Graves, Richter Honored By Ice Hockey In Harlem

By Matthew Blittner
Special Contributor to MSGNetworks.com

There’s no more potent a compliment I can give to former All-Star athletes than calling them, world-class gentlemen.

On Wednesday night, Ice Hockey in Harlem hosted its annual Winter Sports Celebration; honoring two New York hockey legends: Adam Graves and Mike Richter.

The first thing that comes to mind about them is 1994. As in, the Rangers Stanley Cup championship.

But there’s more to these guys than just their on-ice accomplishments.

Both have been integral parts of the New York City community since hanging up their skates. And their mountain of charity work is tall enough to replace Mount Everest as the highest peak in the world.

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Between Graves’ Smilezone Foundation — which “transforms areas (‘Zones’) in hospitals and other healthcare centres in order to improve the lives of children facing illness, disabilities, and physical or emotional obstacles” — and Richter’s string of environmental energy companies — the latest being Bright Core Energy — these two Ranger legends have left an indelible footprint on The City’s community.

It is an honor well-deserved for Graves and Richter. And the praise for them poured in from around the New York hockey community.

“There are few players I’ve ever been around, in any sport that have a greater dichotomy as a human and player than Adam Graves,” said MSG Networks Reporter, John Giannone. “Off the ice, Adam is as great a person as you’ll find. But on the ice, he was one of the most competitive and fiery players you’ll ever see.”

“One of the signature moments of Mike’s career, was his save on Pavel Bure’s penalty-shot in the ‘94 Cup Final,” continued Giannone. “And that moment is a microcosm of him as a person and player. He has that never give up mentality and when the chips are down, there’s no greater person I’ve come to know.”

Those are some pretty heady compliments; all well-deserved of course.

And Giannone wasn’t the only one to weigh in on the ‘94 Cup Alumni members.

“Fact is, they were great teammates,” said MSG Networks Play-by-Play man, Sam Rosen. “Adam was terrific. Even when he was breaking the franchise record for goals in a single-season, he wasn’t thinking about his numbers. Rather he was thinking about winning and his teammates. And of course, he always made sure to credit Mark Messier for each of his goals.”

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“Richter was the same way,” continued Rosen. “He was never about the shutouts or the saves or wins. Rather he was always thinking about helping the team. And that’s one of the reasons why he was always one of the last players to leave the practice rink. He was driven to work hard for the sake of the team. They were a very close-knit group.”

With Sam as the emcee for the evening, the event went off without a hitch.

Ice Hockey in Harlem has done a tremendous job in the community; dating all the way back to 1987. It was the organization’s hard work that spurred Graves and Richter to help the foundation as much as possible.

“As a Ranger, being on the ice at Lasker Rink with these kids, it really makes you take notice of what an awesome organization Ice Hockey in Harlem is,” said Graves. “Using hockey to reinforce the basic youth principles of respect and schooling is a terrific way to make an impact on the community.”

“To be able to put on the Ice Hockey in Harlem jersey, it’s something special,” continued Graves. “It’s really an extension of the Rangers family.”

For Adam, being honored by the foundation is something he’ll never forget; especially since he got to do so alongside his longtime friend in Richter.

“Mike is a dear friend,” said Graves. “I love getting to stand alongside him and doing everything in our power to improve the lives of the children in the community.”

That feeling is shared by Richter, even if he’s getting tired of giving speeches after Graves.

“I keep saying I’m not going second to Adam anymore,” he said. “I prepare something for the two of us to say and then he goes and says something better right off the cuff. But seriously, there’s no greater role model for kids in the community than Adam.”

“It’s all about helping the community of New York City,” continued Richter. “New Yorkers are giving people and it comes down to stressing inclusion for everybody. In other words, it’s like the NHL’s ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ initiative.”

Along with Graves and Richter, people like Mike Bossy and Pat Hickey made sure to stress how important it is for everybody to do more and more each day. Because you can never do too much.

Although, Bossy probably thought Hickey did too much when Pat presented Mike with a custom Rangers jersey in front of the pro-Blueshirts crowd.

Turns out, Hickey had an ulterior motive for attempting to make Bossy an honorary Ranger. “Forcing the blue-and-white on Bossy was extremely satisfying, to say the least,” Hickey told me.

For what it’s worth, I cleaned up Pat’s comments just a bit. After all, there’s no need to turn the dial up further on the Rangers-Islanders rivalry.

Therefore, allow me to end this before things get out of hand.

Congratulations to Adam Graves and Mike Richter on an honor well-deserved!

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The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.