Lundqvist wins the Steven McDonald Award


On what was a very emotional scene before the Rangers hosted the Lightning at MSG, the son of Steven McDonald came out with Mom Patti to present his father’s prestigious award that commemorated the 30 Year Anniversary.

Conor McDonald’s speech lasted about five minutes. He sure was terrific letting Garden Faithful know how much the award meant to his Dad. It kept him going and he lasted much longer than doctors ever anticipated. A former NYPD detective who was shot in the line of duty becoming a quadriplegic, he loved the Rangers so much that his speeches were legendary. Conor made him proud up in heaven. The positive message sent definitely resonated with fans who cheered loudly during the presentation.

Before presenting the award to this year’s winner Henrik Lundqvist, Conor made sure to thank ex-Rangers Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller for giving his Dad some memorable times the past few seasons. They were a huge part of those teams that went as far as they could. It’s funny to see that trio wearing Lightning jerseys since it was that team with Ryan Callahan and Anton Stralman that ended their run as one of the NHL’s elite teams.

When Lundqvist was officially announced, the King got a huge ovation from appreciative fans who know how much he’s meant to the franchise. I think Conor put it best when he said, “He’s given his entire heart to the franchise for 13 years.”

A fitting tribute for a passionate man who bleeds blue forever and ever. Even though he didn’t start, that was okay. While some made a big deal out of it, it isn’t. Lundqvist was played so much when the team was still in it. He got more starts than anyone envisioned which is why Rangers braintrust made the wise decision to rebuild. That way the all-time winningest goalie in franchise history who also owns the team mark for shutouts and minutes played could finally rest.

They’ve gotten good play out of rookie Alexandar Georgiev and backup Ondrej Pavelec, who is in goal for tonight’s game and has so far been sharp. Besides, it’s more important for the proud 36-year old Lundqvist to rest and prepare for next season. I get the sentimentality to this man. He loves being a Ranger as much as anyone. Most likely, he’ll be a Ranger his entire career. A rarity.

I think the thing that I wondered about was how would MSG handle the returns of Girardi, McDonagh and Miller. Would they wait to do each during stoppages? We got our answer following the unbelievable Steven McDonald Award ceremony.

Rather than wait, the Rangers organization outdid themselves by doing it before the start of the game. They paid tribute to each player by showing highlights of their memorable Rangers careers. The video certainly measured up with Girardi shown scoring his first goal while laying out for big blocks and delivering huge hits including the one that broke Andrew Shaw, who unfortunately might retire due to all the punishment. There was the 27th captain in club history scoring big goals with none bigger than McDonagh’s clutch overtime winner in Game 5 of a heartwarming 3-1 second round comeback over the Capitals in 2015. I can still remember the jubilation in our seats. They showed some of Miller’s best goals. He really is a talented player who so far is a good fit for Tampa. Good luck to him and all three.

To be honest, seeing that tribute before puck drop was too much for me. My hands started shaking. It really affected me. I know many of us are at a crossroads with how season ticket holders are being treated with even some of my favorites on Twitter giving their seats up. If we sat lower than the second to last row in Section 419, I know we would’ve given them up. The price increase for most STH’s is too much. Even with the team missing the postseason, they’re not giving back anything.

But when it comes to how the organization handles these special moments like tonight, nobody does it better than the Rangers and the Garden. It was 100 percent first class. It’s definitely one I’ll remember for a long time.

Congratulations to Lundqvist. Even if I didn’t vote for you and went for Kevin Hayes, I know what you mean to this team. No big runs or amazing playoff streak without number 30. A all-timer.

Kudos to everyone for such a wonderful job. My heart goes out to the McDonald family. They are awesome people with gigantic hearts. Stick tap. 🏒💜

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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