What can be said about Adam Graves that hasn’t been said before?
Plenty, unless you happened to have seen him a few minutes ago.
Fact is, the ex-Ranger-turned-Mister-Hockey-Everything is all over the place.
When not helping develop the next generation of Rangers, he’s working with neighborhood hockey groups or involved in any number of many charities.
“It’s a tremendous feeling what I do,” Graves told me in an exclusive interview. “It still means a lot to me to be part of the team. And by that, I mean the hockey club and so many other teams and people.
“I work with a lot of terrific people — folks like [VP of Marketing Strategy] Jeanie Baumgartner at The Garden, [Head Athletic Trainer & Director of Sports Medicine] Jim Ramsay, [Senior VP of Public Relations & Player Recruitment] John Rosasco — in so many areas. Same with Jeff Gorton, both as a general manager and as a person.
“Jed Ortmeyer is Director of Player Development –the leader with our prospects — and does an excellent job. I support him and others on the hockey side.”
Listen in on what Director of Player Development Jed Ortmeyer said to the young players on the ice at the Rangers prospects camp.
When Graves — A Rangers star from 1991-92 through 2000-01 — says “working,” he means WORKING. This guy never stops.
Among his multi-tasks includes helping develop the next generation of Rangers; not to mention knowing that he helped nurture onetime youngsters into formidable assets on the Blueshirts.
“Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan are a few whose growth I enjoyed watching,” Graves remembered. “Dan and Marc developed into excellent defensemen. Cally, I saw grow from when he was just a rookie.
“As I grew older, I still wanted to put my stick on the ice. But also to pass on things that I had learned over the years on to the newer fellows.”
The song hit from the Broadway musical, The King And I — “Getting To Know You, Getting To Know More About You” — sums up Graves’ relationship with the infusion of young Rangers talent.
One of the very best happens to be Swedish center Lias Andersson, acquired via the No. 7 overall pick in 2017 NHL Draft obtained in the deal from Arizona that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Coyotes. Another Graves’ favorite is center Brett Howden.
Brett Howden talks about coming over to the Rangers in last season's big trade with the Lightning and what type of player he is.
Here are some capsule comments via Adam:
LIAS ANDERSSON: “This is one center who’s as competitive as any there is. Lias is a character guy as well.”
BRETT HOWDEN: “He’s the kind of player you win with and part of it is that he’s got great character and captain’s potential.”
VITALI KRAVTSOV: “Some skaters have the knack of making plays out of nothing and he’s one of them.”
Acquired in the deadline deal for Rick Nash from the Bruins last season, defenseman Ryan Lindgren talks about competing in the Rangers Prospects Camp and his plans to develop during the summer.
“One of the things I teach these young players is the need for balance,” Graves said. “By that, I mean they must balance their activities whether it’s in the gym, the film room or on the ice.
“I try to impress the need for 100 percent focus and for them to prepare themselves the best way they can.”
The difference between contemporary hockey and the game as it was when Graves broke in with the Detroit Red Wings during the 1987-88 season is like comparing a tangerine with a Maserati. It’s 180 degrees different these days.
“It’s faster,” said Adam, “and the skill level is at an all-time high. I attribute it at least in part to the availability of all kinds of coaches whether they be for strength, skating and all other kinds of skills. Now it’s a 12-month a year game.”
With his myriad activities, Adam could use a 24-month year and his work with such heartening institutions such as MSG’s Garden of Dreams Foundation underlines the point.
One of his projects — which he helped found and helps lead — is The Smilezone Foundation.
The group’s program aims to transform areas (zones) in hospitals, private treatment and children’s clinics. Essentially, it comes down to improving the lives of children facing illness and disabilities.
“For me,” Adam insisted, “it’s a privilege to meet these people and be part of their community. I find myself taking an interest in what they’re doing; especially in the smaller towns. We try to make a difference in spirit; to get them to smile.”
As it happens, wherever Adam goes — whether it’s on a hockey mission or involving himself in various charities — his positive presence inevitably inspires a grin. That’s especially so when he meets Rangers fans and they ask him to recall some of his innumerable highlight goals.
As an objective observer, The Maven decided to toss a curve at Graves and bring up a goal he scored more than two decades ago.
It was my choice since I just happened to have been standing a mere 10 yards away when Adam pulled off the amazing feat.
The episode took place during Game 5 of the Rangers-Devils Eastern semis in 1997 at the Meadowlands when Graves scored one of the biggest goals of his life.
The date was May 11, 1997, with New York leading New Jersey in the series 3-1. The potential series-ending game was now some 14 minutes into sudden-death overtime.
With play having moved into the New Jersey zone, Graves controlled the puck behind the Devils net. Two future Hall of Famers were there to foil Graves — Martin Brodeur in goal and Scott Stevens on defense.
“Scott was a physically-dominating defenseman,” Adam remembered “and a hard guy to get an angle on. We all know how good Marty was among all-time goalies.”
Watching the play unfold, I was astonished at the manner in which Graves bulled his way from left to right, finally getting around Stevens for a wraparound shot.
What aided Adam was Brodeur’s attempt to poke-check the puck off Graves’ stick.
As my trusty Devils historian, Leo Scaglione, Jr. remembered, “When Marty tried the poke-check, he made the area between his legs vulnerable to Graves.”
Adam’s wraparound won the game — and the series — at 14:08 of the extra session. Frankly, I still can’t believe how Graves achieved that double-dip, beating Stevens and then Brodeur in rapid succession.
Naturally, I asked Mister Ranger how he explained that clutch classic.
He thought for a moment. Then, “Two words — very lucky!”
Hmmmm. Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.