Dreams Come True at Madison Square Garden

Heartwarming, tear-jerking, or inspiring. Whichever way you slice it, Monday night was a very special one at Madison Square Garden, and not because of what the Rangers did on the ice, but because it was the Rangers Garden of Dreams Night.

While there was indeed a game played between the Rangers and the Penguins, one in which the Rangers defeated Pittsburgh 4-3 in dramatic fashion off of a Kevin Klein overtime goal, it was the events off the ice, courtesy of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, which really stole the show.

The affair, which was actually the finale in what has been a weeklong shebang put on by the Garden of Dreams Foundation, gave many children the opportunities to experience and create once-in-a-lifetime memories.

One such young man who had his dream fulfilled during the past week, which culminated today, was 15-year-old Chris Falzone.

Falzone, a lifelong diehard Rangers fan and hockey player since age seven, was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of his freshman year of high school. The doctors told him he would never play hockey again. But after undergoing treatment which consisted of chemotherapy and being placed in a semi-body cast (which of course was Ranger Blue), he began the road to recovery through physical therapy.

After four months of hard work in July of 2014, the day that Chris had fought towards had come at last. He was finally cleared to begin skating and playing hockey again.

In the months since, Chris has rejoined his travel hockey team, and over the past week thanks to the Garden of Dreams, he had the opportunity of a lifetime; a tryout with the New York Rangers.

Last Thursday, Falzone practiced with the team at their Westchester facility. After he skated with the Rangers, where he impressed by going “bar-down” on Henrik Lundqvist during his tryout, Adam Graves, Glen Sather, and Jeff Gorton decided it would be a good idea to sign him to the team.

And what a great sight that was.

On Monday, December 8, 2014, in a ceremony held at Madison Square Garden while standing alongside his family, Joe Micheletti, and Adam Graves, Chris Falzone signed a one-day honorary contract with the New York Rangers.

Later in the day, Falzone also had the opportunity to come through the Rangers tunnel to watch pre-game warm-ups from the Rangers bench, stand on the ice – in uniform – with the Blueshirts during the National Anthem as a member of the team, and join Sam and Joe in the broadcast booth during the second period of the game. The Rangers even gave him his own player page on Blueshirtsunited.com.

Talk about a dream come true for a brave young man.

And as if that wasn’t touching enough, there was even more. 15-year-old Lucia Funaro, who has endured heart failure and a rare form of cancer, also had her dream fulfilled Monday, as she performed a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, while 10-year-old Elijah Blades, whose acute lymphoblastic leukemia is in remission, headed out to center-ice alongside his twin brother Nathaniel for the Ceremonial Puck Drop prior to the game.

Monday was one of those nights where the circumstances off the ice trumped the game on the ice. While the overtime win was undoubtedly sweet, there were so many kids who have overcome great obstacles in their lives – whether or not they were talked about on the air or in the news – who had dreams fulfilled on Monday thanks to the Garden of Dreams Foundation. If you ask me, that was really the greatest victory of all.

Oh, and after the game, Falzone was even awarded the famed “Broadway Hat,” which is given out following every win to the team’s MVP as determined by the previous bearer. Tonight, the hat went to the all-deserving Falzone.