hockey Association, a recreational league, flashed briefly across the jumbo screen.

œIt™s a pervasive problem, said Jennings, who is the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a nonprofit group that promotes tolerance of gays and lesbians. œI took my godson a few months ago. I won™t take him again. He™s 6. I don™t want him looking around and seeing other men engaging in this behavior and thinking this is the way you behave.

Stankes said he turned down an invitation by the gay hockey group to attend a Rangers game en masse a few years ago. As he feared, the crowd booed when the name of the group flashed on the monitors. But Kagan said the fans™ reaction surprised and hurt him. œI never expected that at all, he said.

One of the most visible examples of the fans™ antigay behavior is the chant directed at Goodman, which according to him began in 1998 or 1999, when the Rangers were doing poorly and some fans claimed Goodman™s dancing was jinxing the team.

œThe fans were looking to vent their frustration on somebody and unfortunately it was me, said Goodman, 38, who lives in northern New Jersey and said he was not gay. Goodman is a celebrity at Rangers games and appears frequently on television and in local newspapers, but was reluctant to comment on the chants and told a reporter he prefers to be called Dancin™ Larry.

He said lately that he did not get invited to dance as often as he used to. œThey™ve been trying to crack down on it, Goodman said of the chanting. A Madison Square Garden official noted that some fans chanted only œGo Home, Larry, and said the organization was evaluating whether to continue including Goodman in the game routine. Although he is hugely popular with fans, the team official acknowledged his dancing invited derogatory remarks.

Goodman said he had learned to live with chants. œThat™s how it will always be and that™s what makes it part of the fun in going to a Rangers game in New York City, for God™s sake, Goodman said.

œIt comes to a certain point, it is sort of like, you™ve got to have freedom of speech.