The Rangers on Friday traded in their sticks and skates for training with the New York Police Department as part of team building exercises leading up to the start of the 2016-17 season Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Blueshirts were split into three groups of eight players for competitions at the shooting range, with the bomb squad and in simulation shoot outs against each other, all with the goal of bringing new and familiar faces together for another marathon NHL season.
"It was real, real good for our group to see the training, the preparation, the whole aspect of everything they do to be ready for any event," head coach Alain Vigneault said of the chance his players got to see how the NYPD trains. "I'm sure my whole crew appreciated this today."
The Rangers arrived at the NYPD facility in the Bronx and hit the shooting range, where they competed in accuracy shooting contests, followed by donning bomb resistant gear for a separate event that required four members of each team to work together to solve a puzzle. The final event saw players facing off one-on-one with pistols that shot paintball-like bullets as each player used a car for cover.
"It's a lot of fun to see how [the NYPD] trains and the stuff they go through here," said Henrik Lundqvist, who was part of the red team that won the day's events. "I run into cops all around the game at different events in the city and they're always very helpful. They've been great. When you're playing for the Rangers, big events, you need people to organize things and make sure it's a safe place and they've been doing a great job with things over the years.
"I just enjoyed the afternoon," Lundqvist added. "I think it was great for everyone to see their world, but also to get to know the new guys a little bit more."
Inspector Raymond Caroli, Commanding Officer of the facility in the Bronx, said the day was a great way to show members from the community what police officers do to prepare themselves for real situations they may face in the five burroughs.
"It was great. It's good to give outside people an idea of what type of training we do here, how important it is, the criticalness of it," he said. "Give them an idea of how certain aspects of it can be - there's an overall or a backflow into professional sports. This idea of 'What's Important Now,' this concept, the WIN concept. Focus and technique, keep you in the moment. I think there's an application to that to professional sports. It's good to have people come here and get an appreciation of what we do."
While the event put smiles on faces, it was about team building heading into another season. This season, especially, with so many new faces. In fact, of the 24 players who took part in the event, eight were not Rangers last season.
"It's all about getting to know the guys on the team," Lundqvist said. "This is part of the team building, and it's such a big part of playing hockey. Understanding how it is to be a team, a good team, a good group. Exercises like this is really helping us get there."
With that said, it was still an eye-opening event for the players, to see how New York's Finest train for the toughest of situations the city throws at it.
"The NYPD has done so many great things for us in the city, helping out at games," Lundqvist added, "so it's fun to be here and see how they work and get better as police officers and shooters."