Mats Zuccarello on the significance of tonight and how much he means to Rangers fans

Listening to Mats Zuccarello speak above makes me want to hug him. He is one of the easiest guys to root for. A prideful player with a giant size heart, the pint sized Norwegian expressed his thoughts on tonight’s final home game.

If you are a fan of the Rangers, this is the one guy who gives you everything. Zuccarello has one year remaining on his contract which means he might not be here for very long given the direction the organization is taking. But if he stays, he has to be considered a favorite for the captaincy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Every True Blueshirt knows tonight will be emotional. With former players Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller visiting along with Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and the rest of the Tampa Bay Blueshirts Lightning, it will be emotional. On a day the club will honor the Ranger who goes above and beyond the call of duty in recognition of former NYPD officer Steven McDonald, it’s sure to give fans, players and coaches chills. His son Conor will do the honors for the second consecutive year since his amazing Dad passed. There won’t be a dry eye.

No matter what happens with Zuccarello, he will always remain beloved by the diehards who chant “Zucc,” in tribute to the effort he puts out daily. Even if it has been a down year, he likely will lead them in team scoring for a third straight season.

Hearing and seeing the passion on his face in the locker room is why he’s so well respected. We love the underdog. You get it with the cerebral number 36 who has never backed down from anyone. He’s a miracle having made a full recovery from that McDonagh shot that ended his playoffs a few years ago. It’s amazing he returned to form after sustaining a fractured skull and brain contusion in Game 5 of the 2015 first round versus the Penguins. He temporarily lost his ability to talk and had to relearn from a speech therapist.

Zucc is inspiring to so many. He is a three time Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner. Though he likely won’t win it later, he embodies what it means to be a New York Ranger. If you go to the game tonight, please make sure to cheer and salute Zuccarello extra hard during his shifts. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back. He deserves it. Let him know how we feel.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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