Matt Gilroy, New York Rangers
(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

North Bellmore product Matt Gilroy will represent Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, sporting a number 97 on his back that comes from his heart.

Since the National Hockey League decided not to send its players to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, former New York Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy had hoped his opportunity to wear his nation’s colors again would come true. In Dec. 2017, Gilroy received the call he had been waiting for.

“I was excited, nervous, scared, happy – just everything kind of hit me,” he told Andrea Grymes of The story of Matt and his brothers go back to when they were kids back in Long Island, NY when they played hockey In Cantiague Park. “It’s where 97 began,” Gilroy explained to Grymes.

The “97” he referred to is the number his little brother Timmy wore. Gilroy spoke how his little brother always played up with his older brothers. “He was a guy who didn’t understand no. He wasn’t the most talented, he always played up with us,” Gilroy said.

Sadly, Timmy was killed in a bicycle accident when he was only eight years old. Matt Gilroy took the loss of his little brother very hard and promised Timmy, in between the tears of his loss, that he would take his number 97 as far as his hockey career would take him. 

Gilroy’s journey was hard early on as he was cut by many midgets and junior teams alike. But Matt kept on pushing until things took a positive turn.

That turn took him to Boston University where he signed as a walk-on and wound up winning the Hobey Baker Award as College Player of the Year. Gilroy then went on the play for fives years in the National Hockey League for the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He then took Timmy’s 97 to the KHL where he was a two-time All-Star.

Gilroy now takes his special number to South Korea where he and his USA teammates kick off the round robin tournament in search of a gold medal on Thursday. His parents, wife and two of his sisters will be there with him.

“That’s a big promise for a nine-year-old. And now, 23 years later, they let him wear No. 97 at the Olympics,” his mother, Peggy, said. “That’s pretty cool.”

They say that the name on the front of a player’s jersey is more important than the name on the back, but in this instance, the number on the back of Matt Gilroy’s Jersey will be as important as the USA on the Front.

“Just to wear a USA jersey and represent your country is special, but the first thing I always do in the locker room is always go look at my number on the back of my jersey,” said Matt. “To see that now on the USA jersey in the Olympic Games will be definitely special for me, but I think even more special for my family.”

Timmy Gilroy will enjoy this moment as much as his brother. He will get to see Matt keeps his promise yet again and maybe bring the team some extra luck as team USA looks for a Gold Medal run.

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at