After their 4-3 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, the NHL’s New York Rangers made a pit stop before returning to Madison Square Garden –– Boss Ice Arena.
Yes, you read that correctly. On Monday, the Rangers arrived in Kingston for a two-day stay that included team practices, skeet shooting and golf at the nearby Preserve Sporting Club.
The practices were closed to the public and only a select number of media outlets like The New York Post were allowed to watch the team practice. The University of Rhode Island Men’s Hockey team was also allowed inside to meet the team on Tuesday, but this was the furthest extent to which the Rangers or the arena staff coordinated with students.
As a university with a large population from New York, fans quickly got word that their team was in town and made the most of the situation.
Following Monday’s practice, about five fans waited outside Boss Arena for a chance to meet teammates. Their diligence was rewarded as players like superstar left winger Artemi Panarin and alternate captain center Mika Zbanejad signed jerseys and took pictures with them.
One of those five students, freshman Noah McLane, saw the experience as “an opportunity for students to take a break from classes and to be exposed to celebrity life.”
Meeting celebrities, however, can often be a surprising experience. Usually, when people meet athletes, their size and strength is the thing that stands out, as they are usually taller and stronger than most people. For McLane, who is over six feet tall, he found the opposite to be true.
“I thought they were gonna be bigger,” McLane said. “I was expecting them to be bigger and stronger.”
Tuesday’s practice was much more crowded outside Boss Arena. A gathering of about 30 fans stood behind the rink waiting for the team to come out.
Zbanijab, Panarin and left winger Chris Kreider– the only player left from the team’s 2014 Eastern Conference Championship team– all took photos with the fans that came to see them. While the meet-and-greet was not as intimate as Monday’s gathering, students still felt thrilled and thankful as the bus left campus.
Freshman Luke Savoy, a diehard Rangers fan from New York, who was present on both days, thought it was “a once in a lifetime experience,” but enjoyed the first day better than the second.
“There was more one-on-one time to talk with the players and get pictures and autographs,” he said.
The event was even considered a surprise for him, since the Rangers aren’t a local team.
The Rangers will open their regular season on Oct. 13 in the nation’s capital against the Washington Capitals. Many Blueshirt fans on campus, as well as NHL fans who may have just found their new second favorite team, will be watching the stars that they just met fight for their first playoff trip in five years.