Steven McDonald, a New York City police officer who was paralyzed in a shooting in 1986 and in whose honor the New York Rangers annually present an award to the player who goes above and beyond the call of duty, died Tuesday of a heart attack. He was 59.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Detective Steven McDonald, a cherished member of the Rangers family," the Rangers said in a statement. "Steven exemplified the true meaning of the word hero and also personified the 'Blueshirt Faithful.' He is an inspiration to us all and his legacy will continue to live on in our hearts and minds. Our thoughts and prayers are with Patti Ann and Conor and the entire McDonald family."
McDonald, a lifelong Rangers fan, was working undercover in Central Park when he was shot three times July 12, 1986, leaving him a quadriplegic and unable to breathe on his own. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, he remained an active member of the police department, even earning a promotion to detective in 1995. He also was a fixture at Madison Square Garden and drew ovations when he was shown on the video board.
The Rangers established the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in his honor a year later. Forward Jan Erixon was the first winner; other winners include Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch and Henrik Lundqvist.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the McDonald family after the passing of Steve," Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, a four-time winner of the award while with the Rangers from 2007-14, tweeted Tuesday. "He was a true hero to all of us."
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, who won the award in 2014-2015, said on Twitter that, "Winning this award was truly an honour and one of the greatest accomplishments of my career because of what he embodied and what the award stood for. His legacy will live on through the community and this prestigious award."
"When I got there in 1989 Steven had been paralyzed only a few years earlier," Neil Smith, the general manager of the Rangers when the award was created. "He loved the Rangers as was very obvious. He is one of the most courageous men I have ever met. His wife was by his side always and then young son Conor was always with Dad. I was very proud of the Steven McDonald Award being given to the extra effort player of the club. Certainly he will be missed but his legacy will live on not only in his son, now Sgt. McDonald, but hopefully the award will live on at the Garden and future Ranger players will take inspiration from the most courageous Ranger of all time Officer Steven McDonald."