Over the past five seasons, the New York Rangers have retired four jerseys to the Madison Square Garden rafters: Mike Richter (35), Mark Messier (11), Brian Leetch (2) and Adam Graves (9).
In the speeches that would highlight these nights, you learned something new about each player.
Mike Richter surprised us as he gave forth an eloquent address that showed why he would soon be attending classes at Yale University.
Brian Leetch admitted to how powerful it was to receive the warm welcome when he came back as a Boston Bruin for one game.
Mark Messier made our mouths drop, as the man known as "The Captain" the hockey world over, bawled through his speech to the extent that Mike Richter joked that the night was being sponsored by Kleenex.
Tonight, we learned that all of the good words we've heard spoken about Adam Graves are true.
Before the brilliant left winger even made it to the ice, he shook more hands and spoke more words to those lining the MSG hallways than by most politicians during election season.
While another may have tapped hands against a few on the way through the throng, he shook hands. He shared words with these people. He stopped and talked.
This is a man who is bound for a monumental individual honor, and "Gravey" is making sure he shows his appreciation for it to every person he could.
This appreciation continued on in the reception of not only his fellow Rangers, but in talking, it seemed, with each member of the Sopranos who had come out to celebrate the night with him. The actors could have been expressing their enjoyment of his play or joking about their character being New Jersey Devils fans—no matter what the conversation was, he gave them his full and undivided attention.
On a night that was his, Adam Graves deflected the gratitude of the Garden faithful to the trainers, the support staff, the PR staff, the Garden of Dreams charity, his father, his family, his teammates, and the fans. When he spoke of an individual, he spoke of a specific trait of theirs, when he spoke of the events' staff, he called them by name.
He said that just to wear the "blue, red and white" was more than enough for a kid who grew up practicing shooting in the driveway with his father. The evening was "overwhelming" for Adam Graves, and as the banner bearing his name rose, his tears fell.
"The heart" of the 1994 Stanley Cup champion team, was the last to leave the ice during the pregame ceremony as Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter walked out of sight. Adam spent the few final moments thanking the fans, tapping his own heart, while touching the hearts of all in attendance.
Adam Graves is all you have heard he is: a kind, responsible, charitable man who we wish all of our sports heroes, neighbors, and selves could emulate just a little bit more.
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