It was the X-mas of 91-92 I was 12 years old and already bleeding Red,White,and Blue. Having started watching Ranger games with the names of Kisio,Mallette,Turcotte,Beezer,Jonnie "O",and Mullen in the mix. There was Domi and "Knuckles" Nylan fading out his career,while a fresh kid from team USA named Mike Richter was knocking on the door of greatness. In 89-90 Neil Smith would send Ulf Dahleen to Minnesota for one of the fastest snipers ever to lace his skates at the Garden, # 22 would be on the back of the rocket named Mike Gartner. I was amazed with this guy from his first slap shot off the wing with his Mac-1 speed. In the spring the Rangers would play the Islanders in a classic first round war,Gartner murdered Glen Healy with a blast in what would be the deciding game of the playoffs. The speed and the shot was so quick that Glen was still kicking out his left leg and trying to get set as the puck was already sailing down 33 St. HAT TRICK!
My cousin lived in NJ and was about 10 years older then me. He and his father had passed along the torch of Ranger hood to me early as I would spend holidays watching my future obsession,hockey. Sooner or later I would discover the MSG channel on my own home on Long Island. As time would progress, I needed a uniform of my own. A banner to wear in the halls of school where the post Islanders Dynasty still ran strong.My cousin from NJ had asked our uncle for a Barry Beck jersey when he was growing up and he would receive # 5 BECK as his baptism in blue. As the holiday season approached, I knew what I had wanted all along.I would ask for a pro CCM Mike Gartner Jersey ( my Red Rider BB gun). It was my turn to be welcomed into the brotherhood,however the over $ 200 price tag was a lot more than Beck had cost my uncle years before. I pleaded with my family that the jersey would be a fine gift from everyone if money was an issue. As the deadline to X-mas would loom ,my mother and aunt would confide in me that the jersey was just too much money and that my family couldn't pull it off. I had come to the realization that it was ok, X-mas would still go on without # 22.
On X-mas day we would share gifts, and as I received one from my aunt and uncle I was handed a Check ( which was fake ) and a sweatshirt. I was content and happy with the Rangers hoodie and the Sega games,but a few hours later it would happen. As I ate Macaroni and meatballs and watched the Knicks and Bulls hammer out another classic I would hear my name being called from upstairs. Having to leave the game and the basement party I must have said a few choice words under my breath. Finally I was asked,"We think you may have missed something." Clueless ,I looked behind a chair and there it was! I ran over to the box like Ralphie in his bunny pajamas and began to tare it open. Taking it out of the box I couldn't get over the weight of it,it was the real deal. Unlike the replica I had been wearing with its war wounds ,this was it # 22 Gartner. Fight Strap, Stanley Cup Anniversary Patch,"A" on the chest,and maybe the real badge of honor for any Ranger fan GERRY COSBY on the inside. I wore it for the rest of the day and would finally retire it a year or two ago,only to have it framed. But, from time to time I throw it on for big games and get stopped getting a beer. "Mickey Gartner!" Now that's nice, or the occasional back turn and point to the " 22 "on a proud fans back in the Garts club.
You must be wondering why I'm writing about a X-mas story in Mid May. I just wanted to thank My Uncle for giving me the best X-mas gift ever. He's been in the hospital and I've learned that life's to short to go on with out thank yous and regrets. I wanted to thank him for the movies on Saturdays and the good ones at that ( Lethal Weapon Etc). I wanted to thank him for the stories that for all intent of purposes will stay out of this article. I wanted to thank him for my Yankee introduction and days of yesteryear. But most of all thanks for being an uncle and giving me the best X-mas Gift ,my uniform. Get well soon!