Rangers, Family Dynamics enjoy big night off ice
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
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With five days off between games, Rangers players have additional time away from the ice this week to continue their season-long efforts to help local charitable organizations and reach out to the community.
|Adam Graves organizes kids in a game of floor hockey at the Feb. 12 Family Dynamics fundraiser. Graves has played a big role in making the event an annual success and is a devoted supporter of Family Dynamics.|
Family Dynamics, a partner charity of both the Rangers and the Garden of Dreams Foundation, invited a small group of randomly-selected kids from its program to attend this special event and interact with the Rangers. The kids were treated to numerous games, including air hockey, bubble-boy hockey and foozball, as well as some carnival-style events, such as a bean-bag toss. The highlight for many was a chance to play floor hockey with some of the Rangers players, and every child attending also had a chance to receive each player's autograph and speak to the player one-on-one.
Perhaps no person at Tuesday's event was more excited to be there than Rangers great Adam Graves, who will have his No. 9 retired next season. Graves has been a driving force in growing the annual Family Dynamics event, which he helped create in the early 1990s.
The close association between Graves and Family Dynamics was a natural fit. Family Dynamics is a Brooklyn-based non-profit charity that works with kids in crisis, particularly those suffering from abuse, to give them more positive life experiences. The organization strives to address issues within each participating child's entire family, and in the course of the past year alone, roughly 6,000 kids came through the program, according to Family Dynamics Director Oma Holloway.
Graves, whose parents raised him alongside the foster children they had welcomed into their home, gets an obvious thrill anytime he can reach out to kids, particularly those coping with difficult day-to-day circumstances. He said he respects Family Dynamics' commitment to "strengthening the family bond" as well as its emphasis on education and after-school programs.
The Rangers' and Graves' ties to Family Dynamics go back to Graves' first season in New York. In the fall of 1991, the entire Rangers team was invited to a Family Dynamics event. Barry Watkins, currently MSG Senior Vice-President, Communications, was the team's Director of Communications at the time, and Graves said he remembers talking to him about doing additional work for the charity.
In helping to later connect the two parties after that first event, Watkins managed to create a bond that has lasted ever since, while setting the stage for what would become the annual Family Dynamics fundraiser at MSG.
Initially held at Family Dynamics headquarters, the event expanded so rapidly that it moved to MSG in 1994, just before the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
Graves said he remembers that first Family Dynamics event at The Garden well because one of the things that marked the 1994 championship team was its players' support for each other's charitable work. Whenever Family Dynamics events were held, including the annual Christmas program, Graves said he was thrilled to be able to bring his teammates.
"There was Brian (Leetch) with Ronald McDonald House; Mark (Messier) with Tomorrows Children's Fund, Beuk (Jeff Beukeboom) with Ice Hockey in Harlem and many others," Graves said. "We all wanted to help."
Current Rangers agreed that the ability to entertain kids is one of the great things about being a professional athlete.
"I just like putting a smile on a kid's face and making their night enjoyable," said Betts, who has attended numerous community events during his three seasons with the Rangers.
Staal, a 21-year-old rookie not so far removed from his own childhood, said he enjoyed being around the children that Graves' personal commitment to Family Dynamics had made a big impression on him.
"He's such a professional," Staal said of Graves. "I think it's great what he has done for the community. You learn from that."
The Family Dynamics event was held each year during Graves' seasons as a Rangers player, and he rejoined it after retiring and returning to the Rangers organization in 2005. Holloway said Graves has not only been an inspiration to kids in the program, but has also turned many of them into hockey fans by giving them a personal connection to a sport they might never otherwise have known.
"He (Graves) is a very generous and dedicated person," said Holloway. "I hope to see more athletes starting to do what he did. He might have retired from his hockey career, but he hasn't retired in terms of what he's done with us."
Asked about next season's ceremony for Graves, the Family Dynamics director looked around the room full of kids in motion and smiled.
"I hope when they retire his number next year, people don't just focus on hockey," Holloway said. "I hope people focus on his life history and how he made a commitment to do all of this for kids."