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Rangers, fans say thanks to No. 9 tonight

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Adam Graves, always the first to credit others for his own success, said Monday that he views tonight's ceremony as a tribute to his father as much as himself.

Exclusive: Mike Richter on Graves' Legacy Watch
Exclusive: Brian Leetch on Honoring Graves Watch

Graves Night Home
Game Preview: Big Points on Table Tonight

By Jim Cerny,

Tonight at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, 18,200 fans will rise to their collective feet and cheer in long sustained bursts to salute Adam Graves as the organization retires his No. 9 sweater. The roar from the crowd likely will be so loud that it will seem as if many more people are actually in attendance.

And that will be appropriate, because the 18,200 in The Garden this evening really will also be representing the untold thousands of people who have had their lives touched by Graves over the years. That list surely includes all Rangers fans, as well as members of his hockey family from teammates to coaches to media members to equipment men and trainers.

Perhaps more important, that list also includes all of the children and families that have benefited from Graves’ personal touch through charities such as the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

This evening, Adam Graves is being honored as much for how he lives his life away from the hockey rink as he is for his great on-ice exploits and leadership.

In the days leading up to Graves Night, we took a long look back at No. 9's career. Here are the complete Nine Days of Graves:

DAY 9: Signing Graves Was Brilliant Move

DAY 8: Graves Saves the Day in Montreal

DAY 7: Honored with Major NHL Awards

DAY 6: Slaying the Devils in '97 Playoffs

DAY 5: Graves Delivered in Cup Finals

DAY 4: Style of Play Took a Toll on No. 9

DAY 3: Breaking Hadfield's Mark in Style

DAY 2: A Catalyst in 1994 Drive to Cup

DAY 1: Graves 'Humbled' by Great Honor

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“I try and wake up every day and treat it as an opportunity to put a smile on a face,” says Graves. “It’s all about the people you meet along the way, whether it’s the camaraderie with teammates or spending time with sick children. I can say that I’ve learned as much from kids and young adults about courage and perseverance as I have from anyone.”

“Adam helped us all to be more respectful of being an athlete and the responsibility that came with that,” states former Rangers goaltender Mike Richter. “He seemed to write the book on it.”

Graves’ No. 9 will fit seamlessly in the rafters at The Garden alongside those of his good friends Richter (35), Brian Leetch (2), and Mark Messier (11), and two great Rangers who preceded him on Broadway -- Ed Giacomin (1) and Rod Gilbert (7). Like all of those players, Graves is as beloved a Ranger as there ever has been.

“It was such a privilege to wear the Rangers jersey and to play with those guys in front of the greatest fans in the world,” explained Graves. “I feel very, very humbled by this honor.”

Graves is likely the most self-effacing star athlete of his time, or perhaps of any time. And that makes this evening’s honor the more intriguing.

Never one to comfortably discuss his personal accomplishments, Graves was the ultimate team player. He was a powerful leader, and a positive example to all of his teammates.

“Adam was a captain’s dream come true because he was the ultimate lieutenant,” said Messier, known forever to Rangers fans as The Captain. “To be singled out for this honor in such a team sport is a humbling experience. But it is one that Adam deserves, for sure.”

Graves played 10 seasons with the Rangers, signing with the club as a Group I free agent in September of 1991 and concluding his run in New York in April of 2001. He appeared in 772 games with the Blueshirts and amassed 280 goals, 227 assists, and 507 points to go along with 810 penalty minutes.

For 12 years Graves held the Rangers’ record for most goals scored in a single season with 52 until Jaromir Jagr scored 54 in 2005-06. However, Graves still holds seven Rangers regular season and playoff team records, and he won a pair of major NHL awards during his tenure on Broadway -- the 1994 King Clancy Trophy and the 2001 Bill Masterton Trophy.

And, of course, he played a major role in helping the Rangers end their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994.

“Mark (Messier) was the leader of that Cup team, and (Mike) Richter was the most important player being the goalie,” said Leetch, who conveniently does not mention his own contributions. “But Adam was the foundation. He was the guy you knew you could rely on each and every day.”

Linked forever by 1994, Messier, Leetch, Richter, and Graves will now also be together in the rafters at Madison Square Garden, fittingly so considering not only their contributions to the organization, but their deep friendship, as well.

For Graves, that makes this honor even more special. As does the fact that he, in turn, believes that he has honored his beloved late-father in receiving this tribute.

“This night, in many ways, is a tribute to my dad,” explains Graves. “From now on I can walk into The Garden with my kids and have them look up and see my dad’s name up there. That’s the part that is so special to me.”
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