Brian O’Gara is going to have to make a little room near his Islanders gear, just enough for a Rangers jersey. Not that he minds. Not when his son’s name and number is written across the back.
Rob O’Gara, the Massapequa native who grew up in Nesconset and attended Smithtown East High School, was traded to the Rangers Tuesday along with a third-round pick in the upcoming draft in exchange for Nick Holden, the team announced. O’Gara, 24, was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2011, but the defenseman decided to play four years at Yale before signing a two-year entry-level contract with the Bruins in March 2016.
Soon after the news was announced, “my phone blew up,” Brian O’Gara said, laughing. “Everyone was so excited, and ready to rip me for my longtime love of the Islanders . . . I’ll be the first one to admit that [a Rangers jersey] is not what I envisioned putting over my head, but I’ll happily don the Rangers’ blue.”
His son attended Smithtown East but then transferred to Milton Academy, a prep school near Boston known for its hockey program. The most decorated defenseman in Yale history, O’Gara helped his Bulldogs win the national championship his freshman year.
He’s appeared in eight games with the Boston Bruins this season but has spent the bulk of his time with their Providence American Hockey League affiliate, scoring two goals with six assists in 43 games. The Rangers, in last place in the Metropolitan Division and all but out of the playoff hunt, could potentially give him a greater opportunity to play.
“I’m just happy he has that opportunity — that was first and foremost in my mind,” Brian said. “He had only known the Boston Bruins and they were wonderful to him, [current general manager] Don Sweeney, especially . . . Certainly, he would’ve liked to see that work out but he understood what the circumstances were and he felt the same way about an opportunity to play in the NHL.”
And if O’Gara does get his chance to play at Madison Square Garden, he can expect quite the personal rooting section. His local friends are a pretty even split of Rangers and Islanders fans, Brian said, but they’re all O’Gara fans.
“Just being able to jump on the train and go to the Garden will be incredible,” Brian said. “Growing up a die-hard Islander fan and realizing this wonderful opportunity is coming from the Rangers, I’d be more than happy to switch and root for blue.”