When they entered the arena, yes, they were rooting for the Rangers, but their attention was on one player in particular. The group made the trek from different locations: Long Island, the outer boroughs, and New Rochelle, N.Y., a 45-minute drive to the city — well, of course, without rush hour traffic, though that was a risk they were unwilling to take.
“Took the train; the easy way,” Barbara Shattenkirk said. “I know better than to drive into New York at six-o’clock at night.”
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They were here to see their son, sibling, fiancé, or friend, depending on whom you asked. All were there to watch Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers’ prized free-agent signing this summer, who accepted an offer to play at home while leaving money on the table from other teams. He made his Rangers and home debut Thursday, recording an assist in a 3-2 loss to the Avalanche.
“The result still kind of stings,” Kevin said after the game. “When I look back on it a long time from now it will obviously be a great moment for me. It still was a special night in my career, but right now I’m just a little upset from the result, and some plays out there I felt like I could have had a better affect on the game and helped our team out a little more.”
Despite the result, @shattdeuces said his #NYR debut was “still a special night in my career.” pic.twitter.com/7o7TSw2f4m
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) October 6, 2017
Kevin grew up in New Rochelle, a stone’s throw from MSG. It’s where his love affair with the Rangers began, idolizing Brian Leetch, wearing his No. 2 while playing for the New Rochelle Lightning around age 7.
There weren’t many trips to Madison Square Garden, though. Between Kevin and brothers Eric and Keith, his mother Barbara and father Pat were constantly chaperoning the children to this field or that rink.
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“If you have kids who play hockey, you don’t have a lot of free time to do a lot of other things than driving them where they need to be,” said Barbara, immersed in the Shatten-clan on the Chase Bridge at Madison Square Garden during her son’s home debut. “Three kids and two parents, we were kind of heading in a lot of different directions. I wish we could have been at events more, but we just kind of had to watch from home.”
But they did watch, and they were (and now are, more than ever) Rangers fans. And when Kevin became an unrestricted free agent this summer, and chose to come back to New York, well, of course his mother was happy.
“It’s so awesome,” she said, having followed Kevin six-plus years with the Blues and a cup of coffee with the Capitals. “And St. Louis is an easier trip, but you have to plan it. And for me, when I would go to St. Louis I would kind of like to go when he didn’t have a game because then I’d get to spend time with him. I can always watch him play hockey on the TV. But to be able to see him in his down time, that’s what New York will allow us.”
Now Kevin can pop in for a home-cooked meal, attend a family gathering, or celebrate a holiday. And there will be plenty more trips to MSG.
Last week, Barbara and Pat came to the Rangers-Flyers preseason game at Madison Square Garden. As much as those exhibition games are tune-ups for players, Kevin’s parents also wanted to get in some reps before the start of the regular season.
“Just to figure the whole thing out,” Barbara said. “We didn’t want this to just be the first night, so we kind of got the lay of the land last week so we could come tonight and have a good time.”
The T-shirts were a collaborative effort. They were printed for the some-120 people — friends, family, and newly-discovered cousins — who Eric and cousin James Tallarico also got tickets for to come see Kevin in his Rangers debut. The front had Kevin’s jersey number, while the back had his Twitter handle, “Shattdeuces,” and three other words, “Born And Bred.”
A T-shirt assist also went to Kevin’s best friend, Predators forward Nick Bonino.
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“Kevin and my son Eric, and Nick, and Cam Fowler do golf trips,” Barbara said. “Eric for some reason was in touch with Nick; Nick put him in touch with a T-shirt guy. Nick Bonino actually helped us get these T-shirts.”