The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers pulled off a massive trade ahead of the 2009-10 season that sent Chris Higgins, Pavel Valentenko, Doug Janik and Ryan McDonagh’s rights to New York in exchange for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto. At the time it seemed like the Habs were the clear cut winners, but it didn’t take very long for everyone to agree that the Rangers won thanks to the acquisition of McDonagh.
The Saint Paul, Minnesota native quickly became a fan favourite over the years and he proved to be quite the leader in the locker room as the Rangers named him team captain ahead of the 2014-15 season. However, all good things must come to an end as the 28-year-old was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning ahead of this year’s NHL trade deadline.
Playing for a new NHL team for the first time in his career, McDonagh recently took some time to reflect back on his time in New York and he shared some of his favourite memories in his article on The Players’ Tribune.
My wife and I loved every second of our time in New York City. Our daughter, Falan, was born here in 2016, so the city will always be a huge part of our family’s story. Unfortunately, it’s time to say goodbye. I knew that a trade was a strong possibility, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less to leave. The feeling of standing in the locker room at MSG right before warmups, with all my gear on, and pulling my blue sweater off the hanger … it was an indescribable honor.
And then to actually see the C stitched on that blue sweater … what can I say? There are no words. How many players get the opportunity to wear the C for an Original Six team in the NHL? I will cherish the opportunity forever.
I had the pleasure of coming up with a group of young players who weren’t just my teammates, but my good friends: Step, Marc, Mats Zuccarello, Dan Girardi and so many others. I got to learn from some incredible veterans, like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Marty St. Louis, Brad Richards, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash and Chris Drury. Chris was my first captain when I was a rookie, and he was a guy I grew up watching playing for Team USA so many times. Wearing the Rangers jersey with him was so special.
McDonagh goes on to thank just about everyone in his letter from the team trainer to the equipment manager, which says a lot about his character. He also shared his favourite on-ice memory as a member of the Rangers and what it meant to play for them.
I’ll never forget when everybody thought we were done against the Capitals in 2015, and we came back from 3–1 down to win the series. When we were a goal away from elimination in overtime of Game 5, Step had the game on his stick in front of the net. And for some reason that I still don’t totally understand to this day….
… he gave me a no-look drop pass. He teed me up perfectly, like we were just goofing around after practice at Wisconsin. Usually the game moves so fast in the NHL that everything is a blur, but that puck floated out to me in slow motion, like in a dream. I was so stunned that he passed it that all I could do was just shoot it as hard as I could. Didn’t look. Didn’t aim. Just fired it. I didn’t even see it go in. I just heard the Garden erupt.
I’ll never forget that goal for the rest of the my life.
I’ll never forget what an honor it was to play for the New York Rangers.
I’ll never forget the friends I made here.
The new Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman understands that trades are part of the business and doesn’t hold anything against the Rangers for shipping him out of town, and he ended his letter in the best way possible.
I played in the most famous arena in the world.
In front of the best fans in the world.
In the best city in the world.
And I mean every word of it.
Thank you, New York.
You can check out McDonagh’s letter ‘Thank You, New York’ in its entirety on The Players’ Tribune.
(H/T The Players’ Tribune)