NYRANGERS.COM - The last time Adam Fox was at Madison Square Garden, it was Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. As a native of Jericho, N.Y., he was home from Harvard for Christmas break, and his buddy Clayton Keller - a friend from the U.S. National Team Development Program and a current Coyotes forward - was in town to face the New York Rangers.
So, just as he had countless times as a toddler, then as an adolescent, then as a teenager, Fox made the trek to his favorite arena to watch his favorite team take the ice.
The next time Fox steps foot inside the confines of Madison Square Garden, he very well could be wearing a Rangers sweater himself.
On April 30th, the Rangers acquired the rights to Fox from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for their second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. On May 2, New York signed the 21-year-old defenseman to an entry level contract.
For Fox, playing in the NHL has always been a lifelong goal that, these days, seems to be inching closer to a reality. But having the opportunity to suit up for the team that has been his favorite since he can remember - that is a dream come true.
"It's definitely special," Fox said. "Obviously, it has a little more meaning, given my connection with New York and the Rangers. Any opportunity to play in the NHL is special, and having it be the Rangers is obviously a little more meaningful."
Fox doesn't remember his first Rangers game. He was that young. He does, however, remember his first jersey: a Brian Leetch No. 2 sweater. It was a gift from his dad, who always tried to impress his own fandom and favorite players upon his young son.
A Leetch jersey was a natural fit for Fox, now a high-scoring offensive defenseman who tallied 48 points in 33 games with the Crimson in 2018-19.
"I never actually got to watch him - I only saw the clips," Fox said. "Then he became one of my favorite guys to watch growing up."
Fox, whose family had Rangers season tickets throughout his childhood, spent many a night in the crowd at MSG, sporting his Leetch jersey, cheering on his hometown team as it took on the Devils, or the Islanders, or the Capitals, particularly in the postseason.
"I remember going to a ton of playoff games," Fox said. "I remember they were always playing Ottawa or the Washington Capitals, it seems like, every year, and just going in there and being a little kid there was always a ton of fun.
"The fans are very passionate. Obviously having been in the playoffs a lot in past years, they always bring a great atmosphere to games, so I think it's definitely a passionate place to play."
In November 2018, after finishing up at the National Team Development Program and committing to play his college hockey with the Crimson, Fox finally got to skate on the Garden ice himself, as Harvard faced longtime rival Cornell in The Frozen Apple.
For this lifelong Rangers fan, skating on the very same ice as the players he'd idolized as a kid was something else.
"It's definitely a pretty special opportunity," Fox said. "Having been to enough games in the crowd and then being able to play on the ice - it's always special. Hopefully I'll be fortunate enough to put on a Rangers jersey and play on that ice."
If he is seeking any pointers or words of wisdom in advance of arriving in New York, Fox will get some quality time over the next few weeks with Brady Skjei and Chris Kreider, both former NCAA standouts who will be his USA teammates at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.
"I think it'll definitely be good for me to get comfortable, not only on the ice, but off the ice also, being around NHL players for a couple of weeks and hopefully guys that I'll play with," he said. "I think it'll definitely be good for me to get my foot in the door and get a little more comfortable with them."
As a kid, Fox watched plenty of hockey from his seasonal vantage point just over Henrik Lundqvist's left shoulder. Sometime in the near future, he won't be watching Lundqvist from the other side of the glass. He'll be lining up on the very same ice as Lundqvist.
"It's pretty crazy, honestly - growing up watching him and being a part of the [Garden] atmosphere, it's definitely something that I hopefully look forward to," Fox said. "Obviously it's probably something where I'll be a little starstruck at first, and then you kind of get used to it. Definitely excited to hopefully be playing in front of him."
Soon, the hard work will begin for Fox. There will be development camp, then training camp and, sometime down the line, his first NHL game.
But for now, Fox is taking a second to simply appreciate the fact that he is living the dream - every Rangers fan's dream.
"It's exciting," Fox said. "I grew up a big Rangers fan, and to have the opportunity to hopefully suit up for them is definitely special for me."