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Lucky fans get the 'Blueshirts Off Our Backs'

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers fan Amy Lee of Ozone Park, N.J., gives goalie Henrik Lundqvist a hug before receiving Lundqvist's jersey during the postgame ceremony on April 5 at Madison Square Garden.

Following the final regular-season home game at Madison Square Garden on April 5, 25 lucky Rangers fan received game-worn jerseys from the 25 players on the current Rangers roster. Just moments after the Rangers had clinched a playoff berth by beating the Montreal Canadiens, these 25 fans gathered at ice level near the Zamboni entrance awaiting the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive their jersey and have it signed.

The 25 fans had been randomly selected from the sellout crowd. All selections were based on seat location, giving each fan at the game an equal chance of being picked.

The annual "Blueshirts Off Our Back" ceremony was televised to the fans watching at home on MSG. Each participant was allowed to have one guest with them who could watch from the visitor's bench as their friend or family member received a jersey from the Rangers.

When the buzzer sounded at the end of the 3-1 victory, a blue carpet was rolled out diagonally to the blue line and another carpet stretched across the ice where the fans waited to meet their idols. Jersey recipients' names were announced over the public-address system as each of the 25 fans walked to their spots on the ice.

Once all the names were read, Rangers players slowly skated to their selected jersey recipient. Henrik Lundqvist met his lucky winner and hugged her before removing the jersey he had worn against the Canadiens and signing it for her to treasure.

"I was happy and excited," said Amy Lee of Ozone Park, N.Y., of her moment on the ice with Lundqvist. "I got really nervous."

Rangers players Matt Cullen, Brendan Shanahan, Brad Isbister, Stephen Valiquette, and Jed Ortmeyer and many of the other players, spent extra time talking with the fans on the ice after handing them their jerseys.

Ryan Hollweg even grabbed a puck and skated down the ice and tossed the souvenir to one lucky fan that did not have the opportunity to receive one of the game-worn jerseys. He then skated by the bench and slapped the hands of the friends and family members of the jersey recipients.

Both Sean Avery and captain Jaromir Jagr signed some extra jerseys for the kids on the ice. On his way to the locker room after the ceremony, Jagr walked down the tunnel and slapped the hands of the fans on both sides of the walkway.

Ten-year-old Matt Fitzgerald of Westfield, N.J., received Jagr's game-worn jersey.

"Holy cow," Fitzgerald said after he got off the ice after getting the jersey. "He was a really nice guy."

Taylor Striar from Long Island, whose family has held Rangers season tickets for 40 years, received Fedor Tyutin's jersey. Jagr also signed Taylor's Rangers cap and her newly acquired Tyutin jersey. Both players hugged Striar, giving the girl a memory that will surely last a lifetime.

Dan Schneider and Kevin Joyce, Season Subscribers from Section 305, also had the opportunity to receive jerseys. Schneider walked away with Brendan Shanahan's while Joyce took home Kevin Weekes'.

Shanahan asked Schneider if he wanted his autograph to be personalized or just a signature. Without hesitation he told the Rangers star to personalize it. The jersey now reads: "To Dan, Best Wishes, Brendan Shanahan."

"I'll probably frame it," said Schneider. "Right next to the Richter Night frame in my living room."

Joyce said it was a tremendous moment when a Rangers representative came to his seat and told him he had been chosen to receive a "gift" after the game. Earlier in the game, Schneider had received a similar visit.

"Everyone's watching me and I just glow," Joyce said when he realized he would be receiving a jersey as well.

The two friends also took photos in front of the Bud Light Zamboni as they were waiting for their time to go onto the ice to meet the Rangers.

The Rangers organization will send photographs from the on-ice event and a videotape to each jersey recipient to thank them for their support of the team.
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