For many at Rangers prospect development camp, the walk up the ramp and into the arena last week was their first taste of Madison Square Garden. They certainly hope many more visits to the World's Most Famous Arena will happen in the coming years.
"I was kind of emotional," said Rangers 2018 first-round pick K'Andre Miller. "Really just knowing one day this could be all I've worked for and all my time and effort has gone into. Knowing that my training isn't done yet and it's just getting started, but it's truly special to be in this organization standing here today."
The visit to The Garden included a tour of the arena as well as a stop in the Rangers' locker room that was accompanied by a speech from Jed Ortmeyer, the Rangers' director of player development.
That stop elicited jaws on the floor and pictures in front of stalls labeled Lundqvist, Shattenkirk and Zibanejad, as well as dreams and what could be in store for these youngsters down the road.
"It's pretty cool to think like that," said defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who has played at MSG before with the University of Minnesota. "Going into the locker room, you want to get your name in that stall as quickly as possible. I've got to do everything I can to make that happen. Going into the locker room and seeing the names there, I definitely want to be one pretty soon."
While development camp is a chance for management to evaluate the talent in the prospect pool, it's also an opportunity for the organization to teach its youngest members, and the tour of MSG is another avenue to do so.
"I think experience is an incredible teacher, and I think you can experience on a smaller scale what it means to be in this building and the history of the building and the privilege of wearing that jersey on Garden ice," said Adam Graves. "If you can speak to that somehow and introduce these kids and give them an opportunity to aspire to be in that uniform and on that ice and showcase the fact that it is a privilege and that there's no other place to play that's quite like Madison Square Garden."
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There were plenty of photos snapped during the 90-minute tour, with many being sent back home to relatives across North America and Europe. Defenseman Libor Hajek, who was one of the first-timers at MSG, sent photos to his girlfriend and mother, and said he had "goosebumps" walking in and seeing how spacious the building was.
The tour bridged the gap between past, present and future. Now, it's up to the players to fill in the rest.
"Knowing all the great players and all the great memories that have gone on in this building is pretty unique," Miller said. "A lot of places don't have this. It's unbelievable. You see pictures everywhere of the past and hopefully more are coming in the future."