|Former Rangers captain Brian Leetch shakes hands with current captain Jaromir Jagr prior to Thursday's game. Leetch and Jagr were teammates for part of the 2003-04 season. |
The Rangers' annual season-opening pregame ceremony is always an emotional moment -- but add in the presence of legendary defenseman and former captain Brian Leetch on Thursday night, and you've got a formula sure to score with every Blueshirts fan.
It all began just over four minutes before the team hit the ice for their season-opener vs. Florida, as the lights went down and fans erupted into passionate cheers of "Let's Go Rangers".
First up was a video shown on the revamped, crystal-clear Gardenvision screen. The video featured scenes of New York landmarks and highlights from the Rangers' 2006-07 season and 2007 playoff run -- an experience that included 19 of the current team members.
With two minutes left until the team took the ice, the images of new Rangers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez entered the video, drawing exuberant cheers. The emotional video ended with a stick salute.
A second video featuring the voice of head coach Tom Renney then ran for just over one minute, showing scenes of the team preparing for a game in the locker room. "Tonight we play with effort. Tonight we play with heart. Tonight we play for New York," said Renney as the video ended.
The second video was followed by the traditional team introduction by the public-address announcer. As his name was announced, each player skated out onto the ice from the zamboni gate to line up at the far blue line. Some of the loudest cheers were for Sean Avery
, rookies Brandon Dubinsky
and Marc Staal
, Gomez, Drury, Ryan Callahan
, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
(by far the loudest), alternate captain Brendan Shanahan, alternate captain Martin Straka and captain Jaromir Jagr.
Following the introductions, Leetch, whose No. 2 will be retired on Jan. 24, came out for the ceremonial puck drop between Jaromir Jagr and Florida's Olli Jokinen. Leetch, of course, managed to draw cheers even louder than any of the current Rangers players.
It was only Leetch's second time back on the MSG ice since his last game with the team in the spring of 2004. It's safe to assume the cheers will be even louder the next time he takes the ice.