NEW YORK — Customers who were waiting to board their noon flight from New York’s JFK airport to Los Angeles on Monday received a surprise in the form of a trio of sports superstars playing air hockey at their gate.
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, repping the Los Angeles Kings, and future baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, donning a New York Rangers jersey, played one another, with Mark Messier officiating in a celebration of Delta’s partnership with the two Stanley Cup finalists.
Unlike the Rangers, Rivera built up and was able to hold a 2-0 lead against Abdul-Jabbar with Delta then donating $5,000 to charity on behalf of the Eastern Conference champions.
Since leaving his position with the Rangers in his role as special assistant to general manager Glen Sather last June, Messier has given his name and support to a project in the Bronx to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a massive nine-rink, $320 million faciity scheduled to open in summer 2017.
“We’re so excited to do something that transformative in the city of New York and to really offer ice sports in a way that’s never been offered in the world’s greatest city,” Messier said. “I think it’s been far too long and we’re excited to get it going.”
Hours before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Madison Square Garden, Messier still had hope that the Rangers can comeback on the Kings, especially after the way they played in the opening two games.
“Just concentrate on what you’ve done all year long,” he said. “They’ve been successful. There’s a reason why they’re in the Stanley Cup Final because they’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of leadership. They’ve got great goaltending and they’ve done what it takes to get here. I don’t think you need to change a lot and they should be encouraged by the way they’ve played the first two games.”
Considering they’re two wins away from a second Cup in three seasons, Messier isn’t surprised that the Kings have played themselves into this position while mounting numerous comebacks.
“It’s not easy to win,” he said. “Because of it you’ve got to have a lot of resiliency and you’ve got to have a big commitment to get off the floor when you’re down. Both teams have shown an ability to do that in these playoffs.”
Messier spent four years working for the Rangers and earlier this season joined the Edmonton Oilers as an advisor. Asked about getting back in NHL full-time, the former Rangers captain wasn’t focusing on that.
“Right now, I’m committed to this project in the Bronx. It’s going to take a Herculean effort to get it done. It’s going to take a lot of people to do it.
“And so I’ve committed to that project right now and once we’re open and running there we’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it.”
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