This Saturday, Kevin Shattenkirk and Anders Lee are taking the rivalry between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders off the ice and into the backyard. Well, to be precise, they’re bringing it to VERSA, a gorgeous rooftop bar which is only two blocks away from The Garden. There, the crosstown rivals will host the first annual Renny Jam, a KanJam marathon that aims to raise money for families impacted by pediatric cancer.
Renny Jam is open to 36 two-person KanJam teams, and the round-robin tournament is filling up fast. As of the writing of this article, there are only 15 spots left open. For the price of admission, each team will receive gift bags, complimentary food and drinks, t-shirts, and a chance to win some swag, memorabilia, and other prizes.
For those of who aren’t interested in playing, but still want to make a difference and attend the event, there’s a $125 donation option for spectators. It’s hard to think of a better way to spend the first full day of summer than spending the day with a bunch of NHLers while also raising money for a worthy cause.
Since its inception in 2014, the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation has raised more than $1,100,000 to benefit charities. In January, Blueshirt Banter helped spread the word about the second annual Shatty Jam. One month later, we watched that event raise more than $140,000 for Montefiore Children’s Hospital and the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
On Friday, Kevin Shattenkirk set some time aside to talk about his offseason and the upcoming Renny Jam.
Blueshirt Banter: It’s obviously a special time for your former team in St. Louis. Did you get a chance to watch Game 7 and have you had an opportunity to reach out to any of your buddies who are still with the team?
Kevin Shattenkirk: Yeah, I watched every game. I left the guys alone, I didn’t really want to interfere with what was going on.
For me, it was amazing to see them pull it off. The story itself is obviously one that will go down as one of the best comebacks in history — from their regular season, to winning the Cup. It just goes to show that you’re never out. You have to just keep playing and keep trying to make the playoffs because anything can happen. They did it.
Really, more than anything, I’m happy for all of the guys who I had a chance to play with for such a long time — and also for the city. I remember what it was like when I was there. We had good, competitive teams. St. Louis has been itching for a championship, those people have been waiting for 50 years. It makes me happy to know that their time has come.
BSB: I’m sure, much like me, you grew up listening to JD’s voice as a young Rangers fan. In some ways, I feel like I was practically raised by Sam Rosen and John Davidson. Of course, JD was the president of the Blues while you were there. Are you a little extra excited to see him come home to New York and fill that role at the top of the organization?
KS: Like you said, in St. Louis I got to witness firsthand the great work that [JD] did. He built up that franchise for a long time. When he left, things really started to fall in to place, and he definitely had a major hand in that.
Knowing that, and seeing what he did in Columbus, it’s exciting to have him come to New York. He’s obviously fully capable of putting together a winning organization and setting teams up for a window to win.
As for the history side of it and his connection to the team — that’s where it’s really a home run for me. He is someone who cares about the Rangers as much as any fan who’s been watching the team for their entire lives. We all know what John Davidson means to the organization. I think he’s going to take that pride and pour every last ounce of it into putting together a phenomenal hockey team.
BSB: The last time we talked, I noticed all of the young guys who attended the event at Mustang Harry’s, like Boo Nieves and Neal Pionk. How important is it for those young guys to get involved early in their careers? Was getting engaged early in your career valuable for you?
Shattenkirk: I think so. I remember in my first one or two years in the league, you’re worried about a lot of different things. You’re worried about staying in the lineup, making sure you’re not sent down, and you’re dealing with a lot of pressure. But the older guys on my team forced me to immerse myself in the community where we were playing and getting involved in philanthropy.
When you put yourself out there and show fans that you’re committed and that you care about where you’re playing, that goes a long way. Fans appreciate when players love the city that they’re playing in. You need to have that presence.
Our job isn’t just on the ice or in the weight room. We are role models. It’s important for those young guys to embrace that and to carry that into what they do off the ice. To their credit, when I asked them to come that night, there wasn’t a guy who hemmed and hawed over it. They were ready to help out with the foundation and were great at the event itself.
BSB: Speaking of young guys, have you had a chance to talk with Adam Fox? You and he have a lot of in common as D-men who grew up watching the Rangers in New York.
Shattenkirk: Funnily enough, he and I are working out at the same gym with Ben Prentiss in Connecticut. I had a chance over the last few weeks to see him on a daily basis and chat about what’s to come.
It’s an exciting time for him. We’ve come to the Rangers at different stages of our careers, but he’s poised to have a long career and to be a special player. I think it’s great for him to be around a couple of the guys at the gym this summer. Him being at home for the offseason is a chance for him to really soak up what being a Ranger is all about.
BSB: There will be a lot of people at the event on Saturday taking a lot of pictures and videos. Is there maybe a little mini-training camp going on right now for you to polish up your game?
Shattenkirk: I have a little backyard where I work on my stroke and make sure that my game is pretty tight. You don’t want to be the guy to host an event like this and then be the worst player there. I think people might stop coming to event if that was the case!
It’s a fun game. It’s easy to bust out the cans and just chuck the frisbee around. We always have it set up at home, so that when friends come over we’re ready to chuck it around and have some fun.
BSB: Last time we spoke, you told me that Kevin Hayes was the ringer on the team. Is there a new contender from the current roster? Any up-and-comers?
Shattenkirk: I think Brady [Skjei] put on a good show at the event, he’s a college guy too. Boo Nieves is probably the best up-and-comer that I saw that day. With Hayesy gone now, they’re a couple of guys who could be first overall picks.
BSB: It’s a must-win game of KanJam. You can pick anyone from inside or outside of the hockey world as your partner. Who are you going with?
Shattenkirk: Oh, wow. Jeez. I’d have to go with guys who I’ve actually seen play ... I think I have to go with Boo. He really impressed me, he was floating right in and they were just falling into the can. It was pretty impressive.
BSB: I would think that goalies might have an edge with their reactions to deflect the frisbees in, but I like the Boo pick.
Shattenkirk: You know what, [Alexandar Georgiev] was pretty good. I’ll give Georgie a little bit of credit, he had some game. But he’s probably a couple of years away, he needs a little more experience.
BSB: You’ve been immersed with the Rangers for so much of your life, is it fun to set aside the rivalry with the Islanders for something like this? Also, is Anders any good? How’s his game?
Shattenkirk: I think he’s got some game. Again, he’s a college guy, so you have to respect that.
As you said, we do immerse ourselves. We are fully in on the rivalry, whether you grew up watching it or if you’ve just started playing here for the Islanders or the Rangers. You really feel it when you come into the building.
Anders and I can put all of that aside because we’re passionate about the foundation and the work that we’re doing. We both have the same goal: trying to raise as much money as possible to help these kids out. I think you see that across the board in the NHL. Even if you’ve been battling against a guy for years, if a cause like this needs help, hockey players are ready to come together for the greater good. That’s a part of what we do.
BSB: What has surprised you the most during your time with the foundation?
Shattenkirk: The part that’s floored me through it all is how many people I’ve met who are impacted and affected by pediatric cancer, or cancer in general. When you go to the event and meet all of these big supporters of your team, everyone connects on a different level.
It’s not about the New York Rangers when you come to the event. It’s about pediatric cancer. It’s about the experiences that you’ve had. I think it can be cathartic for people to talk with each other and to speak about their experiences. That’s what’s been really special about this — connecting with people.
BSB: How can Rangers and Islanders fans get involved and help out if they’re unable to attend on Saturday?
Shattenkirk: You can go to the website, JamKancerintheKan.com. There’s plenty of information there that will direct you to the CrowdRise pages if you want to make a donation.
I’ve also connected with some people who’ve attended my events that have put on their own KanJam events for their schools and communities. They’re raising a couple of thousand dollars here, or a couple of thousand dollars there. Really, that’s what it is all about — creating a community where we’re all doing our part. It doesn’t have to be at an event, it can be done anywhere and the money can go to any charity. That’s just one other way you can make a difference.
Note: portions of this interview have been edited for brevity and clarity.