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Rangers celebrate local youth players

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

At the game on Tuesday, February 19th the Rangers continued their annual youth hockey celebration with Youth Hockey night. With over 300 youth hockey players and their parents in attendance the Rangers kicked off the 6th Annual Youth Hockey Night with a pre-game forum. The forum hosted by MSG Network’s John Giannone featured Rangers alumni Dan Blackburn, Nick Fotiu, Adam Graves, Ron Greschner, and Brian Mullen.

Nick Fotiu and Brian Mullen present the Sixth Annual Emile Francis Award.

The alumni discussed a wide variety of hockey-specific topics relative to their youth and recommendations for their audience, the youth hockey players. After the forum, youth hockey players had the opportunity to win various prizes such as Zamboni Rides, autographed memorabilia, and other unique experiences. Before the puck dropped for the game against the Canadiens, two children from Ice Hockey in Harlem joined the Rangers on the blue line as honorary Rangers starters for the National Anthem.

Youth Hockey Night could not be titled as such without the involvement of Hall of Fame coach and general manager Emile Francis. Francis’ dedication and service to the local youth hockey community is honored each year through the Emile Francis Award. This year, the sixth recipient of the award was Joseph Ruggiero, a figure in the youth hockey community since 1984. Ruggiero is currently a coach in the USA Special Hockey program but he has hosted clinics at Rye Playland Ice Casino and previously coached their house-league bantam team, assisted at Pelham Memorial High School, and was Eastchester High School’s head coach for ten years.

In addition to coaching the New York Raptors, a team of developmentally disabled athletes, he volunteers to coach a house league in Yonkers and has given his time to work with Ice Hockey in Harlem and Pat LaFontaine’s Champions in Courage.

Ruggiero was nominated by his wife Marcia and was presented the award on the ice at February 19th‘s Youth Hockey Night by Nick Fotiu and Brian Mullen.

For more information on the Rangers involvement in youth hockey, please visit the youth hockey section of the Rangers website,

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