As the New York Rangers continue the start of a new era by facing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday (watch live on NBCSN), they celebrated the hard-nosed career of Dan Girardi, a defenseman who played for both teams.
When many hockey fans think of the John Tortorella era of the Rangers, they probably think of Henrik Lundqvist playing at an elite level in front of a dogged group of shot-blockers. Girardi was one of the most dogged of those dogged shot blockers, and distinguished himself enough to make an appearance in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
Girardi dropped the ceremonial first puck before Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden, with his daughter being maybe the most excited person of all. Lundqvist could be seen enjoying Girardi’s ceremony, and even with some sadness over fellow defensive defenseman Marc Staal being a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career, there were mostly good feelings heading into the contest.
Girardi, 35, also shared an “open letter” to Rangers fans on Tuesday, as told to The Athletic’s Joe Smith (sub required). It began with this fun little slice-of-lice from living and playing in New York:
Everyone talks about the New York fans. You’re hard on us, but when we are winning — and going to the Cup final (in 2014) — it was the coolest thing I’ve been a part of. Walking around the city, you’ve got the guy on the horse and buggy, he’s saying, “Good luck, guys!” and “Come on Girardi, let’s go get ’em!” People you don’t even think would know what hockey was are cheering you on. New York is one of the best cities in the world, and to be able to call it home for 11 years was pretty special to me.
From the way fans and former players reacted to Girardi’s tribute and puck drop, it’s clear that he was pretty special to them, too.