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|Ryan Hollweg signs his jersey for Charlie Marchiselli, whose grandson's entry into a contest on newyorkrangers.com made it possible for Marchiselli to participate in the "Blueshirts Off Our Backs" ceremony. |
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The Rangers' annual "Blueshirts Off Our Backs" ceremony that follows each year's final regular-season home game is invariably a thrill for the roughly two dozen fans lucky enough to receive game-worn jerseys.
For Marc Parlavecchio, a Rangers Season Subscriber since 1977, Friday night's ceremony after the Rangers-Islanders game was much more than just a thrill. It was an absolute dream come true.
Parlavecchio had watched many "Blueshirts Off Our Backs" ceremonies over the years, but had never imagined that in a capacity crowd of 18,200, he might be one of the lucky fans randomly chosen to participate in the ceremony.
During Friday's game, however, a Rangers staff member came to Parlavecchio's seat to inform him that he would be receiving a Blueshirt. It was an emotional moment for the longtime Rangers fan, one topped only by what came later -- the chance to stand on the ice at Madison Square Garden.
"Just getting to be on that ice was enough for me," Parlavecchio said just moments after receiving his autographed jersey. "This experience was incredible."
As if being part of the ceremony wasn't enough, Parlavecchio had the good fortune to receive not just any Rangers jersey – but the one worn by his favorite player, Chris Drury. In his wildest dreams, Parlavecchio said he couldn't have imagined that he would end up meeting Drury and receiving the Blueshirt off his back.
Parlavecchio was one of 23 fans who took part in Friday's ceremony. In the past, all participants were chosen at random from those seated in the arena. This year, however, several Blueshirts went to fans who had won an online contest on newyorkrangers.com. Contest entrants were asked to nominate either themselves or a friend for the honor and to write a short essay explaining the reason for their nomination.
Roughly a third of the group had earned their spots via the contest. The rest, like Parlavecchio, were chosen at random.
Charlie Marchiselli, a lifelong Rangers fan, was among the contest winners, although his name had been submitted by his grandson, who joined him on the ice as he received Ryan Hollweg's No. 44 jersey. Marchiselli didn't even know he had been nominated as a participant until after his grandson had won the Blueshirt Clue of the Game contest which ran last month during Rangers games on MSG. The opportunity to be part of the ceremony came as a complete surprise.\
"There's nothing like it," Marchiselli said of having a Rangers player hand him a game-worn jersey. "It was the first time I ever got to stand on the ice at The Garden after coming to so many games."
After all of the fans, who represented a wide range of age groups, were brought out onto the ice, players came out in order of their jersey numbers to hand out their Blueshirts. The thrill in each recipient's eyes was evident, and it was clear that players enjoyed the moment, too.
The annual "Blueshirts Off Our Backs" tradition, which began eight years ago, has grown into one of the true highlights of each Rangers season. This season-long contests that enabled several fans to "clinch" spots in the ceremony proved how much the event means, as thousands of fans took the time to nominate someone they felt was deserving of the honor.