The 2012 Winter Classic is a special event which will feature two fierce rivals in a game of outdoor hockey. It's going to be a fantastic experience for everyone involved and both teams will end up being better for the game.
But something that shouldn't get overlooked is the Alumni Game, which will pit some of the greatest players both organizations have ever seen against each other on December 31st.
One of those player will be Adam Graves, who is excited for the chance to take part in the event.
"I'm thrilled to get the opportunity, first and foremost, to be able to get back onto the ice in an organized fashion," he said. "I haven't played with these guys in an NHL sanctioned event in over a decade. It will be a big thrill to get back onto the ice with them, and there's certianly no better place to do it than outdoors. It really takes you back to your grass roots when you were a kid growing up. And at the same time you get to play aginst kids you used to watch as a kid and you've gotten to know over the years whether it's Ron Duguay or Nick Fotiu or Ron Greschner or Dave Maloney. It's going to be a huge event and it's something I'm looking forward to."
Join me after the jump for more.
Graves will have many teammates from 1994, the last time the New York Rangers hoisted the Stanley Cup, taking part in the event when Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Stephane Matteau lace up the skates once again.
But there will be another familiar face there too. Mike Keenan will be behind the bench for the Rangers' alumni squad, and it's just another thing -- along with teaming up with some of his 1994 teammates -- that adds to the excitement of the game in Graves' opinion.
"It's fantastic. I think everyone is thrilled," he said. "Mike hasn't coached us in about 18 years now and I can't imagine much as changed. I have spent some time with Mike over the years. It's funny, when you're lucky enough to win a championship with someone it aligns you and bonds you with them forever. I think that's a feeling we all have and it's going to be great for him to be behind the bench for us again."
Alumni games are fun events, which allow old friends to get together and play hockey with each other once again. Most alumni games don't boast two teams with a rivalry as fierce as the Rangers and the Flyers, but don't expect anyone from either side to drop the gloves.
"I think you're seeing with the HBO 24/7 series that hockey has some of the best people in any sport," Graves said. "And regardless of whether you're a part of the Rangers organization or the Flyers' tradition it's just a lot of great people. And to be able to see some of the guys you haven't seen in a long time, there's a lot of guys you admired and respected playing against and it's going to be no different seeing them at the game. It's going to renew the rivalry in the greatest way, the celebration of hockey."
There are other emotions that comes with the game as well.
"It's not very often that you get to feel like a kid again. It's a unique situation and it will be a moment which I will cherish and remember forever," Graves said. "It doesn't matter how old you get, you still get those butterflies before you go out there and play hockey."
Graves, whose number hangs in the Garden's rafters, was very quick to talk about what a wonderful feeling it was for him to be selected to the squad with a Rangers' organization that has had so many great players.
"I think for me to describe it in one word it would be humbling," he said. "I think most of my experiences as a Ranger has been humbling. To be able to play behind arguably one of the top four or five guys to ever play the game in Mark Messier, to be able to play on the Garden's ice and to winning a Stanley Cup in New York and playing for an original six team is a privilege. And every time you wear that jersey that's exactly what you're feeling and December 31st will be no different."
You always hear about how nice of a guy Adam Graves really is, but you truly can't appreciate it until you have spoken to him. Graves took time out of a very busy schedule to talk to me and took the time out of his day to ask how my holidays were going and to wish me and my family all the best. He is a special player, but more importantly he's a special person who does so much for the Rangers organization.
He's also going to make the alumni game even more fun.