Rangers' Brad Richards leads Staten Island benefit clinic

Brad Richards skates with children during a charity

Brad Richards skates with children during a charity event held at the Staten Island Skating Pavilion to benefit victims of superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 16, 2012) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

In a single file led by Brad Richards, 11 Rangers in knit hats, sweatsuits and skates walked out of a small dressing room in the Staten Island Skating Pavilion on Arthur Kill Road Friday -- not far from the destruction caused by superstorm Sandy -- and heard something they hadn't experienced since the NHL lockout began: Cheers.

About 300 people, including more than 100 youngsters of all shapes and sizes, applauded the arrival of the Blueshirts to this well-used rink, where Richards organized an afternoon charity clinic for the victims of the disaster. The event raised an estimated $10,000 for the Cardinal Egan Fund.

After each of the two 45-minute skates, thrilled kids as young as age 6 swarmed players such as Brian Boyle and Jeff Halpern for autographs on their hockey gear and left smiling.

"Staten Island is a Ranger town and it certainly was hit hard," said John Lopresti, who helps administer the hockey program of St. Joseph by the Sea High School. "We tried to get some kids who were impacted by the storm in the group. It's a chance for the school to help in the relief effort. When this was first announced, we received 750 emails. We couldn't handle them all."

Richards, a Prince Edward Island native who arrived in New York from Dallas as a free agent a year ago, has been at the forefront of fund-raising efforts. He helped workers in Breezy Point and was off to Bay Ridge as a celebrity bartender Friday night.

"We know what's gone on, we're trying to do different things in different areas," he said. "Hopefully it does something for the community and the kids. We're in a position to do something; guys do a lot of this stuff but it goes unnoticed. We just want to be part of the community."

Marian Gaborik, who reported that his shoulder was feeling much stronger after labrum surgery in June and who recently has been skating several days a week, was happy to pitch in. "You see people who've lost their homes and you try to help any way you can," he said.

Henrik Lundqvist, Boyle, Halpern and Steve Eminger are among those who will play in "Operation Hat Trick," a charity game in Atlantic City next Saturday that was organized by Flyers forward Scott Hartnell. Richards will captain one team. About a third of the tickets, which are available through Ticketmaster, were sold Friday, an event representative said.

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