— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 11, 2017
September 11, 2001, will be a day remembered by all of the people of this great country. New Yorkers, especially, felt this tragedy as it occurred in our own backyard.
After the attacks, all the major sports postponed games. No one was quite sure when or how games could start up again. The feeling of shock, anger, and sadness overtook us all. We knew that, eventually, everyday life would have to co-exist with the tragedy.
So many times, sporting events provide a place where people can go and get away for a few hours from their problems. New York city needed this and the New York Rangers answered the call.
On Sept. 20, 2001, the first sporting event of any kind was held in New York City. The Rangers hosted the New Jersey Devils. Originally billed as Eric Lindros’ Rangers debut, the game now had so much more meaning. Nine days after the World Trade Center attacks, there was hockey once again.
The Rangers were involved in another special preseason game. The Rangers were visiting Philadelphia on September 21. As the third period was set to begin, President George W. Bush began his speech, shown on the video screen. When warmups for the third period ended, the speech was taken off.
Fans and players wanted it to be turned back on so that everyone in the arena could watch it. They got their wish. The players took to the bench and along with the fans listen to our President. The third period was ultimately canceled, and in a show of unity, the two teams lined up and shook hands.
The best moment I can think of for the Rangers, the people of New York City—everyone— came on Oct. 7, 2001. The Rangers hosted the Buffalo Sabres as both teams wore special jerseys that would be auctioned off for the different 9/11 charities.
As they stepped onto the ice during pregame introductions, each player was greeted by a line of NYFD and NYPD first-responders. The last player called onto the ice was captain Mark Messier.
Messier had accepted Chief Downey’s helmet from firefighter Larry McGee. He skated onto the ice with the helmet on, a vision that will never be forgotten, before delivering a tribute to the first responders, to whom he dedicated the season
This picture of Messier stands as a symbol that the people of this great city and all Americans will always get back up and stand strong. Messier delivered a beautiful tribute. The team showed that they were there for them in this tragic time.
The final score of the game doesn’t matter. Watching a team, a sport, give back to its city is what’s most important.
Messier wasn’t just the leader of the New York Rangers that night. He was the leader of a city. He spoke, and people believed that everything would be alright.
Many things have changed in the 16 years since 9/11. Some have come. Others have gone. But the feelings of this day will last forever. A simple picture—a picture of a hockey player wearing a fire helmet—guarantees that for every anniversary to come.