Rangers Alumni Adam Graves and Brian Mullen were on hand to launch the "New York Rangers Youth Street Hockey presented by Live Positively, Coca-Cola", a program that that offers free youth hockey instruction and awareness about the importance of exercising and maintaining a balanced diet.
The program, which is also partnered with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, The Boys and Girls Club, and YMCA, has experienced significant growth since its inception in 2010.
"The growth has been fantastic," Graves said. "The first year we had ten recreation centers and 650 kids. Now we have 50 centers and over 2,500 kids in the program.
Graves believes that the hockey clinics are one of the best ways to grow the sport. "I know firsthand the privilege of putting a hockey stick in the hands of a kid who has never played hockey before. The first 10-15 minutes, they’re not quite sure how much they like the sport, but after half an hour, it’s easy to how much they enjoy it, and it’s almost impossible to get the stick out of their hands."
In addition to growing the sport to New York’s youth, the program takes just as much pride in educating kids about the importance of eating right and exercising.
"It’s very important," Mullen explained. "Unfortunately when I played, nutrition wasn’t even a thought. We went to training camp and got in shape there. For these kids, it’s all about eating right, and we’re learning every day about the things we put into our bodies.
"I wish I knew some of these things when I was their age so I could have grown up eating the right things and doing the right things."
Mullen went on to praise the Garden of Dreams Foundation for the work they do in the community.
"The foundation is very close to the players. It’s for the kids, and anytime we can give back to them we are going to be out in full force."
Graves has high hopes for continuing the growth of the program. "We believe in the sport of hockey growing in the tri-state area," the Rangers legend said. "We want to give them the joy that I had as a four-year-old when my dad put a hockey stick in my hand for the first time."
Mullen concurs: "The Rangers do an unbelievable job keeping the kids involved, as well as keeping the alumni involved in the programs.
"There’s no limit to what they can do."