Hartnett: Ryan McDonagh Is A Hero, And It Has Nothing To Do With Hockey

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presents the Presidents' Trophy to Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers prior to the game against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden on April 9, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Sean Hartnett

As captain of the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh wears a stitched “C” just above his heart. Long before he was named team captain in October 2014, McDonagh showed just how big his heart is by playing a hands-on role in the mentorship of Gino Mangiafridda, a former Pelham High School hockey player who was left wheelchair-bound following a 2012 motorcycle accident.

While returning home from his father’s Upper East Side restaurant on June 19, 2012, Mangiafridda was involved in a three-car accident that sent him 100 feet from his bike. Mangiafridda was left paralyzed and was living on a ventilator after shattering his C-5, C-6 and C-7 vertebrae. His coma lasted three months.Doctors had advised the family to pull the plug as brain activity did not resume initially.

Wisely, the family refused to pull the plug. Mangiafridda, a passionate Rangers fan, has made remarkable progress in the years that have followed. McDonagh has been by his side, offering encouragement every step of the way. Mangiafridda is now able to stand with the help of equipment.

His progress has improved to the point that he’s been sending McDonagh texts after games, even adding a bit of on-ice advice.

“It’s incredible,” McDonagh said. “The second time I saw him after a game, he was in a new chair, utilizing his arm to control his movements in the chair. I think it was a couple weeks later, he was able to text me. It opened up a whole new world for us in communication. He’s giving me tips on stuff he’s seeing.”

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