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New Blueshirts a Hit with Fans at Forum

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

By Jim Cerny,

The questions were sometimes fun and silly. At other times they were serious, pointed, and direct. But all of the questions certainly reflected the passion of those asking them -- the die-hard Blueshirt Faithful who gathered Wednesday night at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden for the Rangers Season Subscriber “Meet the Blueshirts” Fan Forum.

Rangers captain Chris Drury and four of his new teammates -- wingers Marian Gaborik, Christopher Higgins, Donald Brashear, and Ales Kotalik -- sat up on a stage and fielded more than an hour’s worth of questions from the fans, ranging from “Who will quarterback the power play?” to “Are you single?”.

Get Season TicketsAt one point, right on cue, the moderator -- Rangers radio analyst and former captain Dave Maloney -- looked at the newcomers and wryly said, “Welcome to New York, boys!”

Since he has spent the past two years in New York and was the veteran Ranger of the group, Drury fielded most of the more serious, hockey-related questions. He honestly and directly answered questions about personal and collective successes and disappointments, as well hopes for the upcoming 2009-10 campaign.

“I am really excited to get started and to have a training camp and full season under (head coach John Tortorella),” stated Drury. “We’re going to be attacking and aggressive. That’s why (Rangers President and General Manager) Glen (Sather) built the team the way he did this summer.”

There was also a touching moment involving Drury, when a special-needs youngster came to the microphone and asked the Blueshirts captain what advice he had for a 6-year old boy who wanted to play hockey.

Clearly moved, Drury -- himself a father of two -- softly said, “Work hard and enjoy it. Most importantly, never stop smiling when you are out there.”

In a lighter moment, Drury -- who was recently inducted into the Little League Baseball Hall of Excellence -- was asked if he still played baseball. The veteran drew laughs when he explained, “Mainly I play whiffle ball these days, though Dan Girardi and I will go out in the parking lot and play catch sometimes. Of course, I can’t do anything for another 10 days afterwards!”

Brashear also brought laughter to the proceedings when he self-deprecatingly raised his arm when a fan asked the panel who they thought would replace the traded Scott Gomez as the forward most likely to lead rushes up ice this season.

Not surprisingly, Brashear fielded several questions about fighting and his role as an enforcer. But when he was asked a question about whether fighting could be limited or eliminated in the NHL at some point in the future, Higgins interjected and said, “Listen I’ve played against Donald Brashear. He’s got skills. He can play.”

Rangers captain Chris Drury and new Blueshirt Marian Gaborik were among the five players who came face-to-face with their fans at the Subscriber Forum.
Higgins, who was born and raised on Long Island and whose brother is a police officer in Midtown North, stated several times how excited he is to be back home and playing in front of his family and friends. He also stated that he was not unhappy to be away from the constant on-and-off-ice scrutiny that goes with playing for the Montreal Canadiens.

“I’m glad to be out of there,” said Higgins, who then drew a hearty laugh from Gaborik with a rapid fire, “I’ll say it! I’ll say it! I’m glad to be out of there!”

Clearly enjoying the questions and answers, Gaborik often was seen to be laughing during the event. And he brought a big roar from the crowd and his teammates when he rolled his eyes and somewhat sarcastically said that New York “is a lot different than Minnesota, yes.”

Despite having just arrived in New York following a long plane flight, Kotalik was sharp and engaging with his answers, as well. In fact he provided a bit of news when he explained that Tortorella had mentioned to him in a phone conversation that Kotalik might get an opportunity to play the point on the power play this season.

Kotalik, his new teammates, and the season subscribers in attendance all had a good laugh when a fan grabbed the microphone and, in a booming voice, stated, “You’ve got a wicked slap shot, Ales. You better use it!”

At the conclusion of the Rangers Season Subscriber Fan Forum, a trivia contest was held and the five winners received jerseys from the Rangers players on hand, a fitting end to a night of good will.
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