Approximately eight-hundred Rangers fans gathered in the Madison Square Garden Theater Lobby yesterday for the organization’s 17th annual Holiday Toy Drive. As usual, the event was a big success, and it was enjoyable for both fans and players alike.
Rangers’ defenseman Steve Eminger, who participated in his first Holiday Toy Drive, was both impressed and inspired by the enthusiastic fans. From Dan David, at newyorkrangers.com:
"These fans are passionate about hockey, and they're passionate in the community, too," said Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger, who was among the six Blueshirts signing on Tuesday. "They make this happen, and they deserve a lot of credit for coming here and donating toys for the kids."
Defenseman Matt Gilroy further recognized the importance of this event for bringing about a personal interaction between players and fans:
"Meeting some of the fans is also pretty cool. Seeing how happy, especially, the young kids are. They get a thrill out of meeting us. I'm glad that we can make their day somehow special. It's a good feeling, because when I see them smiling, it makes me smile."
Yesterday marked Gilroy’s second Toy Drive. Brian Boyle and Derek Boogaard started off with the first shift, and Gilroy and Eminger followed immediately after. Last but certainly not least came the Blueshirts’ two promising rookies, Derek Stepan and Mike Sauer.
Fans lined up to submit toys to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program, in exchange for Rangers’ players’ autographs. After attaining autographs, fans were invited to participate in several other activities, including a shooting accuracy contest, face-painting, a stick dribbling competition, and a raffle for prizes. Many fans chose to return to the lengthy line in order to retrieve another round of autographs from a new table of players.
Community activist and beloved former Ranger Adam Graves made an appearance in his 17th consecutive Holiday Toy Drive. Graves has not missed one Toy Drive since putting together the first one back in 1994. In the typical, awe-inspiring fashion that we’ve come to expect from him over the years, Graves stood for hours on the side taking pictures with and chatting with fans. Afterwards, he walked up and down the line of Blueshirts’ fans, shaking hands and signing autographs. Unsurprisingly, Graves did it all with that tireless, characteristic smile on his face.
Also smiling was Rangers’ rookie Derek Stepan, who, along with Mike Sauer, was thrilled to be attending his first Rangers’ Toy Drive. Rangers’ great Nick Fotiu also made an appearance at the event, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who were waiting on line to donate their toys.
The New York Rangers’ Holiday Toy Drive has become an integral part of the Blueshirt tradition of community outreach, and is a source of holiday cheer for the children benefitting from the thousands of donated toys, as well as for the fans and the players themselves.