THE DOORBELL RANG ONE AFTERNOON last December in Adam Graves's
apartment near Rye, N.Y. Graves opened the door to find Tony Amonte,
a teammate who would later be traded to the Chicago Blackhawks,
standing in the hall. Amonte said his phone didn't work.
''What happened?'' Graves asked.
''Oh, they shut it off,'' Amonte said. ''I meant to pay the bills,
but I never got around to it. So can I use your phone?''
''No problem,'' Graves said.
No problem. Let's see. Shoved into a corner of Graves's living
room was an extra couch that would be moved by Graves to defenseman
Jeff Beukeboom's apartment later in the day. Beukeboom needed a
couch. Graves had a couch. What the heck. Seated on a bar stool was
Graves's fiancee, Violet Ravija. She had locked herself out of her
car, and he had driven to a local fitness club with the keys. Seated
in another chair was a reporter, waiting for lunch. Graves was making
grilled-cheese sandwiches. What the heck. After lunch he would move
the couch, and after he moved the couch, he would go into Brooklyn's
Bedford- Stuyvesant to work with some kids, and after he worked with
the kids. . . .
Was there anything the 26-year-old Graves couldn't or wouldn't do?
In the New York Rangers' long climb to the Cup, he was their
all-purpose tool, fixer of problems on and off the ice, their best
public-relations asset, their most popular player and -- oh, yes --
their leading goal scorer, breaking Vic Hadfield's 22-year-old team
record of 50 goals in a season. Graves finished with 52.
''I think he scored so much because we needed goals from him,''
Ranger general manager Neil Smith said. ''If we needed some other
part of the game, he'd be giving more of some other part. Whatever
you need, he tries to give you.''
Graves is a representative of old-line Canadian hockey virtues,
finishing every check, eager to be involved in whatever disturbances
occur on the ice, scoring his goals in one-foot, two-foot, three-foot
bursts from the midst of goalmouth scrambles. The Rangers rewarded
Graves with a new contract in the middle of the season, for six years
and $14 million.
Graves made the All-Star Game for the first time. The story of his
Boy Scout childhood -- growing up in the Toronto suburb of North
York, Ont., in a family that accepted more than 40 foster children --
is one of the NHL's happiest tales. The finish, the Cup, was perfect
for the guy who scored the goals, fought the fights, tied the daily
loose strings that developed during a season. What else could he have
done? Sharpen the skates? Wash the uniforms? Drive the Zamboni?
If you asked Graves, he would have a simple answer: No problem. --