Lots of Westchester natives take jobs in the city, but Kevin Shattenkirk is the only one to work — or rather play — for his local NHL affiliate, the NY Rangers. Shattenkirk, who turns 29 this month, grew up in New Rochelle and became a diehard Rangers fan when they won the Stanley Cup in ’94. As a free agent, he signed a contract for less money than he’d have gotten from another team in order to fulfill his dream of playing for the Broadway Blueshirts. We asked “Shatty” about his journey from Rye Playland to Madison Square Garden.
How did you get into hockey, and where did you play in Westchester?
I got into hockey after my two older brothers picked it up. I found myself at the rink a lot as a kid. I started playing for the New Rochelle Lightning, and we played at Playland, where the Rangers practiced at the time.
You were 5 when the Rangers won the Cup. What do you remember about it?
I don’t remember it too vividly. What I do remember is the excitement around the whole thing. I knew how big it was for them to have won it. I don’t think I understood at the time the magnitude of how long it had been since they won a Cup. The way it affected me most was how much I followed hockey after that.
Have any New York-born players given you advice on how to be a hometown hockey player?
I talked to Brian Leetch and Chris Drury a little bit; they are both from the Northeast. The main thing they said was when you win here, it’s the best place to play. The fans will love you if you can bring a winning culture here.
Why should a Rangers fan be excited that Kevin Shattenkirk signed with the team?
I think the things this team needed to improve on from last year are kind of the intangibles I bring: an offensive defenseman, a power-play guy. I’m hoping I can fill in and be a top-end guy to play with Ryan McDonagh or whoever. Most important, I think it’s just adding to what already is a really great team, a team that has a chance of winning.
When you went to the Garden, did you sit in the blue seats?
I believe there was one game I sat up in the blue seats. It was crazy up there. You’re sitting up so high and seeing everything unfolding right in front of you. It was pretty cool.
When you got older, where did you go in Westchester to watch Rangers games?
In my teens in high school, most weekends I was gone playing hockey. When I was around, most of my buddies in Greenwich when I went to the Brunswick school, we watched games at their houses whenever we had some free time to watch. For the most part, it was watching them on tv wherever and whenever we could.
How many “friends” have come out of the woodwork to hit you up for tickets?
Not too many so far. Ask me in six months. But I think at this point, I have a tight circle. Most of them can get tickets on their own, so it’s mostly just them telling me they are going to be at the game.