Hockey is in Nelson and Benjamin Tirado’s blood. Their father, Nelson Tirado Sr., loved the New York Rangers and the San Jose Sharks. He played in a men’s league at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The boys started playing ice hockey at a young age.
After they lost their father last year, Therapeutic Support Center teacher Mario Suarez and other Pocantico Hills School staff members wanted to do something special for the family.
Mr. Suarez contacted the Garden of Dreams Foundation, which works with Madison Square Garden and MSG Networks. The organization granted his wish.
In January, Stephanie Tirado, the boys’ mother, received a phone call inviting the family to watch a practice at the Rangers’ facility in Tarrytown. They had a chance to say hello to a few players and were showered with Rangers T-shirts, backpacks, socks, and other fan gear.
A few weeks later, the Rangers invited the Tirados to a game at Madison Square Garden. The team gave them a suite for the Feb. 22 game, which was against the San Jose Sharks, and the Tirados invited friends and family.
Nelson, a fourth-grader who goes by “N.J.,” was a “bench buddy.” He fist-bumped all the players as they skated onto the ice and stayed on the bench throughout warm-ups.
RIDING THE ZAMBONI
“It was amazing,” said Nelson, who carries a black hockey puck from the Rangers’ Tarrytown practice in his pocket. “It was the funnest thing I’ve ever done.”
Benjamin, a second-grader, rode on the back of a Zamboni between periods and waved to fans. “I was pretty nervous that first one I was on, but then when I was on the ice, I’m like, ‘OK, stop being nervous, Ben. This is awesome.’”