To help celebrate the Rangers' 85th Anniversary and the use of the nifty new Heritage jerseys in Wednesday night's game with Original Six foe Boston, blog buddy Sarah Turcotte (ESPN The Magazine) q'ed up D-man Michael Del Zotto about his part in the anniversary experience. Appreciative stick tap to Sarah for the interview.
You guys have had a lot of interesting stuff going on with the anniversary. Has that been cool?
Michael Del Zotto: Oh yeah. We had that event last weekend at Rockefeller Center with all these alumni. I'd met some of them before, but actually getting to sit down and talk to them was a first. It was a thrill. I've met Brian Leetch once before, he's around a lot, he does a lot with MSG Network and stuff, but getting to talk to him was awesome. Same for guys like Rod Gilbert and the older guys, hearing about their experiences in New York. They talk about it like they played here yesterday. It's incredible to hear those stories.
What kind of things did they say that resonated so much with you?
MDZ: A lot of these guys have played for other teams and I haven't. It's pretty meaningful to hear them say that their time with the Rangers was the best. They don't need to say that to me. I'm not media. I'm not a fan. They meant that sincerely. Every guy told me that this is a top-notch organization in how they treat their players and take care of them. They had as much fun here as I'm having, and to hear players of that caliber, legendary players, say that makes me feel like what I'm feeling is not fleeting. They really miss playing at The Garden and playing in New York. It's pretty crazy to hear knowing that I'm living it now.
You hear that a lot, 'taking care of their players.' What does that even mean?
MDZ: We're so lucky. We have a private jet. Our cars are taken care of when we travel. I don't know what other teams have, but we have a lot. We're spoiled, to be honest. When I was a young guy moving in here last year, I was 19. I came from a town of 20,000 [people]. Moving into the city was eye-opening. It took me half a year to feel comfortable. Anything I needed the Rangers did. They helped me with my apartment, my car, anything. And hearing the veterans talk made me realize that this organization will do that for anyone, whether you're a hall of famer or a new kid trying to make the team.
I'm not a commodity on this team. I don't feel like a piece of meat in this organization. I realized that after playing with the group of guys I do, but seeing how much the alumni care and believe in the Rangers is a source of pride, it really is. Everyone takes care of each other. It really does feel like a family. Seeing these guys come back, acting like they're teammates again, treating each other like brothers -- it's been unreal. They keep in touch. They've maintained relationships for 30-45 years in some cases.
Any particular highlights?
MDZ: Meeting Brian Leetch was the biggest thrill for me personally. I've met Adam Graves because he's so involved in the community and stuff, [Mark] Messier is part of the team, which is pretty cool, he's a legend in this city. But Leetch was really something. It might just be because he plays my same position. The way he moved the puck, that's what a player like me strives for. I remember being young and watching him. I remember him as a Ranger, but he was with the Leafs for a bit (my hometown team) and I was always enamored by him when he played there.
How do you like the Heritage jerseys?
MDZ: Have you seen our third jerseys? They're so sick. I'll give you one hint. On the back of them, on the inside, each and every retired number is embroidered. It's really, really cool. It's a little piece of history.