The last time Adam Graves was in Las Vegas, Nev., for a hockey game, he was on his way to the NHL’s first-ever outdoor game back in 1991, which featured an exhibition contest between the Rangers and Kings at Caesar’s Palace. Flash forward 33 years, and Graves returned to Las Vegas on Jan. 18] as the current Rangers took on the Vegas Golden Knights. Graves, along with Mike Richter, Stephane Matteau, Mike Hartman, Nick Fotiu, Darren Langdon, Tom Laidlaw, Ron Greschner and Brian Mullen, united At T Mobile Arena as part of the second alumni trip of the season presented by Caesars Sportsbook.
“It was pretty surreal, walking past Caesar's Palace on the way to the game,” Graves said. “To think that was 33 years ago, and here I was, heading to an NHL game with a group of our alumni in Vegas, was great.
“It’s a privilege to come out here,” Graves continued. “That’s the gift of the game. It’s the privilege of being a Ranger, the people you get to meet. Not only within the organization, but within the bigger Ranger community. Another big part of that is our alumni family – the players that paved the way for us and those who followed. Some of the younger alumni who are joining us older alumni share the privilege of having played on Garden ice. It is terrific.”
Graves and his fellow alumni made the trip out west to watch the game on Thursday night. On Friday, they then enjoyed a tour of the brand-new Sphere, which is a unique immersive music and entertainment arena created by the Madison Square Garden Company.
No matter the longevity of their respective careers or how many games in total they played for the Rangers, the alumni trip presents an opportunity for the former players to reunite, connect and create new memories as they merge the past with the present.
“It’s the internal respect,” Graves said. “Anyone that has been lucky enough to wear that jersey and play on Garden ice understands the privilege of being a Ranger. It doesn’t change by the number of games you played; you could have played just one game. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger. You have that bond. We share that shared privilege of playing in New York, playing at Madison Square Garden, for a franchise with such a rich history.”
The setting of this alumni trip was unique in that none of the alumni in attendance ever faced Vegas during their respective careers. The Golden Knights only joined the NHL as the 31st team in 2017. For Graves and the alumni, it was also a unique opportunity to experience firsthand the growth of the sport. They cheered on one of the most storied Original Six franchises, taking on one that is in its infancy.
“As a hockey fan, it was cool to see Vegas -- just their game presentation and to see the passion of their fan base,” Graves said. “There was also so much support from Rangers fans in the crowd, which was something I’ve come to expect as a player. It still puts a smile on your face. So to just see the combination of the two franchises was great. The game has grown and it’s growing every day. The game itself has never been better. Because of that, it’s only going to continue growing into more and more cities like Vegas.”