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Stadium Series games let Rangers combine passions

by Tal Pinchevsky /

NEW YORK -- For the New York Rangers, playing two games at Yankee Stadium as part of the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series offers a unique opportunity to play on one of sports' grandest stages. For the members of the Rangers who grew up loving baseball, it's a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of two passions.

"It's awesome. I'm a Yankees fan growing up. To get a chance to be out there in the stadium and look around, it's pretty cool," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said Saturday. "I've come here and watched Yankees games as a fan. It's a little different playing hockey than baseball. We're going to have a lot more fans than we normally do at [Madison Square] Garden. It's going to be fun."

Not every Ranger grew up watching the Yankees like Callahan, but it was still a special moment to skate in the Bronx before their first outdoor game Sunday against the New Jersey Devils. That was especially true for Rangers defenseman John Moore, who admits that growing up in suburban Chicago and rooting for the Cubs had its share of melancholy moments.

"I was a huge Cubs fan growing up. In 2003, when they came within six outs of the World Series, that was pretty cool," Moore said. "That's really the only taste of success I've had as a Cubs fan in my short life so far."

After losing a heartbreaker in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, the Cubs lost Game 7 to the eventual World Series champion Florida Marlins. But that loss didn't sour Moore on the sport, although he admits it was a tough pill to swallow. If anything, being on the ice at Yankee Stadium with friends and family only reenergized his love for baseball.

"It's special. I was sitting out there with my dad on the ice and we were just talking," Moore said. "We were right there in short center field just imagining what it would be like to field a fly ball there. When you're on the field, it's such a big stadium."

The Rangers player paying the greatest tribute to the Yankees didn't even grow up with the sport. But with the Yankees' iconic pinstripes emblazoned on his goaltending gear and Yankees greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio featured on his mask, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is excited to pay tribute to the Bronx Bombers.

"Ever since I heard about the [games], I started thinking about masks and equipment and maybe doing something special, because it is a very special moment," Lundqvist said. "The first time playing here at Yankee Stadium, a place where so many great things have happened for so many years, I think we all feel very lucky to be here. Personally, just to give some respect to the Yankees organization is cool."

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