For anyone who has ever experienced the thrill of playing the game in its purest form - lacing up a pair of skates, grabbing a stick and puck and playing hockey until dusk on a local lake, river, pond or stream - fond memories quickly return when given another opportunity to play the game outside.
For the Rangers, this collection of fond memories became a reality once again as they took to the ice in one of New York's greatest winter treasures. For many players, this was the first time they had played hockey outside since their childhood days, where many began their young careers.
After putting on most of their equipment back in the team's dressing room at Madison Square Garden, the players arrived in the park dressed in full gear, minus their skates, gloves and helmets, which were strewn over their shoulders. It was truly a once in a lifetime visual to see these 23 professional athletes take the two minutes walk down past the horse path where they were dropped off to the rink at the bottom of the hill.
Once they hit the ice, the team, joined by local youth hockey players from the Wollman Rink program, went through various skills drills, including puck control, hardest shot and breakaway relay.
"Every Canadian city had its own set of outdoor rinks and that's where you played most of your hockey," recalled Blueshirt captain Mark Messier who participated in an opening ceremony puck drop with rink renovator Donald Trump and New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to begin the late afternoon event.
"Not only did most kids play organized hockey outside, but you also played pickup hockey. A lot of families also had rinks in their own backyards. When the weather is nice, it's always a little more enjoyable (to play outside)."
With the midtown skyline in the backdrop, many Rangers concluded their unique afternoon in the park by greeting fans and signing autographs before making their exit in similar fashion to their entrance. In the end, it was tough to determine who had a better time, the fans or the players.
"I'm sure mostly everyone out here can think back to his days of playing hockey at an early age and remember the feeling of what it's like to play outside," Messier added. "It brings out a youthful simplicity to the game that cannot be experienced any other way. This was great."