Greatest Sports Franchises: New York Rangers

Since the team’s foundation in 1926, the New York Rangers have built a rough-and-tough reputation for themselves. They were the first American NHL franchise to win the Stanley Cup, and the team’s legacy is as legendary as its arena: Madison Square Garden. After a decades-long drought, the Rangers won their fourth Stanley Cup in 1994. Throughout the team’s history, players like Brian Leetch, Eddie Giacomin, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev and Mike Richter have all donned a Rangers jersey. In this video, continues our series on the Greatest Sports Franchises of All Time with a look at the New York Rangers.

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The History of the New York Rangers

Founded in 1926 by George Lewis “Tex” Rickard, the New York Rangers are an Original Six franchise and one of the oldest teams in the National Hockey League. Playing their home games at Madison Square Garden, “Tex’s Rangers” were the first NHL franchise in the United States to win the Stanley Cup, and have done so four times.

Early Days and First Stanley Cup

Right off the bat, Rickard hired Conn Smythe to help build his team, and he later became a legend as the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise. After Smythe was unceremoniously dismissed, Pacific Coast Hockey Association co-founder Lester Patrick took over. Not surprisingly, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in just their second season in the league. In the 1927-28 season, they defeated the Montreal Maroons 3 games to 2 for their first championship. Remarkably, Patrick served as goaltender for this series at the ripe old age of 44.

The Broadway Blueshirts

Because of these early successes, the Rangers ended up minor celebrities in their hometown. Their initial games were played at the Garden on 48th Street just a few blocks from Times Square, and this earned the boys the nickname “The Broadway Blueshirts.” Fittingly, the high-flying Rangers became the first team to travel by plane. On December 13th, 1929 they flew to Toronto for a game against the Leafs, and lost 7-6.

The Drought

Over the next decade, the Rangers won two more Cups, with one in’32-’33 and the next in the ’39-’40 season. However, the franchise then underwent a prolonged drought that lasted until the late 1960s. They missed the playoffs 12 out of 16 years. In 1968, the team hoped to change their luck when they moved into the fourth iteration of Madison Square Garden.

Post-Season Hopes Dashed

The club managed to make it back into the post-season thanks to rookie goaltender Eddie Giacomin, as well as newly-acquired right winger Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion whom they had picked up from the Montreal Canadiens. The team made the finals twice in the 1970s, but lost both times. Their first appearance was against Boston in 1972, and that team featured such superstar players as Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Johnny Bucyk and Wayne Cashman. Their next championship loss was to the Canadiens in 1979, and they were up against such legends as Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Guy Lapointe, and Serge Savard. In between those two appearances, the Rangers lost in the semifinals to the Philadelphia Flyers in the ’73-’74 season. This marked the first time an Original Six team had lost a playoff series to one of the 1967 expansion teams.

Enter the Islanders

By 1972, the Rangers were not the only game in town. The New York Islanders joined the league after paying a $4 million territorial fee to challenge the Rangers for fans and bragging rights. In ’75, the clubs clashed in the playoffs with the Islanders winning. This ensured a heated rivalry that would only grow over the years.

The 1994 Heyday and Cup Win

The 1980s saw a number of competitive squads, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the Curse of 1940 came to an end. With Mike Kennan as coach, the team was led to victory by former Edmonton Oiler Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Esa Tikkanen, Craig MacTavish and Glenn Anderson. After a 54-year drought, the team hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup as guaranteed by Mark Messier. The cocky center had famously promised his fans a comeback in that year’s playoffs against the rival New Jersey Devils. It wasn’t just talk: “The Moose” scored three times in the final period of Game 6 to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 win. That set them up to play a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden, which the Rangers won 2-1 in double overtime. The team then went on to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, four games to three.

Long List of Talent

Since then, the club has signed and traded away a number of expensive and high-profile players. Included in this group are Jaromir Jagr, and the “Great One” himself: Wayne Gretzky. A number of other superstars have played their home games in Madison Square Garden thoughout the years, as well – the list includes: Mike Richter, John Davidson, John Vanbiesbrouck, David Kerr, Mike Gartner, Walt Tkaczuk, Adam Graves, Jean Ratelle, Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Park, Ron Greschner, Vic Hadfield, Harry Howell, Andy Bathgate, Rod Gilbert, Alexei Kovalev, and Brian Leetch. However, even with these players, the Rangers have failed to repeat the magic of their 1994 season.

Rough-and-Tough Reputation

The New York Rangers are a team known for their rough-and-tumble style of play and are lucky to have some of the most knowledgeable and passionate hockey fans in the United States. That’s why Tex’s Rangers are well deserved of the legacy they’ve built for themselves since 1926.

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