There is the Bruce and Tammy Fox from Jericho, L.I., via Queens, who had those Rangers’ season tickets from 1972-2009, first row right above the old Budweiser sign in Section 55 (or Section 1, depending on the year).
Then there is the Bruce and Tammy Fox, father and mother to Adam Fox, the kid who unpredictably made it off Long Island and to the U.S. Developmental Program in Michigan before getting into Harvard, getting drafted by the Flames in the third round, getting his rights traded to the Hurricanes, and eventually getting traded to his hometown Rangers.
Now that Adam has signed with the Rangers and has his name penciled in to the opening-day lineup, the parents find themselves in a strange juxtaposition. To be a fan and to be a parent of a player in professional sports are two very different things, and not the easiest to reconcile.
“You want to know the truth?” Bruce said over the phone this week, his passion coming through as clearly as his emails did to writers covering the team over the past decade. “I just want him to go where there is an opportunity for him to play. I think any father in my spot would want that. That’s the most important thing.”
Adam Fox, 21, is a slick-skating, cerebral defenseman, a righty-shot who plays a two-way game. Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton traded a second-round pick and a conditional third-round pick for his rights in April, when it was clear he wasn’t a good fit in Carolina because the Hurricanes are loaded with young defensemen. And now the opportunity abounds for Fox, with the right side of the Blueshirts’ blueline even more open after the club bought out the final two years of Kevin Shattenkirk’s deal.
“There has to be a fit. It takes two to tango,” Bruce said. “I don’t think he put a gun to anybody’s head. I think sometimes it’s just not the right fit. And a team wants you, and it just all works out.”
Bruce has many first-person stories about watching the Rangers — from the 1970 playoffs against the Bruins, to traveling to Philadelphia to see them lose to the Flyers in Game 7 in 1974, to sitting in his seats at the Garden when Valeri Zelepukin scored for the Devils with 7.7 seconds left in 1994, then later that spring in those seats when the Rangers finally won the Cup.
Adam was born four years later, and Bruce knew the path he wanted his son to take.
“I always knew if I had boys, they were going to be hockey players. If I had girls, they were going to be golfers,” Bruce said. “Don’t ask me why, but those are my two passions — golf and hockey.”
Adam started skating as a 2-year-old and almost immediately began to catch people’s attention.
“He was like 3 years old in the IceWorks rink up in Syosset, and he was in a learn-to-skate class,” said Mike Bracco, who ended up being Adam’s coach over the next decade. “I was watching him skate in a long Rangers jersey past his knees — which is really ironic — and right away. I was like, ‘Who is this kid? Where is this kid coming from? What’s he about?’ Just from the way he skated.”
Bracco always kept Adam playing a year up throughout youth hockey, and he always showed he belonged.
“Other kids would get in trouble, and he just made it look easy,” said Bracco, who also coached teams with current pros Charlie McAvoy and his own son, Jeremy Bracco. “Even with teams I had with great players, Adam never made a mistake. I coached him probably for 10 years, 12 years, I’ve never seen him turn the puck over. It’s amazing. He has that gift, that brain.”
Now that gift has come to Broadway, a stage Bracco thinks Adam will embrace. And parents Bruce and Tammy have to figure out what they want to do about tickets. Surely they will go to a lot of games, but things are little more complicated than just being Rangers fans.
“The problem is, in this situation for me, you lose the fandom. You know what I’m saying? It’s not the same with him there,” Bruce said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan, but I’m a father of a kid on the team. It’s different.
“I hope he makes it. I hope he does well. Will it be cool to see? Of course it’s going to be awesome if he does make it. But there are going to be trials and tribulations along the way.”
For both player and parents.