NEW YORK -- NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly joined a small fraternity of hockey legends Thursday, when Ice Hockey in Harlem honored him for his extraordinary contributions to the organization and the sport of hockey and its annual Winter Sports Celebration at Tribeca Rooftop in lower Manhattan.
Ice Hockey in Harlem is a non-profit organization founded in 1987 by former New York Rangers forward Pat Hickey to make a difference in the lives of young people in Harlem through hockey and academic support. It is part of the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone program.
Other honorees include Hockey Hall of Famers Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Willie O'Ree and Angela Ruggerio, as well as Adam Graves and Rangers coach David Quinn.
"This is one of those awards where it's really an organizational award that I have the privilege of honoring and representing the National Hockey League for," Deputy Commissioner Daly said prior to the event. "A community-minded program like Ice Hockey in Harlem is so important not only for our sport, but really for the communities that they serve. This one is long standing. It's been helped over time both by the National Hockey League but also with the Rangers here locally. It's well-supported and it's been a really good bind for the community. It's helped a lot of kids get good educations while introducing the sport of hockey and giving the benefit of the core values of hockey."
Hickey, who played 644 NHL games with the Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Toronto Maple Leafs, Quebec Nordiques and St. Louis Blues from 1975-85, praised Deputy Commissioner Daly for being a strong advocate and voice for Ice Hockey in Harlem.
"Bill has been part of us," Hickey said. "Bill always gets it. He's always been there guiding me. Maybe I was doing the wrong thing here in Manhattan, in Harlem, or the right thing, but he has been a great cheerleader. The NHL speaks for itself, but Bill Daly has been active anytime I want to call him."
Deputy Commissioner Daly said he first started admiring Ice Hockey in Harlem before he became the NHL's first deputy commissioner in 2005, adding he would support the program even if he wasn't with the League.
"Some of the recipients of the honor in past years are legends in the game and have been heroes for the Rangers and real leaders in the sport," Deputy Commissioner Daly said. "It's been a very, very successful program and we're glad to support it.
"I think having the National Hockey League be connected and related to the program the way it is certainly helps the program. It helps it raise funds. It helps it promote and encourage kids to take part in the program."
The League supports Ice Hockey in Harlem in a multitude of ways, both through the Hockey Is For Everyone program and through various local fundraising initiatives like the gala celebration where Deputy Commissioner Daly was honored Thursday.
"It's been a very strong relationship, and hopefully mutually beneficial," Deputy Commissioner Daly said.
Hickey credited Deputy Commissioner Daly for adding his quantitative value to the relationship between Ice Hockey in Harlem and the NHL. He said Daly's following and consistent presence in and around the program have been beneficial.
"When I called [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman to tell him that Bill has accepted [the honor], I know Gary pretty good, I think he hit the roof with pride that someone stepped out in honoring Bill for what he does behind the scenes," Hickey said. "Bill has stayed on top of it."
Among the attendees at the celebration Thursday were Commissioner Bettman, Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux, Hall of Fame broadcaster Sam Rosen, NHL alumni Glenn Healy and Jeff Beukeboom, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, Fire Department of New York First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and FDNY Chief of Department John Sudnik.