|Adam Graves and his family members watch the No. 9 banner take its place in the Madison Square Garden rafters at the end of Tuesday's emotional celebration.
|RANGERS ON DEMAND -- THE CEREMONY |
|1. Tribute with Leetch, Messier, Richter ||Watch |
|2. Sam Rosen Introduces Graves to the Fans ||Watch |
|3. Introduction of Rangers Alumni ||Watch |
|4. Introduction of Bathgate and Howell ||Watch |
|5. Introduction of Five Rangers Legends ||Watch |
|6. Family Introduction, Gifts Presented ||Watch |
|7. Messier Speech Honoring Graves ||Watch |
|8. Graves' Speech to The Garden Faithful ||Watch |
|9. No. 9 Banner Goes Up to the Rafters ||Watch |
• GRAVES NIGHT PHOTO GALLERY
• Game Recap: Late Naslund Goal Saves Point
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
Adam Graves, who spent 10 unforgettable years as a member of the New York Rangers, received the organization’s highest honor on Tuesday night, when his No. 9 was raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters, joining five other legendary Blueshirts, including three of his teammates from the 1994 Stanley Cup championship team.
9 DAYS OF ADAM GRAVES
The evening, appropriately called “Heart of a Ranger” , paid tribute to Graves as both a hockey player and a man of the people, who has given back so much to wider community. And while such ceremonies are usually focused on the triumph of one individual, for a team-first player like Graves, the moment of celebration was embraced as an opportunity to turn around and give a heartfelt speech thanking all those whom he felt honored to have known.
Beginning 90 minutes prior to the start of the Rangers’ home game against Atlanta, the Graves Night ceremony was hosted by Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen and ran precisely 58 minutes from start to finish.
“Tonight we honor grit, we honor grace, we honor generosity,” Rosen told the capacity crowd of 18,200. “Tonight we honor one of the greatest Rangers of all time. The incomparable Adam Graves.”
Following Rosen’s introduction, a video tribute was played on Gardenvision. The video featured the voices of Graves’ former teammates who have also had their numbers retired -- Mike Richter, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch. They spoke of what it means to be a great teammate and what it means to play with heart -- focusing on the themes of honor, tradition and dignity.
Rosen then introduced Graves himself as a “man who uniquely embodies all that the New York Rangers stand for” and signaled for Graves’ dramatic entrance.
Graves, who returned to the Rangers organization as a member of the front office in 2005, then walked down a long red carpet laid out on an entranceway near the Rangers locker rooms. He passed Rangers legends, former teammates, fans, and people he has helped most recently through the Garden of Dreams Foundation. After stopping to shake hands and receive many hugs, he emerged onto the ice through the Zamboni gate.
|The Graves Family watches as No. 9 makes its way to the top of The Garden. |
• MORE PHOTOS
A thundering, standing ovation greeted Graves as he humbly walked down the final stretch of the red carpet to join Rosen at center ice.
With Graves in place, Rosen proceeded to introduce a range of special guests. The first group were Graves’ former Rangers teammates Mike Gartner, Tie Domi, Darren Langon, Glenn Healy, Sergei Nemchinov, Stephane Matteau and Jeff Beukeboom.
Following the former teammates were Rangers legends Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell. Bathgate, another great who wore No. 9, and Howell, who wore No. 3, will also have their numbers retired prior to the Rangers’ Feb. 22 game vs. Toronto at MSG.
The parade of stars concluded with the Rangers players who have already had their numbers retired – Rod Gilbert (No. 7), Ed Giacomin (No. 1), Richter (No. 35), Messier (No. 11) and Leetch (No. 2).
Finally, Graves was joined by his family. His wife, Violet, daughters Madison and Montana, and son, Logan, all came out amid the cheers.
A stream of gifts were presented to Graves. From Rangers fans, represented by two Season Subscribers, there was a photo mosaic of Graves’ No. 9 banner. From the Garden of Dreams Foundation, represented by Mark Bajandas and Chris McCabe, there was the presentation of the charity’s first Hero Award, given to Graves himself.
From Leetch, Richter and Messer, on behalf of Graves’ former teammates, there was a guitar autographed by Bruce Springsteen. And from Officer Steven McDonald, his wife, Patti, and son, Conor, there was a New York police badge inscribed in honor of Graves’ late father, Robert, who was a police officer in Toronto.
The final gift was a show-stopper -- literally. After Rosen announced that Adam was a longtime fan of the TV show “The Sopranos”, the cast of that popular HBO series paraded down the red carpet, including Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini, and Steve Van to present Graves with an autographed Sopranos hockey jersey.
Messier then introduced Graves with an emotional speech in which he noted that No. 9 had “become respected in this community probably like no other athlete in a long time, or ever.”
“The true test of a man with character is how he lives his life when the cameras are off,” said Messier, noting that Graves had passed this test with flying colors.
Fighting his own tears, Messier referred to Graves as “an athlete who connected with the fans in a way no other athlete could have in this city. … Winning the Stanley Cup does not make you a champion. Adam is a champion because he lives his life with respect and honor and compassion.”
|Adam Graves received numerous gifts on Tuesday night, including a guitar signed by his favorite artist, Bruce Springsteen. |
As the crowd chanted “Gra-Vee, Gra-Vee”, Graves walked to the podium and began his thank-you speech. First off, he thanked Messier.
“There’s not a man I would rather follow, “Graves said of his friend. “... For all of us up here, it was easy to follow this man. To have him speak on my behalf tonight means more than I can say in words. “
Graves then spoke of the “great weight” he had felt on his shoulders ever since Leetch had announced that Graves’ No. 9 would be retired during Brian Leetch Night on Jan. 24, 2008.
“I stand before you humbled and incredibly appreciative because I am truly blessed,” said Graves. “Blessed to have the talent to play in the NHL and blessed to have the ability to share that ability for 10 years with the people of New York.”
Graves recalled his first visit to New York as a 14-year-old and how he never could have imagined that he would one day live in the city or come to know its people as well as he did. He seemed less nervous than he might have been in such a moment, largely because he was clearly so comfortable in the setting of MSG.
“This is the place where I always felt at home,” he said. “So much so, that right now I feel as though 18,200 of my closest friends are right here in my living room.”
Graves recalled his first home game as a Ranger on Oct. 7, 1991, and how every game there over the next 10 years was special to him.
“I pinch myself every day and ask how did I get here,” he said. “The only answer I can come up with is that I just tried to keep it simple and work as hard as I could.”
As the “Gra-Vee, Gra-Vee” chants sparked up again, Graves went on to thank a litany of people, including Rangers beat writers and broadcasters, personal friends and heroes like Paralympic gold medalist Nick Springer and Officer Steven McDonald, former Rangers executives Neil Smith and Colin Campbell, and the current Garden management that brought him back to work for the organization four years ago.
Graves also thanked his current Rangers co-workers, former teammates and the other legends at center ice. At one point he turned to Bathgate and said: “Forever sharing No. 9 with you high above the ice means everything to me.”
|RANGERS ON DEMAND -- BONUS VIDEO |
|Richter Mic'd Up During Ceremony ||Watch |
|Behind-the-Scenes Video, Post-Ceremony ||Watch |
|Post-Ceremony Graves Interview ||Watch |
|Post-Ceremony Messier Interview ||Watch |
|Post-Ceremony with Howell, Bathgate ||Watch |
|Longtime Announcer JD Talks About Graves ||Watch |
|Heroes of 1994 Reunion Interview ||Watch |
|Healy, Domi on Graves' Career ||Watch |
|Howell, Bathgate at Viewing Party ||Watch |
|Renney, Lundqvist on Graves Night ||Watch |
He concluded by thanking Rangers fans -- “We couldn’t have accomplished what we did on this ice without your endless devotion” -- and his family members -- “My success is your success. My moment here tonight is your moment, and you are everything to me.”
After Graves finished speaking, Rangers captain Chris Drury and alternate captains Scott Gomez and Markus Naslund came out to the ice with the giant No. 9 banner that was to be lifted to the rafters.
Graves then proceded with his family down the red carpet to watch his number go to the Garden rafters for eternity.
As the banner went up, a man who has always been about others suddenly came face to face with himself. Putting his hand over his eyes, he broke down in tears, recognizing the magnitude of the moment just as the weight he had just spoken of finally began to lift off his shoulders.