March 31 is a very bittersweet day for me.
On the one hand, it is my birthday. I was born on March 31, 1983, which means that I am now 40 years old.
On the other hand, March 31 also happens to be when my father died. On March 31, 2020, my dad died from a heart attack caused by COVID-19.
I would like to go ahead and share what I wrote about my dad for his memorial, which was held back on September 20, 2020. Here it is:
Thank you all for coming during this strange and trying time. 2020 has been a strange year for all of us, and we appreciate you all taking time out of your Sunday to be with us.
My dad and I did not always have the greatest relationship, but there is no doubt in my mind that there will always be one thing that bonds us, whether it is on earth or in the next life.
If you know my father and I, then you know that we both loved hockey with a capital L. In fact, he’s the reason why I am still a fanatic and still so passionate about the game today.
It all started with me sitting on his lap when I was very young, watching a Rangers vs. Flyers playoff game. He was wearing a Rangers jersey, and I was wearing a Rangers shirt, something that would become a familiar sight for much of my life.
My dad was such a big Rangers fan that he got the idea to tape every game and make highlight tapes showing only the goals they scored, the great saves the goalies made, and any big hit or fight. He did this for seven years!
Because he did this and was also a great lawyer, he made connections with Rangers’ head coaches, Roger Neilson, Mike Keenan, and Colin Campbell, players like Mark Messier, Mike Richter, and several other people in the hockey world. These connections opened doors not only for him but for me as well.
Because of the connections my dad made, I got to go in locker rooms, attend practices, go to games at arenas other than MSG, and go into the Rangers’ family room at the Garden as a guest of Messier.
His connection with Campbell enabled us to go on a road trip with the team to Montreal. This would end up being the most memorable experience of our Rangers’ life together.
We got to be on the same plane with the team, stay at the same hotel, and I got to have several memorable experiences on this trip, including the time at the airport when Mike Richter taught me how to stop a penalty shot using candy bars.
Another memorable experience I had was due to his connection with Messier. In 1996, Messier invited my father and I to a pre-season World Cup hockey game between Team Canada and Team USA.
On this trip, I remember sitting at a table filled with future Hockey Hall of Famers on Team Canada, all of whom put me on the spot and asked me which team I was rooting for that night. Former Ranger Adam Graves stepped up for me and said that I would be rooting for my country.
My dad and I went to many, many, many Ranger games together. We obviously saw them at the Garden, but we also traveled to see them in Long Island, in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Montreal.
Every arena we went to see the Blueshirts was a memorable experience. The game we watched, the people we went with, the people we met and spoke to, and everything else we did at each game was a positive experience because of the kind of guy my dad was.
The Rangers were our pride and joy. We won with them, we lost with them, and we were frustrated with them, but no matter what they were doing or how they were playing, we loved them with all of our hearts, something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
My dad, along with my mom, was also the best hockey parent out there. Along with my mom, they drove me to practices, games, tournaments, and more at all hours of the morning and night. They did this all without complaining.
Of course, my dad found a way to get involved with all of my teams as someone who kept track of every statistic imaginable. He made the kids on my respective teams feel good about themselves and always found a way to be a big part of any team that I played on.
Dad, I still have trouble accepting that you are gone. Watching the Rangers play in this year’s playoffs didn’t feel the same because I couldn’t talk about or email you about it.
I want you to know that because of you, I will never lose my love for hockey. Like you were to me, I am going to be the best hockey dad to my son and support him in whatever he decides to do so that he can carry on our tradition of rooting for our favorite hockey team.
Dad, I love you with all of my heart and look forward to the day when I can be with you again.