On Tuesday, February 8, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella and New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni invited 20 children from Harlem Dowling, a Garden of Dreams partner organization, to participate in the first ever Coaches Challenge held at the MSG Training Center. During the challenge, the coaches served as captains of their respective teams as they competed in various activities, including a skills obstacle course and an ultimate tug of war face-off.
First things first, the children geared up for the challenge by visiting face painter, Tudie. Each child's face design represented their team colors, logos and spirit. Joined by the Rangers and Knicks interactive squad, the competitive Rangers and Knicks chants had already began!
|Rangers head coach John Tortorella high-fives a team members at the awards presentation portion of the first Coaches Challenge at the Training Center. |
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Next it was time for the children to meet their team captains, Coach Tortorella and Coach D'Antoni, in their team locker rooms. Entering the locker rooms, the children gasped as they saw their names above the lockers and a personalized jersey hanging inside. One child exclaimed, "I feel like a celebrity!"
Jerseys on and pep talks instilled, it was off to the Knicks practice court to let the games begin. Each team made a grand entrance - The DJ cued the music and MSG announcer Al Trautwig introduced each team as they burst through their very own breakaway banners! On the other side of the banners, the teams found additional teammates to help out in the competition. For Team Tortorella, they received an extra push from MSG announcer Bill Pidto and Mrs. Tortorella, while Team D'Antoni gained extra drive from MSG announcer Mike Breen and Mrs. D'Antoni.
Dress and Dribble, the famous in-arena game, kicked off the challenge. The children relayed full-court to put on full sized hockey and basketball uniforms and race back to their teammates. After a close race, Team Tortorella came out on top. Onto the next activity, the teams competed in a skills obstacle course where each child weaved in and out of cones, shot layups, conquered an agility ladder, scored hockey goals and popped balloons. Clear winners, Team D'Antoni took the points for the obstacle course.
With a split decision after two events, it would be the ultimate tug of war that would decide the winner. In a best of three series, round one went to Team Tortorella while round two went to Team D'Antoni. The pressure mounted and the cheers grew louder as the two teams picked up the rope for the final face-off. As the rope teetered from side to side, the children and coaches gave all their energy and strength to take the win. After the longest set of the series, Team Tortorella pulled Team D'Antoni across the midpoint! Team Tortorella's tug of war win not only took the cake for the series, but afforded them the reward of hoisting the Coaches Challenge trophy!
To cap off the amazing day of competition, Coach Tortorella and Coach D'Antoni presented each child with a medal, photo plaque and the opposing team's jersey.
For more information on the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the Rangers, Knicks, Liberty, MSG Entertainment, MSG Media and Fuse to "make dreams come true for children facing obstacles,” please log onto gardenofdreamsfoundation.org.