For four weeks this summer, the Rangers are holding youth hockey camps at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Westchester County. It is the 13th season that the Blueshirts are holding the camps, for players aged 6-14. Each week features top notch training and appearances by some of the current Rangers and several alumni. Yesterday’s guest Ranger, Kevin Shattenkirk, fit right in with the camp’s atmosphere. There was excitement in the air as the campers engaged in drills on the ice, but no one in the building was more excited to be there than the recently signed free agent defenseman.
Prior to taking the ice with the campers, Shattenkirk received his Rangers’ sweater and had his first meeting with the New York media. Before he answered questions, he showed off his new Rangers’ jersey and the big number 22 on it. And then it was time for the questions. Shatty was clearly enjoying himself, and was very forthcoming in answering whatever he was asked.
He admitted that he left money and years on the table to sign with the team that he loved since childhood. But putting aside the fact that he was coming home, Shattenkirk said that what influenced his decision was that he was looking for a team “that was ready to win.” He feels that the Rangers are contenders every year, and that they are not a team that is rebuilding. Additionally, what influenced Shattenkirk was “the opportunity to play with Ryan McDonagh, who is an all star defenseman and a great fit for me.” He also spoke of the possibility of playing with Brady Skjei, who he thinks is a great young talent. Additionally, Shatty said that he believes that he will thrive under the pressure of playing in front of family and friends at Madison Square Garden.
In thinking about getting on the ice with the youngsters from the youth camp, Shatty recalled his own youth, growing up in New Rochelle and watching the Rangers practice at the rink at Rye Playland. He did not hesitate when asked about his favorite player growing up–it was Brian Leetch (who he has yet to formally meet); but he also mentioned Sergei Zubov and Doug Lidster (who coached a youth team while playing with the Rangers) as players he looked up to when he was young.
After about 15 minutes of questions, Shattenkirk put on skates as a Ranger for the first time and took the ice with the young players. He genuinely looked like he enjoyed every minute of it. It was a dream come true all around–for the man who used to wait for a Rangers’ player to flip him a spare puck when the team practice was over and for the young players on the ice. It has been a long road for Shattenkirk–from Maine, to Michigan, to Massachusetts, to Colorado, to St. Louis, and DC–but Shatty the man, who intends to live “in the big City” with his fiancee and dog, has come back home to New York. It is a sweet homecoming for the man who hopes to soon raise Lord Stanley’s Cup in Rangers’ blue.