What was it like the first time you stepped on The Garden ice as a Ranger?
I was picked up by the Rangers on November 29, 2005 but I didn't play my first game at MSG until March 12, 2006. I had only played road games until then. I remember the anticipation leading up to playing at MSG. I would watch from the press box and I remember how loud the fans were especially in the Blue Seats. I would just keep saying I can't wait to play in front of this crowd. You always hear how great it is but can't really appreciate it until you experience it. So the day I was getting ready to play my first game at The Garden, I drove into the city so excited. I tried to take a pre-game nap, but the excitement and nerves kept me awake. Later that evening I would take to the ice for my first shift and do what I did best, make a big hit on the forecheck. The crowd went crazy and I had chills running through me. I will never forget the feeling of being so fortunate to play for the Rangers at The Garden for such incredible fans.
Do you have a favorite moment as a Ranger?
My favorite moment by far was scoring my first goal of my NHL career at MSG vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 9, 2007. I never expected to play one game in the NHL, so these are things you only dream of when you're a kid playing street hockey. I would pretend to be Wayne Gretzky or Adam Graves scoring goals at The Garden. Being able to live out those dreams is tough to put into words and will be something I will never forget.
Did you have any interesting pre-game rituals?
Nothing too crazy like rituals, it was more of routine type stuff. I would eat the same meal every game, put my gear on the same way and tape my sticks at the same time before every game.
Can you tell me about when you started playing hockey and how you got involved with the sport?
For most hockey players I was considered a late starter. I never skated or played hockey until I was eleven. I was always playing others sports such as soccer, baseball and football. As soon as I started playing hockey I loved it right away. I wanted to be at the rink non-stop. Either at the outdoor rinks after school or the 5am morning practices, I looked forward to every time I could get on the ice. The main reason I got involved was because my younger brother started playing hockey and all my friends started playing at the time as well.
What is it like to have your daughter starting to pick up the game?
It's so exciting to see my daughter playing hockey. Hockey has been a big part of her life. She has always enjoyed watching and going to games to see her daddy play. Now she is the one out there on the ice and I get to go watch her play. Having her in the Junior Rangers program has been great for her. They have such great instructors and coaches on the ice, so I get to enjoy watching her learn and have fun. She loves skating and she looks forward to getting on the ice every weekend. I never wanted to put pressure on her or make her think she had to play hockey, so her telling me and my wife how much she enjoys playing and that she wants to play hockey when she grows up is just the best feeling.
What are your 3 key tips for all youth hockey players?
First and foremost is to enjoy being on the ice and have fun. Hockey is a great game and should be about having fun when you're young so that you look forward to going to the rink every day. Second is make sure to practice. Hockey is a game that takes lots of skill speed and strength. The more time you put in to working on the fundamentals of skating and stick handling the better you will get. Games are fun but practices are just as important. Third is to play other sports. A lot of kids focus on only one sport at a very young age. I'm a firm believer in playing other sports that interest you and are fun as well. The cross training is just as important as hockey practice and other sports teach you to use other muscles and think differently. It will help you become a better hockey player and give you more opportunity to enjoy other things.