It is often said that great men are a product of their times. The logic being that only the trials of life's greatest challenges can truly make men great. This is equally true in a hockey sense. Hockey men become great by predicting season-saving victories and then delivering hat tricks. In the movie "The Contender" Gary Oldman's character said the following: "Greatness is the orphan of urgency . . . Greatness only emerges when we need it most... in time of war or calamity. I can't ask somebody to be a Kennedy or a Lincoln. They were MEN created by their times. What I can ask for... is the promise of greatness".
When we look at these new, young Rangers, it is patently unfair to expect greatness from any of them. These kids have yet to be tested on their own fields of battle, but in any of them; can we see the "promise of greatness"?
Matt Gilroy came to the NHL with all the credentials of a "great" player. The Captain of the NCAA National Champion and the recipient of college hockey's version of the Heisman, the Hobey Baker Award. Matt's road to the NHL was like most in a lot of ways. Youth hockey in distant rinks at on-godly hours, Prep school teams then a walk-on at BU, he earned his way along. While this is repeated countless times, by countless kids playing this great game there must have been a little extra driving Matt.
The Gilroy's are an athletic family, the father Frank a member of the St. John's University Basketball Hall of Fame. Matt and his brother Timmy who were only 13 months apart, started out together in youth hockey with Timmy wearing #97 and Matt #98. When Timmy was just short of his 8th birthday, and while heading for a game on his bicycle, he was involved in an accident and died from a head injury. In his room that night, through unimaginable grief, Matt vowed to wear Timmy's #97 from then on. He has proudly carried that number 97 from the 5am youth games, to one of the finest college hockey programs in the country, and now into the NHL.
So as that blue #97 streaks down the ice in the worlds greatest arena and lights the lamp, look up to the rafters and give a quick nod to Timmy. Then firmly fix your eyes on the current 97 and bear witness to the promise of greatness - now fulfilled. For if it is true that "greatness only emerges when we need it most", those times are not confined to the battlefields or sports arenas, sometimes it is the bedroom of a young Matt Gilroy on the hardest day of his life. His promise has already been kept.