The New York Rangers are a professional ice hockey team based in New York, New York, United States. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). Playing their home games at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers are one of the oldest teams in the NHL, having joined in 1926 as an expansion franchise, and are part of the group of teams referred to as the Original Six. The Rangers were the first NHL franchise in the United States to win the Stanley Cup, which they have done four times (most recently in 1994). The team is commonly referred to as "The Broadway Blueshirts."
Rickard was granted a franchise to begin play in the 1926-27 season, and he originally planned to name it the New York Giants. However, the New York press soon nicknamed his team "Tex's Rangers", and the new name stuck. Rickard managed to get future legendary Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe to assemble the team. However, Smythe had a falling-out with Rickard's hockey man, Col. John S. Hammond, and was fired as manager-coach on the eve of the first season — he was paid a then-hefty $2,500 to leave. Smythe was replaced by Pacific Coast Hockey Association co-founder Lester Patrick. The new team turned out to be a winner. The Rangers won the American Division title their first year but lost to the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. The team's early success led to players becoming minor celebrities and fixtures in New York City's Roaring 20's nightlife. It was also during this time, playing at the Garden on 48th Street, blocks away from Times Square, that the Rangers obtained their now-famous nickname "The Broadway Blueshirts".
After a loss to the Bruins in the 1928–29 finals and a few mediocre seasons in the early 1930s, the Rangers, led by brothers Bill and Bun Cook on the right and left wings, respectively, and Frank Boucher at center, would defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1932–33 best-of-five finals, three games to one, to win their second Stanley Cup, exacting revenge on the Leafs' "Kid line" of Busher Jackson, Joe Primeau, and Charlie Conacher. The Rangers would spend the rest of the 1930s playing close to .500 hockey until their next Cup win. Lester Patrick stepped down as head coach and was replaced by Frank Boucher.
The Rangers would collapse by the mid-1940s, losing games by as much as 15–0 and having one goaltender with a 6.20 goals-against average. They would miss the playoffs for five consecutive seasons before squeaking into the fourth and final playoff spot in 1948. They lost in the first round and would miss the playoffs again in 1949. In the 1950 finals, the Rangers were forced to play all of their games on the road (home games in Toronto) while the circus was at the Garden. They would end up losing to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime in the seventh game of the finals, despite a stellar first-round performance as underdogs to the Montreal Canadiens.
During this time, Red Wings owner James E. Norris became the largest stockholder in the Garden. However, he did not buy controlling interest in the arena, which would have violated the NHL's rule against one person owning more than one team. Nonetheless, he had enough support on the board to exercise de facto control.
The Rangers remained a mark of futility in the NHL for most of the remainder of the Original Six era, missing the playoffs in 12 of the next 16 years. However, the team was rejuvenated in the late 1960s, symbolized by moving into a newly rebuilt Madison Square Garden in 1968. A year earlier, they made the playoffs for the first time in five years on the strength of rookie goaltender Eddie Giacomin and acquired 1950s Montreal Canadiens star right wing Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.
The Rangers made the Finals twice in the 1970s, but lost both times to two '70s powerhouses; in six games to the Boston Bruins in 1972, who were led by such stars as Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Johnny Bucyk, and Wayne Cashman; and in five games to the Canadiens in 1979, who had Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Guy Lapointe, and Serge Savard. This time the Rangers had Esposito, but it didn't matter, as the Canadiens were dominant.
By 1972, the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals despite losing high-scoring center Jean Ratelle (who had been on pace over Bruin Phil Esposito to become the first Ranger since Bryan Hextall in 1942 to lead the NHL in scoring) to injury during the stretch drive of the regular season. The strength of players like Brad Park, Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert (the last three constructing the famed "GAG line", meaning "goal-a-game") would still carry them through the playoffs. They would defeat the defending-champion Canadiens in the first round and the Chicago Blackhawks in the second, but lost to the Bruins in the finals.
The Rangers played a legendary semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1973–74 playoffs. This series was noted for a game seven fight between Dale Rolfe of the Rangers and Dave Schultz of the Flyers. Schultz pummeled Rolfe without anyone on the Rangers lifting a finger to protect him (the GAG line was on the ice at the time). This lead to the belief that the Rangers of that period were soft, especially when taking into account the bullying endured by the Rangers during the 1972 finals. One example is Gilbert's beating at the hands of Derek Sanderson of the Bruins.
Their new rivals, the New York Islanders, who entered the league in 1972 after paying a huge territorial fee — some $4 million — to the Rangers, were their first-round opponent in 1975. After splitting the first two games, the Islanders defeated the more-established Rangers eleven seconds into overtime of the deciding game three, establishing a rivalry that continued to grow for years.
After some off years in the mid-to-late 1970s, they picked up Esposito and Carol Vadnais from the Bruins for Park, Ratelle, and Joe Zanussi in 1975. Swedish stars Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson jumped to the Rangers from the maverick World Hockey Association. And in 1979 they defeated the surging Islanders in the semi-finals and would return to the finals again before bowing out to the Canadiens. The Islanders got their revenge, however, eliminating the Rangers in four consecutive playoff series starting in 1981 en route to their second of four consecutive Stanley Cup titles.
The Rangers stayed competitive through the 1980s and early 1990s, making the playoffs each year except for one but never going very far. An exception was 1985–86, when the Rangers, behind rookie goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, upended the Patrick Division-winning Flyers in five games followed by a six-game win over the Washington Capitals in the Patrick Division Finals. Montreal disposed of the Rangers in the Wales Conference Finals behind a rookie goaltender of their own, Patrick Roy. The Rangers then acquired superstar center Marcel Dionne after almost 12 years as a Los Angeles King the next year. In 1988, Dionne moved into third place in career goals scored (since bettered by Brett Hull). But Dionne's always-churning legs started to slow the next year, thereby ensuring that his goals came further and further apart. “Because you love the game so much, you think it will never end,” said Dionne, who spent nine games in the minors before retiring in 1989. He would only play 49 playoff games in 17 seasons with the Rangers, Kings, and Detroit Red Wings.
The many playoff failures convinced Rangers fans that this was a manifestation of the Curse of 1940, which is said to either have begun when the Rangers management burnt the mortgage to Madison Square Garden in the bowl of the Stanley Cup after the 1940 victory or by Red Dutton following the collapse of the New York Americans franchise. In the early 1980s, Islander fans began chanting "1940! 1940!" to taunt the Rangers. Fans in other cities soon picked up the chant.
Frustration was at its peak when the 1991–92 squad captured the Presidents' Trophy. They took a 2–1 series lead on the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and then faltered in three straight (most observers note a Ron Francis slapshot from the blue line that eluded Mike Richter as the series' turning point). The following year, a 1–11 finish landed the Rangers in the cellar of the Patrick Division. Coach Roger Neilson did not finish the season. The off-season hiring of controversial head coach Mike Keenan was criticized by many who pointed out Keenan's 0–3 record in the finals.
After clinching the Presidents' Trophy by finishing with the best record in the NHL at 52–24–8, setting a franchise record with 112 points, the Rangers were pitted against their division rival, the eighth-seeded Islanders, in the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders proved to be little competition, as they were swept in four games by an aggregate score of 22–3. Rangers goaltender Mike Richter earned a pair of shutouts in the series, while supposed Islander upgrade Ron Hextall had a 5.50 GAA to Richter's 0.75. In the second round, the Washington Capitals were dismissed in five games, which set the stage for a matchup with a third division rival, the New Jersey Devils, in the Conference Finals. Despite a 0–6 regular season record against the Rangers, the Devils took them to a full seven games. The series was highlighted by three dramatic multiple overtime games, in which the Rangers were victorious in two. Stephane Matteau scored both of those overtime goals, the first coming during game three at 6:13 of the second overtime period. However, after the fifth game, the Rangers trailed in the series 3–2, and, facing elimination, captain Mark Messier boldly guaranteed a victory in game six back at the Meadowlands in New Jersey—
We know we are going to win Game Six and bring it back to the Garden.
The back-pages of New York's tabloid newspapers carried the Messier quote "We'll win tonight," and Messier did not disappoint. Halfway through the game the Rangers trailed 2–0 before Messier set up Alexei Kovalev late in the second period to bring them to within a goal of tying the game. In what is now considered one of the greatest individual performances in sports history, Messier delivered a natural hat trick in the third period to give the Rangers a 4–2 win to send the series to a decisive seventh game to be played at Madison Square Garden. In that seventh game, a Leetch goal midway through the second period stood until Valeri Zelepukin tied the game for the Devils by stuffing the puck under Richter's pads with 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation. It appeared once again that the Curse of 1940 would undo the Rangers. Surprisingly, Matteau's second overtime winner of the series, coming at 4:24 of the second overtime period, would clinch the series for the Rangers. Rangers radio announcer Howie Rose called the play in dramatic fashion:
Mattaeu swoops in to intercept. Matteau behind the net, swings it in front. HE SCORES! MATTEAU!! MATTEAU!! MATTEAU!! STEPHANE MATTEAU!! AND THE RANGERS HAVE ONE MORE HILL TO CLIMB, BABY! BUT IT'S MOUNT VANCOUVER! THE RANGERS ARE HEADED TO THE FINALS!!!
The Stanley Cup Finals pitted the Rangers against the upstart Vancouver Canucks who were the seventh seed in the Western Conference. After dropping game one in overtime 3–2, largely due to Canucks' goaltender Kirk McLean's 52-save performance, the Rangers came back to win the next three games to take a commanding 3–1 series lead. The Rangers lost game five in New York and then Game 6 in Vancouver, forcing another seventh game at Madison Square Garden. There, in the most-watched game in NHL history, the Rangers would finally prevail. Goals from Leetch, Graves, and Messier beat Vancouver captain Trevor Linden's pair of markers and sealed the seventh game with a 3–2 victory, clinching the Rangers' first Stanley Cup win in 54 years. CBC Hockey Night in Canada announcer Bob Cole called the Rangers' win at the final faceoff, with 1.6 seconds to go:
The New York Rangers have DONE IT HERE ON A HOT JUNE NIGHT IN NEW YORK! THE RANGERS ARE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!
Leetch became the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, the first non-Canadian to win it, and Messier became the first Ranger captain to hoist the Cup on Garden ice, as well as the first player in NHL history to captain two different teams to a Stanley Cup. Also, the Rangers became the first NHL team to host an All-Star Game, win the Presidents' Trophy, and win the Stanley Cup in one season; the Rangers hosted the 1994 All-Star Game and Richter was MVP of that game. To this date, the Rangers are the only team to have hosted an NHL All-Star Game, have one of its own named an MVP of an All-Star Game, win a Presidents' Trophy, and win a Stanley Cup in one season, as no one from the Colorado Avalanche was named MVP of the All-Star Game in 2001.
The Rangers winning the Stanley Cup has been considered NHL's greatest moment. It was also hockey's greatest moment since the United States ice hockey team won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and remained that way until Canada's ice hockey team won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. This being NHL's most-watched game, coupled with ice hockey being their national pastime meant the news of the Rangers' win moved so swiftly and at a rapid high speed across Canada that the big, bold headlines in New York City area newspapers the day after the win were common headlines appearing on every newsstand and almost every newspaper in that country that morningThe swift movement of the news across Canada, coupled with this having many members of the great Edmonton team of the 1980s led The Edmonton Journal to put the news on their front page and like many newspapers in the New York area and across Canada, carried an article, as well as a photo of Messier lifting the Stanley Cup. This later meant "New York's Oilers Beat Canucks."
Despite having coached the Rangers to a regular season first place finish and the Stanley Cup, head coach Mike Keenan left after a dispute with General Manager Neil Smith. During the 1994–95 lockout-shortened season, the Rangers struggled to find their form and lost in the second round of the playoffs. They snuck in with the 8th seed and defeated Quebec in the first round, but were swept by Philadelphia in the 2nd round. Succeeding Rangers coach Colin Campbell orchestrated a deal that sent Sergei Zubov and center Petr Nedved to Pittsburgh in exchange for defenseman Ulf Samuelsson and left winger Luc Robitaille in the summer of 1995.
The Rangers landed an aging Wayne Gretzky in 1996, but even with The Great One, they would fizzle out. Their 1994 stars were aging and many retired or dropped off in performance. Gretzky's greatest accomplishment was leading them to the 1997 Eastern Conference finals, where they lost 4–1 to the Eric Lindros-led Philadelphia Flyers. After General Manager Neil Smith ran Messier, a former Oiler teammate of Gretzky's, out of town in the summer of 1997 and failed in a bid to replace him with Colorado Avalanche superstar Joe Sakic, the Rangers began a streak of seven seasons without making the playoffs, despite routinely having the highest payroll in the league.
In March 2000, Smith was fired along with head coach John Muckler, and, that summer, James Dolan hired Glen Sather to replace him. By the end of the 2000–01 season, the Rangers had landed a lot of star power. Mark Messier had returned to New York, Theoren Fleury joined the Rangers after spending most of his career with the Calgary Flames, and Eric Lindros was traded to the Rangers from the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers also acquired Pavel Bure late in the 2001-02 season from the Florida Panthers. It was the rookie season of goalie Dan Blackburn, who made the NHL All-Rookie Team even as the Rangers fell back to last place in the conference. Despite these high-priced acquisitions the Rangers still finished out of the playoffs. Later years saw other stars such as Alexei Kovalev, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Rucinsky and Bobby Holik added, but in 2002–03 and 2003–04, the team again missed the playoffs. Blackburn started strongly in 2002–03, but burned out after 17 games. He missed 2003–04 due to mononucleosis and a damaged nerve in his left shoulder. Blackburn could not rehabilitate the damaged nerve, and was forced to retire at age 22.
Jaromir Jagr broke the Rangers' single-season points record with a first-period assist in a 5–1 win against the New York Islanders on March 29, 2006. The assist gave him 110 points on the season, breaking Jean Ratelle's record. Less than two weeks later, on April 8, Jagr scored his 53rd goal of the season against the Boston Bruins, breaking the club record previously held by Adam Graves. Two games prior, on April 4, the Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2, in a shootout, to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the 1996-97 season. On April 18, the Rangers lost to the Ottawa Senators 5–1, and, due to wins by division rivals New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers fell back to third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference to end the season. In the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals the Rangers drew a matchup with the Devils and were defeated in a four-game sweep. In the process they were outscored 17–4, as New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur took two shutouts and a 1.00 goals-against average to Lundqvist's 4.25. In the first game of the series Jagr suffered an undisclosed injury to his left shoulder, diminishing his usefulness as the series went on. Jagr missed game two of the series and was back in the lineup for game three. He was held to one shot on goal. On his first shift of game four, Jagr re-injured his shoulder and was unable to return.
Jagr fell two points short of winning his sixth Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 2005–06 (the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton claimed the award, his first, with 125 points), but Jagr did win his third Pearson Award as the players' choice for the most outstanding player. He has thus tied Guy Lafleur in third, and needs one more to tie his ex-centerman, Mario Lemieux, in second and two more to tie Wayne Gretzky in first for times receiving the Pearson Award. On opening night of the 2006–07 season, Jagr was named the first team captain since Messier's retirement.
With the Rangers doing so well in 2005–06, expectations were raised for the 2006–07 season, evidenced by Sports Illustrated then predicting the Rangers would finish first in their division. Realizing that the team had trouble scoring goals in the 2005-06 campaign, the Rangers went out and signed long-time Red Wing Brendan Shanahan to a one-year contract. However, the organization remains committed to its rebuilding program despite the signing of the 37-year-old winger.
Though the Rangers started a bit slow in the first half of the 2006–07 season, the second half was dominated by the stellar goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. The acquisition of Sean Avery brought new life to the team, and the Rangers finished ahead of Tampa Bay and the Islanders to face Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs. The Rangers swept the series thanks to play from all around the ice. However, the Rangers lost the next round to Buffalo four games to two.
At the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers chose Alexei Cherepanov 17th overall. Cherepanov had been ranked by Central Scouting as the number one European skater and was considered to be a top five pick leading up to the draft, but fell due to teams being unsure whether he would ever come to the NHL from Russia. The 2007 free agency season started with a bang for the Rangers signing two high profile centerman, Scott Gomez from the New Jersey Devils for a seven-year, $51.5 million dollar contract as well as Chris Drury from the Buffalo Sabres for a five-year deal worth $32.25 million. The moves, along with retaining most other key players, have been met favorably as the Rangers appeared to be strong Stanley Cup contenders, making the playoffs for the third consecutive season and the second round for the second season in a row. Despite these streaks, the Rangers failed to meet expectations as they lost their second round series 4–1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The New York Rangers were one of four NHL teams to open their 2008-2009 season in Europe. The Rangers were featured in the Victoria Cup final, pitting the European Champions Cup winner against an NHL team. The Rangers prevailed, defeating the Metallurg Magnitogorsk, in Bern, Switzerland. After winning the Victoria Cup, the Rangers followed the victory, playing two NHL regular-season games against the Tampa Bay Lightning team in Prague, Czech Republic on October 4 and October 5 at the O2 Sazka Arena. The Rangers won both games 2-1, with goals from newly aquired Wade Redden and Markus Naslund, in addition to goals from the two Alaskan Rangers, returning allstar, Scott Gomez, and returning rookie, Brandon Dubinsky.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Records as of May 5, 2008
|2003–04||82||27||40||7||8||69||206||250||1459||4th in Atlantic||Did not qualify|
|2004–05||''Season canceled due to 2004–05 NHL lockout|
|2005–061||82||44||26||—||12||100||257||215||1194||3rd in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 0-4 (Devils)|
|2006–07||82||42||30||—||10||94||242||216||1107||3rd in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Semifinals, 2-4 (Sabres)|
|2007–08||82||42||27||—||13||97||213||199||917||3rd in Atlantic||Lost in Conference Semifinals, 1-4 (Penguins)|
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Rangers player