by Robert Picarello - NHL.com Feature
Right from his very first game with the New York Rangers, Mike York has had a memorable time skating in the Big Apple. Playing in his third year in the NHL, York continues to pile up the points for the Broadway Blues, aided by a never-ending work ethic. York sweats the details for success.
The speedy forward broke into the NHL during the 1999-2000 season and can recall the moments like it was yesterday. The Rangers were on the road in Edmonton on Oct. 1, 1999 to take on the Oilers. It just so happened to be Wayne Gretzky Night.
So, York was not only going to take his first NHL shift that night, he was also going to witness the Oilers raising Gretzky's No. 99 to the Skyreach Centre rafters.
"I have to admit my first NHL game was pretty nerve-racking," York said. "But it was also very memorable because it was the night the Oilers retired (Wayne) Gretzky's jersey in Edmonton. It was kind of neat being there and seeing him come on the ice to accept the honor."
But once No. 99 left the ice, it was time to drop the puck on the game and York's career. Although he didn't pick up a point in the 1-1 tie against Edmonton that night, it wouldn't take the Michigan native long to get on a League score sheet, as York potted his first NHL goal and point the following night in Vancouver against Canucks' netminder Kevin Weekes. But the tally was bittersweet for the Ranger rookie, as New York lost the game, 2-1, with Weekes standing on his head.
"I had a couple of chances in my first game (in the NHL) the night before, so it was good to finally bury one," York said. "I was fortunate enough to get my first one early in my first season, but unfortunately we lost the game 2-1, which made it bittersweet."
But what was sweet for the first-year player and the Rangers was that York played in all 82 regular-season games, registering 26 goals and 24 assists along the way. His goals total not only was tops among the Rangers that year, it was also tops among NHL rookies. York became the first Ranger rookie since Tony Amonte (1991-92) to lead all NHL rookies in tallies. His 50 points also placed him in third in scoring amongst all NHL rookies and Rangers in the 1999-2000 season.
Not bad for a player that didn't get to try on a Ranger jersey until the seventh round (136th overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Like his first game, that day remains vivid in his mind.
"Draft day was a long day for me and my family," York said. "I wasn't taken until the seventh round, but I was happy once they called my name to put on a Rangers jersey."
According to York, the feelings you have putting on a sweater on Draft Day as compared to suiting up for your first NHL game, don't even compare.
"Pulling on the jersey on Draft Day as opposed to pulling one on for your first game are two totally different feelings," York explained. "Obviously when you get drafted it just means you're property of that team. It doesn't mean you're on the team. When you've finally worked hard enough to make the team, it's a really special feeling."
But it's a feeling that he doesn't take for granted, as he knows how hard it was just to get to the NHL to live out his childhood dream.
"This is definitely something I've always wanted to do," he said. "Growing up as a kid I always dreamed of playing in the NHL and then to finally make it here is very special. But at the same time, you have to work just as hard to stay here."
These days, even though the 5-foot-10, 185-pound winger busts his tail every time he jumps over the boards to take a shift, his play seems effortless, as he's been racking up the points along with his Legion of Zoom linemates, Eric Lindros and Theo Fleury. Through 29 games, York ranked second on the team in points with 29 points off 13 goals and 16 assists, which was also good enough to tie York for ninth in League scoring with Detroit's Sergei Fedorov, Boston's Sergei Samsonov and Minnesota's Andrew Brunette and Marian Gaborik
. His 13 tallies also tied him with Lindros for the Rangers' lead.
"It's been great playing with those guys," York said of Lindros and Fleury. "I've learned a lot from them and it's been an exciting start so far."
But the start is not what York and the Rangers are concerned with this year -- it's the finish they all have on their minds. Having missed the postseason for the last four years, New York would love nothing better than to make the playoffs, where anything is possible.
"This year since we haven't made the playoffs in a few years, getting to the postseason is a big goal for our team," he said.
As for what his personal goals were coming into his third NHL campaign, the unselfish player had this to say: "For me personally, my goals are to do whatever I can to help us get to the playoffs."
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