1994 TWENTY YEARS LATER, PART 4: THE PARADE
“I won’t be coming into work tomorrow, so fire me if you want!” Those were my exact words when the City announced the Parade for Friday, June 17th.
There was no way I was missing this celebration, this culmination of the greatest year in my life to date. A month shy of my 21st birthday, things were shaping up to be a great summer and I was ready to party.
It was about 90 degrees that day, but with all the people, it fell like 110! No one cared, no one fought, no one got angry. People hugged and cheered. Homemade Stanley Cups were being passed around like candy on Halloween. This wasn’t a parade, it was a tribute to the NY Ranger Faithful! Over 1 million people lined the streets in the Canyon of Heroes all the way to City Hall. That’s where I was, waiting to see Mark Messier come down those steps with Lord Stanley raised high!
My mother, sister, girlfriend, her brother, my best friend, my mom’s best friend and her son pushed our way towards the railing. We could see all those seated had special passes to be there. In a stroke of luck, the heat had gotten to a mother and her little boy, as she made her way towards the railing she handed over the special pass to my mom’s friend. It was only one, and since I was decorated like a Rangers Christmas tree, she lovingly gave it to me.
I pushed my way up close…just how close, you are about to see. The ceremony began and the staff and players were called out one by one. Then finally, Mayor Giuliani called out his name, and Mark Messier came out with the Stanley Cup. CLICK!
There I stood, barely 75′ away from my heroes. I soaked it all in. I remember each player being given a key to the City. The smile on their faces as big as everyone’s in the crowd. Eddie Olcyzk took to the mic and yelled ” Heave-Ho Two In Row”, I could see players laughing. How lucky was I to be sharing in this moment, with the greatest hockey team in the world. Even Neil Smith and Mike Keenan shared a rare laugh. Some players, like Jeff Beukeboom kept soaking it all in. CLICK!
Neil Smith addressed the crowd saying “We did this for you, the fans!”. Mike Keenan took to the podium with the crowd chanting “4 MORE YEARS!”, to which he replied “We love the pressure, don’t we.” All the while Joey Kocur was smirking as if he knew, Keenan was going to walk away. And finally, the Captain came to speak. Mark Douglas Messier, who wore his heart on his sleeve smiled, laughed and of course, got choked up. What he said resonated through us all. “Mike Keenan said, you win at this and you’ll walk together for the rest of our lives. I’ve experienced this before and I can honestly tell you that is the honestest truth. We will walk together for the rest of our lives.”
As the ceremony wrapped up, I made my way past security. One cop gave me a look, but he understood. With my camera in hand, I got within 20 feet and snapped the greatest picture of my Ranger loving life. A moment frozen in time. CLICK!
Heading back home, the train ride was like flying on clouds. The smile on my face went from ear to ear. I’m sure I wiped a tear away (or 50) as well. You see, the skate around the ice after game 7 was really for the players, but that trip down the Canyon of Heroes, that was for us. All of us! The Grandfathers, the Dads and the Sons. For the Wives, Moms and Daughters. For all the young fans who were not born or to young to understand. When Messier said we would walk together forever, I thought he meant for him and his teammates. No, I was wrong, he meant it for all of us.
Actually, come to think of it. I hope that mom and her kid are alright.
[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlhM2xGtNNw”]Game Seven Highlights – [/su_youtube]
Part 1: The Architect, Neil Smith