There's something different about New York.
I've been fortunate over the years, especially in the last five as head coach at Boston University, to be approached about coaching positions in the National Hockey League. And while there were some that certainly appealed to me, it wasn't the New York Rangers.
Until it was.
It would take a special opportunity for me to leave the Terriers, the team I played college hockey for and spent another decade of my life coaching, first as an assistant and then as the head coach. After talking with Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury, two men I've known for decades, it started to become clear this was the right choice for me at this stage in my life and my career.
Our relationship awarded us the chance to speak freely and openly about the position, where they saw the franchise going and where I did. As we spoke, they'd describe their plan and what they wanted in a head coach, and instinctively, I would say to myself, that's me. That's how I manage and that's my vision for this franchise.
At 52, I know these opportunities don't come around very often. After further discussions with Jeff, Chris and many others, I knew this was it. I knew I wanted to become a New York Ranger.
My hometown of Cranston shaped me from an early age. The Rhode Island town, about 50 miles south west of Boston, is as blue collar as they come. My father was a police officer and my mother drove a school bus. I absolutely would not be here today if it wasn't for their love and support.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area where there were three baseball fields, four basketball courts, a pool and a pond literally 50 yards away from my back door. Sports was everything for me, and hockey was the one I loved most.
My life took a turn I was not expecting when I was diagnosed with Christmas Disease, a type of hemophilia, that ended my career prematurely during my junior year in college. After going through such a difficult time in my life, I turned to coaching and that allowed me to keep the passion I have for hockey alive, and quite frankly changed my life. I was drawn to the role because I wanted to have the same type of impact on players as my coaches had on me.
On the flight in yesterday, there were millions of thoughts going through my head before one came and stuck: I'm the Head Coach of the New York Rangers.
You take time to look back on how you got to this point. I've been fortunate to have coached at many different levels in the sport, including in college, the pros and internationally. I've been able to draw from all of those experiences, and that's prepared me for this newest opportunity in New York.
This franchise means a lot not only to this city, but the sport itself. The passion this fan base has for its team stretches back generations. I still remember watching the team win the Stanley Cup in 1994, and how much it meant to the city and the fans and to hockey in general. To now have the opportunity to come here to work towards building the next Stanley Cup contender was something I could not pass up.
I describe my coaching style as fair and demanding. We want to be in the opposition's faces and make them uncomfortable every shift. We want them to know when they see the Rangers on the schedule, it's going to be a long night.
We're going to be a team that's built around defense, and not only in our own zone. We're going to play with the puck, and the minute we don't have it, we're going to work to get it back. Whether in our zone, their zone or the neutral zone, our job is to make things as difficult as they can be for the 20 guys in the other uniform.
To Rangers fans, I want you to know that I'm going to do the best job that I can to put the best team on the ice. We're going to give you an honest effort night after night. We're going to be committed to making every individual better on a daily basis, which in turn will lead to making our team better.
I can't describe how humbled and honored I am to be the coach of the New York Rangers.