|Adam Graves, who'll be the next Rangers player to have his number retired, spoke during Thursday night's viewing party. |
While the atmosphere was electric in the arena as Brian Leetch/s number 2 jersey was lifted to the rafters, the energy was equally as palpable just a few floors below at the Brian Leetch Viewing Party at the WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
Over 3,000 fans gathered together to watch the spectacular ceremony in exquisite fashion on an enormous HDTV screen.
Chanting in unison with the Garden crowd on screen and giving each Ranger a standing ovation, it was a raucous scene. The highlight no doubt was when the crowd reached near deafening levels when Leetch made a surprise announcement that Adam Graves' number nine would be retired the following year
This wasn't just a chance to view the action, however, as those in attendance were part of the live broadcast of MSG's Hockey Night Live program and were treated to live appearances by Leetch, Graves, Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Jeff Beukeboom and other surprise guests.
The crowd was boisterous as one by one, each player made their way down to the arena. By the time Messier and Leetch, the crowd was at fever pitch, causing Leetch to simply mouth, "This is crazy!"
The former Blueshirts who took part in the on-ice ceremony in the arena also agreed that the Viewing Party was a special and integral part of the Brian Leetch celebration.
"I think this is awesome," said Mike Richter. "MSG is just tops when it comes to doing these incredible events, that's why people want to play and watch games here. They take care of their own and this viewing party was just awesome. These people have access to a really cool thing. I want to be in that audience, watching the interviews, seeing the guys and hearing different flavors of what Brian meant as a hockey player. It's just phenomenal, and I think it's great to have more access to more people to share in the night."
Those in attendance agreed that if they couldn't be in the arena, this was the next best option.
29-year-old Bryan, decked out in a Leetch jersey, said he wouldn't miss this for the world.
"Brian Leetch has been my favorite Ranger since as long as I can remember. Coming to the ceremony to see all the guys from the cup team, I mean my favorite moment was him winning the Conn Smyth trophy, so there was no way I was going to miss this."
14-year-old Nick came to the viewing party with his father because they didn't want to miss being a part of something special. "I came to see Leetch, Messier and Richter. I didn't want to miss out on that."
Along with the other fans, Nick watched the Rangers defeat the Thrashers on the giant screen, rooting on his favorite player, Marc Staal
, who he says reminds him of Leetch.
"My favorite player is Staal because he is a good defenseman who reminds me of Brian Leetch. The scoring for him will come."
Before the event took off, a very lucky fan named Frank won two upgrade tickets into the arena. While he is sure to have had the time of his life, he also missed out on an event that Al Trautwig called "unbelievably awesome."