DIX HILLS, N.Y. -- Adam Graves slowly stepped off a secondary rink at Clark Gillies Arena after playing 10 minutes of hockey.

At 55 years old he's quick to say he's an old man, yet he vibrantly signs autographs and poses for pictures with players and fans of all ages.

This was Graves' first of many games over 24 hours during Labor Day weekend. One for deep reflection, appreciation, kindness and self-deprecation, Graves found it most interesting that familiar faces want to come back and participate in the annual 24 Hours of Hockey Marathon, which raises money for several area charities, including the Garden of Dreams Foundation, Ice Hockey in Harlem and the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation.

Year 10 concluded at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, with more than $500,000 raised from sponsors, individual donations and a silent auction. More than $5.5 million has been raised since the event began.

"People circle it on their calendar and they can't wait," Graves said. "And that's the gift of hockey, it brings people together. Generations of families are here and they're having a great time together."

Graves, who played 10 of his 16 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers, joined retired players Brian Mullen, Stephane Matteau, Colton Orr, Mike Hartman, Megan Bozek, Haley Skarupa, Michael Del Zotto and Benoit Hogue, and Matteau's son, Stefan Matteau, a 29-year-old forward playing for Ingolstadt in DEL, the top professional league in Germany, after playing 92 NHL games with the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens, Vegas Golden Knights, Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche (2014-22). The Long Island Rough Riders of Long Island Sled Hockey Inc. also shared the ice with nine men's teams and two women's teams.

What's kept Graves feeling young is philanthropy. He lives in Oakville, Ontario, but often travels to New York to assist with programs, summer hockey schools and development camps. A key cog in the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup championship, Graves works in hockey and business operations for the Rangers and is a face for the organization's charitable endeavors, including the Junior Rangers and Garden of Dreams.

"I think for me it's be a good teammate," Graves said. "I've often said that when you walk into a locker room or walk into an arena, and you walk in with a smile on your face and you get the opportunity to meet so many great people, that's the journey of hockey and the journey of life. It's the people that you meet and taking time to enjoy and listen and watch and learn."

Stephane Matteau, best remembered for scoring the game-winning goal for the Rangers in double-overtime of Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final against the Devils, proposed the concept of playing 24 hours, similar to a Montreal-based charity event he was a part of. He shared his idea with a friend, Jim Flanagan, then-COO of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, who became organizer and whose son's best friend committed suicide after playing the first year of the marathon.

Hockey Helps started with expectations of raising $25,000. Total proceeds in the first year was $170,000.

"We didn't have a plan to do it again," Flanagan said. "And then each year it's just gotten better and better. If I stopped doing it now people would be mad, because everybody looks forward to doing it."

Matteau gives back with stories about being bullied and having low self-esteem growing up in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and discusses his sobriety, which is going on 23 years. He lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, got married the week before Hockey Helps 2023 and turned 54 on Saturday.

By 12:30 p.m., 2 1/2 hours into the marathon Saturday, Matteau had completed his fourth game.

"You won't see a grumpy person because, jeez, I played four games today, I'm tired," he said. "You are here because you care about the foundation, of where the money is going to go. I like to share my stories. All of us share our stories and that's how things grow."

For Skarupa, it was another way to stay involved with hockey. The 29-year-old gold medalist for the United States at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and three-time champion at the IIHF Women's World Championship (2015, 2016, 2017) was named a hockey ambassador for the Washington Capitals on Sept. 23, 2019, and works full time in Boston for a marketing automation software company. She got an invite from Bozek, her teammate at Worlds in 2016 and 2017, and didn't think twice about a three-hour commute.

"The energy's like, people here 24 hours and you can tell everyone's just super excited to be here for a great cause," Skarupa said. "I'm not around the sport as much as I used to be, so I love doing these types of events."

Bozek was a Rangers coach at development camp in July, two months after retiring from the United States National Team and 14 months removed from a silver medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The 32-year-old, who is expecting her first child Dec. 25, was on hand to coach one of the women's teams.

"Seeing as it's the 10th year and people are as eager as ever to be a part of it speaks measures to the people behind this and the community that helps support this," Bozek said. "You're not playing in it but being able to help coach and whatnot and just be a part of it is awesome."

Flanagan, like Graves, has no intention of slowing down, even in retirement.

"At times I think my family wishes I would just stop because it is exhausting and I'm like, I can't stop," he said. "So I just see us just continuing to carry on as we are, try and find new and different ways to have an impact."

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