(This month, Puck Daddy asked bloggers for every NHL team to tell us The Essentials for their franchises — everything from the defining player and trade, to the indispensable fan traditions. Here's Eric Roitman of 5-Hole.com, giving us The Essentials for the New York Rangers.)
By Eric Roitman
When a team has existed for over 85 years and has had almost 1,000 men suit up, it can be hard to come up with a list of the essential moments and players for the team. Many great players have worn Rangers blue. Some were traded away before their prime. Others joined the team in the twilight of their careers. There have been many great moments and many not so great moments. The point is that there is no shortage of goals, games, players, trades, and so on and so forth in Rangers history.
Because of that, and because I know I don't speak for every Rangers fan, I polled a handful of other writers and fans. These include Kerri from Some Like It Blue, Allyson from Blueshirt Bulletin, The Suit from Blue Seat Blogs, Jim "What, no Jagr?" Schmiedeberg from Blueshirt Underground, Adam from SNY Rangers Blog, Jess from The Prospect Park, Hockeybird, and pretty much every writer at Rangerland.
Now that I've mentioned everyone, let's get to the list.
Player: Mark Messier
This one was hotly contested. Some said Messier, others said Rod Gilbert. Gilbert is definitely worthy of this title. He spent his entire career with the Rangers, has the most goals and points in Rangers history and is still a huge part of the organization. The fact remains, Messier won The Cup, and Gilbert did not.
On top of that, the Rangers have had almost a thousand players and many captains. But only Messier is "The Captain."
The Rangers franchise has been defined in modern times primarily by failure -- 54 straight years of it. The year 1994 stands for more than just winning the Cup, it symbolizes the end of the streak, the end of "1940."
Game: Game 7, 1994 Eastern Conference Finals
I think Jim Schmiedeberg described Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals the best when he said:
"In a series filled with suspensions, benchings, guarantees, and double overtime drama, the Rangers and Devils showed they weren't quite done toying with emotions in the final game of this classic series. Whichever team came out the winner, it wasn't going to come cheap. The average fan lost 5 years off their life expectancy on May 27, 1994."
It started with a beautiful Brian Leetch spin-o-rama. The Devils then decided to rip the hearts out of Rangers fans chests one last time by having Valeri Zelepukin score with 7.7 seconds left to tie it. Then, four minutes into the second overtime, in one fell swoop…
Goal: Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau!
Trade: Series of trades leading to Messier
The Rangers trade Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom — two great players on those 80s Rangers teams that just couldn't get over the hump — for Bernie Nicholls. The Rangers then flip Nicholls with Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk to Edmonton for Messier (who was forcing his way out of Edmonton).
In two years the Rangers traded two above average players for a Hall of Famer that would help lead the established core to the promised land of Lord Stanley.
Unsung Hero: Petr Prucha Jaromir Jagr
Yes, Jagr! He was either loved or hated by fans. There was no middle ground. The fact is he pulled this franchise back to respectability after 8 years of being in the toilet and had one of the greatest seasons a Rangers player has ever had in the process. Sadly, many have already forgotten the contributions he made.
Franchise Villain: Denis Potvin
It has been 33 years since Ulf Nilsson took a hit from Denis Potvin resulting in a broken ankle. And for 33 years, Rangers fans have been letting Denis Potvin know exactly what they think of him on a nightly basis. There is not a single game that goes by that "Potvin sucks!" is not shouted by thousands of Rangers fans.
But Eric, that chant is old and a lot of people at the games don't even know why Potvin sucks! The villain should be Brodeur.
That's just it. There are Rangers fans that don't even know why Potvin sucks. They just know that he sucks and join in on the chant. In 15 years, there will be some other player that we mock in singsong. In 15 years, we're still going to be shouting, "Potvin sucks!"
Fight: Dan Cloutier vs. Tommy Salo
This started off like any other line brawl. The skaters all paired off. You had the one pair just holding each other's jerseys and spinning around, the one evenly matched fight and then the fighter beating up a non-fighter. So there's P.J. Stock throwing Mariusz Czerkawski around the ice. Tommy Salo, for some reason, decides to jump in and the rest is history.
Coach: Emile Francis
Francis played goalie for the Rangers (albeit very little) and then presided over one of the most successful eras in this franchise's dark history. The 1972 finals run, the GAG line, and the Esposito trade. Trade, you say? Francis was actually the GM and the coach of the team. He's in the Hall of Fame for a reason and gets the nod in this one.
Broadcaster: Sam Rosen/John Davidson
Sam and JD are one of the greatest sports broadcasting duos in the history of broadcast sports. They truly enjoyed working together and it was always a pleasure to tune into Rangers games on MSG. Whether it's Sam's call of, "It's a power play goal!" or JD's, "Oh, baby!" Rangers fans still miss the chemistry those two had as they are forced to listen to Joe Micheletti.
Arena Behavior/Tradition/Trend: "Potvin sucks!" Whistle
There really is something to be said for a chant that has so far lasted 33 years. For those that don't know, here's a sample:
Arena Food: Hill Country Barbecue Market
Prior to the renovation Transformation, you could get a pretty awesome prime rib sandwich up on the 7th floor concourse. Other than that, Madison Square Garden's food was pretty run of the mill stadium food. After phase one of the renovations, the best food in the place has to be the pulled pork or barbecue brisket sandwiches at Hill Country.
You can't talk about Rangers swag without talking about the jersey. After all, the Rangers are known as the Broadway Blueshirts. Aaron is the resident 5-hole.com jersey snob so I'll let him take this one:
I'm 5-hole's resident jersey expert. I collect game warn jerseys. It's a sick obsession. So the essential Rangers swag is the jersey. Everyone wears them at the garden. But what is the essential Rangers jersey? It has to be the 1991-92 Turn Back The Clock (or TBTC) jersey. It's a throwback to the late 1920s/early 1930s Rangers that won two Stanley Cups. This jersey is very rare as it was only was worn for one year. Anyone that owns and wears theirs to the Garden is good in my book. We as Rangers fans pride ourselves on being knowledgeable fans, why not stand out?
So there you have it—a guide to the essential New York Rangers.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
The writers of 5-hole.com (Eric, Marc, and Aaron) all contributed to this piece.
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