Washington, D.C. -- Following their epic triple-overtime win on Wednesday – one that left behind bumps, bruises and blood-stained jerseys – the Rangers got a glimpse of what true sacrifice means.
Given the day off after their Game 3 victory against the Capitals, a handful of players and team staffers took a trip to the Arlington National Cemetery. The visit left a big impression.
“It was quite a scene,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who logged a team-leading 53:17 in the 2-1 win. “You talk about war and the battle it was and then you go out and see something like that, it really hits home for you.”
The group spoke with a few guards that worked at the national monument and toured the grounds. Afterward, they left with a fresh perspective on their 114:41-minute game from the night before. "Battle" no longer seemed an appropriate term in characterizing the game.
“This is what we put our heart and soul into with everything we have, and it means a lot to us, but it does put things in perspective," said center Brian Boyle. "To see all those gravestones as far as you can see, all the lives laid down for us being able to do what we’re doing right now…”
Boyle said the rows of gravestones that represent the final resting place for more than 14,000 veterans left the players speechless. It was a moment to reflect about all the qualities they want to embody as a team -- respect, honor, commitment.
“Not a lot of words said while we were at the cemetery,” Boyle continued. “Just kind of taking it all in. I don’t even really know what to say. It was impressive, for sure.”
Coach John Tortorella wanted his team to take a day off to soak in the accomplishment and get away from hockey. That they used it in this way struck a note with him, too. The tight-lipped coach has been effusive in his praise for U.S. servicemen in the past, whether it's acknowledging their work with heartfelt applause from the bench during a pre-game ceremony, or reaching out to a member of the armed forces on his own. He said that his respect for that call of work has even prompted him to adjust his vernacular in addressing the team.
“I don’t even like comparing what we do. We shouldn’t compare what we do towards that. I’ve even tried to change my language in the locker room, because I think it’s wrong,” Tortorella said.
“I don’t like talking about much outside of the game, but that’s something that’s a whole different realm," he said. "They cast a shadow over us, what we do.”