NEW YORK -- As fans boarded the noon ET Delta Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles, they had a chance to take photos and shake hands with three of the most transcendent stars from both cities.
In anticipation of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Monday between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers, former Rangers star Mark Messier served as the referee for a charity air hockey game between legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Rivera, sporting a custom Rangers jersey with his name and No. 42, laughed and said he was surprised about the fast-paced nature of air hockey, but that did not stop him from picking up a victory against Abdul-Jabbar, who wore a custom Kings jersey with his name and No. 33 on the back. Delta, the official airline of the Yankees, will donate $5,000 to a charity supported by the Rangers.
Rivera's wide smile was on full display while he was greeting everyone he encountered -- including some of the flight attendants and nearby airport restaurant workers -- and even after he was defeated by Messier in the second air hockey game.
"It's a privilege for me to play with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mark Messier," Rivera said. "It's a good cause and you're helping. As long as you're helping, it's good."
Rivera spoke for the first time since his son, also named Mariano, was selected by the Yankees in the 29th round of the First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.
"I'm happy for him. He has accomplished a lot and I just wish him the best," Rivera said. "Hopefully we see what the offer is and how are we going to do it, how we are going to go forth. And if he decides to play, I will be there for him."
Rivera has allowed his son to dictate his own career path, and the record-setting closer does not plan on influencing his son's decision, despite any allegiance to his former team.
"I give him advice if he asks for it," Rivera said. "If he doesn't, that means he has it; he's in control. It's his show, not my show."
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com.