For some fans the Rangers Holiday Toy Drive to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program is tradition, for others they come to their first Toy Drive and it becomes a tradition. The Theater Lobby at Madison Square Garden was filled with toys and smiles on December 6 as the Rangers held the 19th annual Toy Drive.
An event that has been synonymous with Adam Graves and his charitable efforts, this year served as a ”throw back” toy drive with the lineup of Rangers alumni on hand. Rangers alumni and Adam Graves’ teammates Jeff Beukeboom, Brian Leetch, and Mike Richter, all of whom are no strangers to the Toys for Tots drive from their playing days, joined Ron Greschner in signing autographs for fans in exchange for toys.
Hundreds of fans came out giving over 700 toys, many exceeding the required one toy donation for admittance. As they waited in line for their autographs, fans were kept entertained by a balloon artist, the Rangers Blue Crew, face painters, caricaturist and Old Saint Nick himself, Santa Claus.
“This is a phenomenal program, I’ve always said from the time I started here as a young Ranger, MSG has done a lot to allow us to get into the community with the fans,” Richter said. “To actually sit down here and get to chat with the fans with so many people, there’s a great connection to the community.”
The Rangers greats at the autograph tables were joined by Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert and the MSG Network’s Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti at the event. They mingled with the fans, took photos, signed autographs and even took part in stickhandling and shooting drills, as well as some air hockey with some of the youngsters in attendance.
Graves embraced New York when he arrived in the city more than 20 years ago and was a driving force behind the first annual Rangers Holiday Toy Drive in 1994. Coming off a Stanley Cup championship, Graves and his teammates helped to organize and promote an event that became a local hockey tradition. Over the past 19 holiday seasons, Rangers fans have donated tens of thousands of toys to Toys for Tots, and dozens of players have been there to thank them with an autograph. The support of the fans has continued to grow each year and the Rangers look forward to continue the tradition in the future.
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