2006-12-22 / Sports

Rangers Know How To Display 600 Goal Ceremony

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

NEW YORK - Say what you want about the New York Rangers, they do know how to throw a party.

The organization gets it right, whether it’s something simple like giving out a monthly award to something more involved like retiring Mark Messier’s number.

Tuesday night was no exception. To honor the 600 goal milestones of Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, the organization perfectly executed an on-ice pregame ceremony, which not only presented the two players with silver sticks, but welcomed family and friends of both Jagr and Shanahan to the surprise of both.

“It came as a total surprise,” said Shanahan, who was suffering from the flu and possibly was not going to play. “My family did a really good job of keep a secret, but my wife knows me well enough to know I was going to play. Jaromir and I were totally caught offguard.” The Rangers did not only bring in Shanahan’s family and Jagr’s parents and girlfriend, Inna Pukajkova, but also brought back three players who represented for each player and the organization in general.

Steve Yzerman came out and greeted Shanahan, which forced a huge grin on his face. For good reason. When the Rangers alternate captain was acquired by the Red Wings from the Hartford Whalers in the summer of 1996, Stevie Y was the Detroit captain for 10 years.

Shanahan was a good player at the time, but at Yzerman’s side, he became part of the NHL elite. He was taught how to be a winner by a winner, which is something No. 14 never forgets.

“He knows me well,” Shanahan said. “We were roommates at one time and sat next to each other on the bus.”

Mario Lemieux had the same influence on Jaromir Jagr. The Eastern Conference’s answer to Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux brought a rough style to his scoring touch. When Jagr came over to the United States in 1990, he was a raw European player, who was taught the North American game by No. 66. More than anyone, Jagr credits Lemieux for being his greatest influence.

“After my parents, he was the biggest influence on me in hockey,” Jagr thought. “I came here at 18 years old and had my style of hockey. He changed it. The way I play now is 70 percent of him.”

This is why Jagr seemed just as happy to see Lemieux which was just as good in getting a big kiss from his girlfriend.

Then there is Messier, who presented the two players with the sticks and seems to be taking on the role of Rangers ambassador, which Rod Gilbert has performed for so many years. It was a perfect call, since both Jagr and Shanahan have parts of their games, which reflect The Captain’s. Much like No. 11, Jagr is an emotional competitor, who wears his heart on his sleeve. And Shanahan is exuding the same clubhouse leadership Messier performed when he was part of the team.

More importantly, though, the ceremony gave the Rangers an emotional boost that helped them get through the first period.

“It helped all of us,” coach Tom Renney said. “It’s exciting to be part of history right there. Certainly something like that doesn’t hurt you.”

And that’s why a ceremony is not only important to the players involved, but the entire organization.

And that’s why the Rangers always get it right.

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