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Just four days from now, the New York Rangers are scheduled to play Carolina. Four days from now is also my father's 103rd (in heaven) birthday. What do these two seemingly unrelated things have to do with each other? Read on.

Remember the first time your father took you to a sporting event? Maybe it was a baseball game (mine was at the old Yankee Stadium, Yanks versus the Washington Senators) and you were amazed at how vibrant the colors were, how green and alive the field was. Well, my first major event (I was six) predated that Yankees game. The Rangers were hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was at the old Garden, on 50th and 8th, just past Jack Dempsey's (yes, the former boxing great had a restaurant). And the color that amazed me wasn't the green, but the white of the ice and the iconic red, white and blue uniforms of the aptly nicknamed "Blueshirts". Not just the colors, but everything was so...alive! The atmosphere was cooler (not as in hip, but really, it's actually colder when a huge floor is filled with ice).

My memories are still so vivid, all these years later. I wondered at the players risking injury, especially the goalies, not wearing masks. I also was amazed at the change in atmosphere, as by the end of the evening fog seemingly filled the entire building, courtesy of 18,000 or so smokers. Enough "fog" that I wondered if the players had trouble seeing the ice. Presumably the Toronto players did--they lost 7-4.

Even among the sedate Garden faithful (my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek--this was New York--there's nothing sedate about us, then or now), as a youngster it was wondrous, walking up the stairs beneath all these people looking like giants. Ordinarily I'd have been intimidated, but wasn't, because I was with Dad, who seemed to combined the strength of Samson with the wisdom of Solomon. Moreover, Dad worked, incredibly hard, and to enjoy this time with him was and still is the most lasting impression. To be holding Dad's hand as we made our way to and from the Garden was one of many memories in a lifetime of them. Roughhousing in the playroom, playing catch in the backyard, skating on the creek down the street from our house, vacations (when there was no work and we had him all to ourselves)--all these come back to me, and are what I hope I learned about being a good parent and tried to likewise do justice to my own children.

Isn't that what the most precious gift we can give our children is? The gift of ourselves. It sends a message that resonates through the decades, and is remembered, indeed cherished, even in the most inconsequential of moments. Puck drop this Saturday is at 7pm.


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