An Open Letter To Those Players At Camp
There are some things you need to know before you get the 2008-2009 NHL season started as a member of the Broadway Blueshirts. I will attempt to lay them out for you to make your transition to New York easier. If you keep these in mind, your stay will be an enjoyable and, hopefully, productive one. Best of luck.
1- First and foremost, being a Ranger requires respect. Respect for your teammates. Respect for the jersey. Respect for the fans. Respect the Rangers. Everything else on this list falls under this dictum. Respect. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's a complete way of being that will require hard work but the payoff is virtually limitless.
2 - I mentioned hard work. That is what is expected of you. Anything less - let up for just one moment of one shift - and the results would be disastrous. During that lapse a goal may be scored against the Rangers, or it may not. Either way, someone will notice. The Rangers are the most scrutinized NHL team not in Canada, both by the media and by the fans. You do not want to let up in this town. At the same time, even if things aren't going your way - go without scoring for games at a time, whatever - if you are visibly working hard you will given a pass. You may look around at the fans by the ice and see the nice clothes, the Blackberries and the models, but this is a blue collar fanbase that expects and appreciates hard work.
3 - Meet the fans, greet the fans. They are your best asset on the ice, better than any newfangled composite stick or heated skateblade. You may have played in the Garden in the past, you may have not. But you have never felt anything like it when you have 18,200 people getting your back, helping you up, pushing you forward. At the same time, that 18,200 can be merciless. This goes back to No. 2, if you don't show maximum effort, you will face the ire of the fans and trust me, you won't like it.
4 - Do anything but sit back and watch when the Islanders, Devils or Flyers are in town. Those are the times to be proactive. Very proactive. There is no faster way to the hearts of the fans than through the franchise's biggest rivals. In this day and age of free agency (which may have brought you here), rivalries are harder to cling to for players - you may have friends on the other team - but they are grossly important to the fans. Go out to dinner with them, go on vacation with them, whatever - from the second that puck drops, you had better be out for blood. Players come and go but that jersey that you pull on has been around for a long time and that means something. Pulling on that jersey comes with the baggage of hatred for wrongs past. It may sound petty, but it is a part of life. And, if you use it right - through the aforementioned hard work - then it is a very, very good thing.
5 - On February 3rd Adam Graves' No. 9 will be raised to the rafters. Pay attention. Pay attention not just to the testimonials and not just to the sheer adoration that will thunder through the Garden. Pay attention to Adam Graves. You will not find a better role model in your search for what it means to be a Ranger. Words cannot do him justice, just watch and listen.
6 - Always, ALWAYS have your teammate's back. There is nothing worse than seeing a player get hit in a vulnerable position without retribution. That especially goes for your goaltender.
7 - Give not to temptation. New York never closes and there is fun to be had no matter what your vice may be. But if you give in to it, then you are breaking No. 1 on this list. There is a time and place for everything, and while you wear that jersey the time is not right for nefarious activities.
8 - Spend some time reading up on the past. The more you read about the 82 year history of the franchise, the more you will understand just how important No. 1 on this list is. A lot of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into building the Rangers and the least you can do is know who they were.
9 - Don't be afraid to speak your mind. Honesty is the best policy. Silly, right? Not at all. When speaking to the media or to the press, one of the worse things you can do is speak in benign cliches. There is no such thing as 110%. You can only take things one game, or one day, at a time. And you don't always get the bounces. We know that; tell us how, tell us why. You can't be afraid to show your personality, because that is who you are.
10 - Don't believe the hype. Because of the payroll, because of the market and because of the ever-positive preseason expectations, there is going to be people saying that you will win the Cup. Don't let it get to your head. Things can go south, and quickly with the tough teams on the schedule throughout the first month of the season. Work hard, listen to the coaches and play your game to the best of your ability.
This list may seem daunting, but you will be pulling on a Blueshirt and these are the things that come with the jersey.
Let's Go Rangers.
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