With preseason finished and opening night still several days away, the Rangers spent this weekend focusing on team building in New York City, which concluded Saturday with a trip to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to learn about and honor those who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
After visiting the South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, where names of the victims are etched along the pool's outer walls, Police Chief Thomas Purtell spoke to the team about his experience that morning 15 years ago, including the rescue efforts and how sports helped to heal a city in the wake of its darkest day. Police Officer Barry Driscoll, who lost his father, Police Officer Stephen Driscoll, in the attacks, spoke to the group after about how 9/11 impacted him and his family.
The Rangers presented Purtell with a customized jersey, and Driscoll with a stick signed by the entire team.
The moving speeches were followed by a tour of the museum that is filled with artifacts and memorials of those who died in the attacks, including a destroyed fire truck, steel beams and the still in tact foundation of the buildings.
"It was my first time seeing the museum and being able to have one of the tour guides there to explain everything, it was not only helpful but insightful too," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "Certainly there were areas where you felt the mourning and devastation, but at the same time, [the guide] shared stories that were inspiring and about the bravery of people that were involved in the situation, so that part was very inspiring."
Forward Kevin Hayes, who had previously visited the site and museum, said he gained an appreciation for the bravery police officers, fire fighters and emergency workers displayed that day.
"It's cool to hear those stories," Hayes said. "Obviously September 11th was a crazy, hectic day. It just shows how important the fire department and the police department we have here is, and how important and brave those guys are. It's a really bad day and we had a lot of casualties, but it just showed how the city came together to help each other out."
Goaltender Antti Raanta called the visit a great way to learn about an event of this magnitude, especially with teammates, many of whom had never visited the site.
"This kind of thing, what we did today, it was special for everybody," Raanta said. "For lots of guys, it was their first time here. It was nice to do that with the group. All the people who were working and helping us there and explaining all the stuff, it was unreal."
Raanta will honor both the FDNY and NYPD this season with murals on his goaltender masks. He said he was looking for something that defined New York, and there's no better way than honoring the city's bravest and finest.
"Hopefully everybody likes the mask and it's an honor to wear those," Raanta said. "Even though I was a pretty young guy when 9/11 happened, you always remember those things and all the people that lost lives there. It's an honor to wear the mask and give them a little bit of credit also for what they have lost."
McDonagh, who along with Dan Girardi presented flowers at the Memorial Wall positions for Ace Baily and Mark Bavis, said he hoped the bravery and sacrifice left an impression on his teammates as they head into another season.
"You hear stories of their teamwork on the day of. We got to hear about the squads working together to try and save people," McDonagh said. "Just kind of the importance that we have too in sports. [The guide] talked about how [sports] was very uplifting throughout the city and put the city back on track and finding inspiration for families and people in the city. We're role models there for a lot of people. I think that'll hit home with some guys, hopefully, and understand that every day is a privilege and it's an honor to wear that jersey and you have to represent yourself in the best way."