I have been a New York Rangers fan my entire life. When I heard that the team was coming to Lake Placid, in early-October, for a pre-season practice, I could hardly contain my excitement. So I did what everyone does today, go to Facebook to figure out how I could see the team. I had no idea that this would lead my family and me to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the Rangers and some of my all-time favorite hockey players.

Standing in the hallway of the Lake Placid Olympic Center, I wondered what was going through my twin boys’ heads as we greeted some of my heroes as they made their way to their locker room. To their surprise, some even invited them to kick around a soccer ball as they warmed up for practice.

Kid kicking ball with adult at an arena


As the players to include Chris Kreider, Rich Nash, Marc Staal and Jimmy Vesey, took to the ice, we exchanged more handshakes, high fives and even a few first bumps; it was hard to contain our excitement.

More than 500 Rangers’ fans packed the Olympic Center’s USA Rink, but few were as close to the action as we were, right on center with only the Plexiglas separating us. Growing up, I’ve watched the team play countless times on television and on several occasions at Madison Square Garden, but it’s entirely different when you’re this close to the power and speed of each player.

Young boy wearing rangers uniform, photo in black and white


It didn’t take long for me to realize that this experience was meaning more to me than to my sons. Yet, I’ll bet someday they’ll look back on this and fondly recall the entire day from excitement of waking up in the morning, and putting on our Rangers’ jerseys, to the surprise of JT Miller handing us his stick at the end of practice.

Few things transcend the relationship between father and son than sport. As a young boy, I remember fall Sundays in which my three brothers and I would argue with our father as to whether we could watch the football game over his desire to watch NASCAR racing. It goes without saying that dad usually prevailed.

I reflect upon the countless hours he would spend in the yard as our “all time pitcher” in wiffle ball. I think about the Saturdays at the ballpark, him standing behind home plate of three little league baseball fields watching us play in three separate games. He never was a great communicator, yet when we were playing sports, he didn’t need to be.

Like my dad before me, I’m now the father of three boys and I’m the “all time” pitcher for my sons’ wiffle ball games. I often have the youngest, the one year-old, tucked into my left arm while pitching to my eight year-old twins, pursuing base hits around the yard as they round the bases. Truth is, I don’t mind. I know I’ll most likely be chasing down the next pitch too.

Family in hockey jerseys watching hockey game at rink


I think it’s the determination I see in their young faces when they swing the bat, or the smile on their faces when they score a goal in hockey. But mostly I have the greatest enjoyment helping them get better at the sports I love.

Every fall, the boys and I build an ice hockey rink in the front yard. I’ve shoveled that rink far more times than they have skated on it, but I’m really not keeping score. I know that there is at least one to two more memories to be made each winter from that rink. I also look forward to someday watching them play competitive hockey alongside their friends, honing their skills, working on the intangibles of life such as effort, desire and teamwork. That’s when I’ll know that what I have done for them was all worth it.

I never considered my father to be a gifted athlete and I doubt my boys see me as one either. They believe they can outrun me … that’s until I outrun them after catching the football. I don’t want to let them win all the time; I don’t believe it teaches them about everyday life.

They don’t seem to mind and what I hope they see is a father who cares and wants to help them excel by working on their game. Like my father, I hope to teach them how to be a good sport and win or lose with grace.

Male toddler wearing rangers shirt with a guest pass in black and white

Man shaking child's hand at Ranger's game

Boy in rangers gear talking to an older man

Close up of boy in Ranger's hat at ice rink

Boy in hockey jersey knocking on glass surrounding ice rink

Close up of the back of boy's hockey jersey which says "NASH"

Shot of boy getting autograph from Ranger's hockey player

Two young boys and a baby posing with Ranger's hockey players


Matt Theis was born in South Glens Falls NY and has been a lifelong New York Ranger fan along with his three brothers Chris, Kurt and Adam. He is married to Stephanie and has three children who live in Lake Clear, NY. Twins Brandon and Ryan and a one year-old named Oliver. Matt’s favorite hockey player was Adam Graves who played for both the Rangers and the Adirondack Red Wings who were based in Glens Falls while Matt was a young boy.