Rangers forward Ryan Callahan had just signed an autograph for a young fan inside Hook & Ladder Company 3, Water Tower 2, when asked if it he viewed the scene as odd.
“This is a lot different feel than some other stuff that we do. I think everyone was excited to come here and show our support and meet these men and women, who put their life on the line,” Callahan said.
Callahan was part of a group of Rangers players and executives who visited three lower Manhattan firehouses on behalf of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, Wounded Warriors, NYPD Widows and Children and the Uniformed Firefighters Association in remembrance of the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The team posed for pictures, chatted and signed autographs for the firefighters and their families along with presenting a jersey signed by the team to Hook and Ladder Company 5, Engine 24.
“We’re going out and playing a sport and these guys are putting their lives on the line every day to make us safe,” Callahan said. “What we do compares nothing to what they do and it’s not even close. If anything, we should be asking for their autographs and thanking them for keeping us safe.”
The team posed for pictures, chatted and signed autographs for the firefighters, their families and the troops along with presenting a jersey signed by the team to Hook and Ladder Company 5, Engine 24.
“When they approached us about doing this, everyone jumped on board. Everyone’s excited to do it,” Callahan added. “You get a sense of what this is all about and how much this affected New York City. I don’t think you realize that until you live here and experience the City life. Even today, meeting the families that were affected, you realize how much this affected everyone in New York. It’s a sad thing and we’re happy to be here and hopefully get to meet them and cheer them up a little bit.”
One of the NHL’s youngest teams, only a handful of Rangers were in the league on Sept. 11, 2001. Rangers coach John Tortorella was in his first full year as a head coach with a Tampa Bay squad that included rookie Brad Richards. Martin Biron was entering his fourth season with Buffalo, while Ruslan Fedotenko was a Flyers rookie.
Tortorella, who was an assistant coach with the 1999-2000 Rangers before being named interim head coach for the final four games that season, remembered
“I was on the ice. It was my first camp as a head coach. I came off after one session and someone told me one of the towers was hit,” Tortorella said. “I had no clue what was happening but when the second one — when we got word that the second one was hit — that’s when we figured that something was really wrong.
“We went about our business. We made a decision, ‘do we keep on working?’ We went about our business that day. Obviously things deteriorated and it really changed our world.”
Richards recalled that the Lightning visited Ground Zero during their first trip to New York that season. The visit left an impression.
“Our first game we played the Rangers, probably six weeks after it happened,” Richards said. “I think it was actually Torts who set it up. We went down and checked it out. We walked around the area and saw what was going on
“It [was] totally different once you were there. Just chaos. Just couldn’t fathom what happened.”
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.