Rangers a hit with Letterman's audience
Blueshirts deliver "Top Ten" list, take part in Madonna's grand entrance
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By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
There's something special about playing for the Broadway Blueshirts, particularly when it brings you to a real Broadway stage.
Ten members of the New York Rangers got the opportunity to see another side of show business on Wednesday, as they appeared together on "Late Show with David Letterman" in front of a live studio audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater.
|Prior to rehearsal, Rangers players gathered on the street outside the Ed Sullivan Theater to receive initial instructions about their roles in Wednesday night's airing of "Late Show with David Letterman".
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As it turned out, the players weren't just there to deliver a "Top Ten”. They also made a surprise appearance with the show's featured guest, Madonna, carrying the pop legend through the audience on a platform made of hockey sticks -- the sort of entrance reserved for royalty in ancient times.
Arriving at the studio for rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon, the Blueshirts knew that Madonna and Harry Connick Jr. would also be appearing on the show, but the remarkable Madonna entrance came as a complete surprise to them. Showing their comic spirit, they were happy to engage in the stunt, which drew thunderous applause and laughter from the studio audience.
Even without the Madonna tie-in, Wednesday's show would have been a thrill for all of the players -- nine of whom were making their very first appearance on a nationally-televised late-night comedy show.
Following the show's first commercial break, Letterman introduced the "Top Ten" category, noting that the 2009-10 NHL season was about to begin.
"Ladies and gentlemen, get ready," said Letterman. "Here to present tonight's Top Ten list are ten members of your New York Rangers.
Just two nights before their season-opener at Pittsburgh, the 10 Blueshirts strode out onto Letterman's stage as Paul Shaffer's band played the "William Tell Overture", more popularly known as the "Lone Ranger" theme song.
The Rangers appeared on stage in the order they would deliver their lines: Donald Brashear, Dan Girardi, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, captain Chris Drury, Marc Staal, Christopher Higgins, Ryan Callahan, Henrik Lundqvist and Sean Avery.
"There you are. That's all you want right there, ladies and gentleman," said Letterman as the camera panned over the lineup of Rangers players. "One of the most beautiful sports uniforms in all of sports -- the Rangers jerseys. It is nice, isn't it? One of the Original Six. Beautiful!"
The "Top Ten Things Never Before Spoken by a Hockey Player" countdown went as follows, with each player stepping out of the row to deliver his line after Letterman introduced them.
No. 10 -- spoken by Brashear:
"Instead of fighting, why don't we work things out over brunch."
No. 9 -- spoken by Girardi:
"Between you and me, I have no idea what the hell icing is."
No. 8 -- spoken by Gaborik:
"What this team needs is a skating kitty."
No. 7 -- spoken by Dubinsky:
"I really wish these fans would watch their language."
No. 6 -- spoken by Drury:
"High scorer gets to pick which Barbra Streisand CD we listen to on the bus."
No. 5 -- spoken by Staal:
"Forget all the goals and the awards, Gordie Howe has one nice looking butt."
No. 4 -- spoken by Higgins:
"For good luck, I lick the puck."
No. 3 -- spoken by Callahan:
"My real dream is to work at an insurance company."
No. 2 -- spoken by Lundqvist:
"Who can concentrate on hockey when Jennifer Aniston still hasn't found love."
No. 1 -- spoken by Avery:
"I wish Letterman was on at 10."
As each Rangers player delivered his line, Letterman made a joke of his own, or simply laughed along with his audience. After Avery's closing line, Letterman rose from his desk to shake hands with the players and thank them for being on the show. Eight Rangers would later emerge to transport Madonna into the studio.
The Letterman appearance capped off a day that began with practice at the MSG Training Center. After they finished up at the rink, the Rangers went into the city and gathered outside the Ed Sullivan Theater to take part in the show's daily rehearsal.
Eight of the 10 were immediately presented with the lines prepared for them by the writers, but Callahan and Higgins were given a little extra suspense, since their lines were still being worked on and would not be delivered until shortly before showtime.
Once they were called in for rehearsal, the players graced Letterman's famous stage for the first time. They faced the camera and delivered their lines for the show's director and tech crew before rehearsing the Madonna entrance with everyone on hand except Madonna herself.
Even after they left the stage -- and posed for the countless paparazzi awaiting Madonna's appearance -- the players continued to rehearse their lines in preparation for their big moment. Some were more nervous than others, but all were genuinely thrilled to be taking part in the program.
"When you play for the Rangers, you never know what might happen," said Drury when asked if he ever dreamed he might one day appear on a stage with Letterman.
Girardi, who had a good laugh over his line even before it was assigned to him, said going in front of a live studio audience was "pretty nerve-racking", particularly since he has become a regular Letterman viewer over the past few years.
"This is my first (late-night TV) experience, and I'm pretty excited about it," said Girardi after rehearsal. "I'm glad I got my line beforehand, and I'm pretty comfortable with it."
Staal said appearing on the show caused him to feel more butterflies than he felt before games, simply because it was a completely new experience. He also realized he wasn't the only Thunder Bay, Ontario, native on hand, since Letterman's sidekick Shaffer also hails from Staal's hometown.
"I don't know exactly what years he lived there, but there's definitely a lot of respect for Paul Shaffer in Thunder Bay," said Staal. "There's actually a street named after him."
Both Higgins and Brashear, who joined the Rangers in the off-season, said they realized coming to New York would mean opportunities to do things that don't happen in most other NHL cities.
"We're in New York, so you got to be prepared for anything," said Higgins, who grew up on Long Island. "You know when you come to play for the Rangers you're going to get a lot of exposure. ... I'm not really nervous about doing this. I'm excited."
"I'm not too nervous. It's one line, so if I mess it up I'll hear it from the boys, but I'm not too nervous," he said just before showtime. "... You don't think when you're playing hockey growing up, you'll ever do late-night TV, but given the atmosphere here in New York, one of the perks of playing for the Rangers is being able to do nice things like this.”