CHATHAM, NJ – One way to get a professional ice hockey player prepped for the upcoming season is to show up in the middle of the summer and let him how much he’s adored.

Ryan Callahan, captain of the New York Rangers, received that kind of welcome on Wednesday night, July 24, when scores of Rangers fans descended on Legends Gallery to meet their sports hero.

“You see how passionate these fans are and it makes you want to start up right away,” Callahan said. “It’s a pleasure playing in front of them.”

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More than 300 people purchased tickets at Legends Gallery for the right to meet Callahan, get his autograph and a photo taken with him. The session was non-stop for the right winger, who signed a pair of his own game-used skates and game-used hockey sticks, along with other memorabilia, and then made sure he gave a big smile for every photo.

Two young boys turned and gave Callahan a big hug after their photo session. It was that kind of love-fest for “Captain Cally.” If possible, Callahan only gained more fans with the personable way he treated everyone at Legends Gallery.  

When asked if it was harder to defend a 5-on-3 man-down situation or smile so many times on cue, Callahan laughed and said: “I’m probably more comfortable with the 5-on-3. It’s good to see everybody come out to see me.”

Randy Dembo, co-owner of Legends Gallery, compared the crowd to his biggest signing events, featuring Giants football players Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, who appeared separately.

“It’s one of our biggest crowds,” Dembo said. “You don’t expect this kind of crowd for hockey because it’s in the middle of the summer. Chatham is a big hockey town, but they came from all over.”

An added attraction was local artist Mark Kannell, who sat in the window of Legends Gallery and put the finishing touches on his portrait of Callahan in action. Callahan signed the painting that Kannell is offering to sell for $600.

Legends Galley can expect another mass of people to show up at its Passaic Avenue store in Chatham on Oct. 12 when three National Football Hall of Fame inductees will appear at the same time. The “Hall of Fame” show will include Giant linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, along with coach Bill Parcells.