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Lake Placid becomes Rangers nation

October 3, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Red and blue were very prevalent colors Monday morning in downtown Lake Placid. And the closer the streets got to the Olympic Center, those colors became a steady stream.

The New York Rangers and hundreds of their fans had come to town.

With their National Hockey League regular-season opener coming up on Thursday, and with a few days off prior to the game, the Rangers headed north to Lake Placid for a team-bonding trip, which included Monday morning's practice at the USA Rink that was open to the public.

Article Photos

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist greets fans looking for autographs following Monday’s team practice at the Olympic Center’s USA Rink. The Rangers worked out before a packed rink of 500 fans as they prepare to open the NHL regular season on Thursday.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

And did the fans show up. They came from towns across the North Country such as Massena and Ellenburg, they came from Rome (New York, of course), they came from downstate areas such as Long Island, and there was at least one family at the rink from New Jersey.

Fans clad in blue and white Rangers jerseys started lining up around 5:30 a.m. in front of the Olympic Center's athletes' entrance waiting to be among the 500 who would be admitted to the free team practice. By the time the Rangers were on the ice shortly after 10 a.m., the venue was packed. Around the boards where people could stand it was three and four rows deep, and the stairs to the balcony seating at the arena had at least one fan perched on every step. With all the youngsters in the crowd, it was hard to believe it was actually a school day.

Forward Jimmy Vesey is back for his second year with the Rangers after a having solid rookie season with 16 goals and 11 assists. The Massachusetts native was happy to return to the same building where his Harvard Crimson won the ECAC Championship during his junior year.

"It's always good to come here. It's a special place just with the Olympics and especially USA Hockey," Vesey said. "As an American it's always fun to be here, and I have some good memories here, winning the ECAC championship my junior year. I've been here three times in total and it's always good to be back.

"Practice today was pretty cool," Vesey continued. "I didn't know what ice we would be on, I didn't know it was going to be open to the public, and it was definitely awesome. I think everybody enjoyed it out there - the players and the fans. It was a good experience. New York fans are really passionate. Especially the Rangers. We appreciate all their support and it's awesome to see they made the drive up here."

The team arrived Sunday and stays through today. In addition to Monday's practice, the Rangers have been active away from the ice. On Sunday, members of the team enjoyed a boat ride, visited with Rangers Hall of Fame goalkeeper Mike Richter, who owns a home in Lake Placid, and they listened to a talk by Ed Viesturs, an alpine climber who has summited Mount Everest seven times. Following Monday's practice, they even tried their hand at pushing a wheeled bobsled at the local practice facility.

Alain Vigneault, who was hired as the Rangers 35th head coach in 2013, said Jason Vogel, the team's vice-president of sports operations, came up with the idea of staying in Lake Placid.

"When we looked at our schedule over the summer, we had a seven-day break between the last exhibition game and our first regular-season game," Vigneault said. "Our right-hand man in this, Jason Vogel, I asked him do you have any ideas for team-building. He took a day to think about it and he came back and said 'We should go to Lake Placid.'

"He set it up, he got great support from Mike Richter, who lives on the lake," Vigneault continued. "Mike put him in touch with a whole group of people and it's been outstanding. Mike was with us yesterday. We love having some alumni around our team. The more our players rub elbows with some of the older players from the New York Rangers is great, and especially one that's won the Stanley Cup."

Monday's practice session wrapped up shortly after 11 a.m, and many, if not most of the Rangers then greeted their faithful to sign autographs on just about everything fans sent their way. Some players, including goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, handed hockey sticks to some fans. Items players signed ranged from jerseys, cell phones and even Lake Placid Pub and Brewery "koozies."

"We were expecting a real good turnout," Vigneault said. "Jason had told us the people were looking forward to seeing us practice. It was a great atmosphere on the ice, we had a real good practice and now we're going to enjoy other facilities that they have here - do a little team building, and it's going to turn out to be a great couple of days here for us."

Vigneault said one of the biggest objectives of the short getaway to the Olympic Village is to give new team members the chance to become better acquainted with each other.

"There's no doubt this gives an opportunity for the guys to spend a little bit more time with one another, get to know one another - that good team bonding that's needed on the ice and off the ice is there," he said.

When asked after practice about bringing his team to the site where the United States made hockey history at the 1980 Olympics, Vigneault replied "I would say none of my players were born at the time.

"But the coaching staff we went through the rooms today. We went through the old USA room, they won the gold medal," Vigneault continued. "I've seen the movie, I remember back in '80 I was 19. I remember the day the United States won the gold medal. I'm not sure if our players get the whole thing, but obviously coming here and then going to the facilities, it's going to be a great experience for them."

Vesey said now that training camp is out of the way, he, along with the team, is looking forward to getting on with the season.

"Training camp has been tough as it should be," Vesey said. "There's been a lot of competition - a lot of guys competing for not a lot of spots. In my second year I feel a little more confident. I'm just going to try to play loose out there and not think so much and let my instinct take over and hopefully I'll improve a lot this year.

"We made some moves in the offseason, but I think we still have a good core group of veterans and we got a little bit younger, and we have that speed and skill right now, and I think that's kind of key right now in the NHL," he added. "It's such a long season, it's hard to set personal goals. There's a lot of stuff you can't control, so I'm just going to try to play hard, play well whatever role I'm put in on this team. The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup at the end, so I think everyone is excited for the year."

The New York Rangers open their 2017-18 NHL season on home ice at Madison Square Garden Thursday against Colorado.



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