History of the New York Rangers
The history of the New York Rangers hockey team began in 1926 when the NHL granted a franchise to Tex Rickard, the founder of the team. The Rangers experienced early success, winning the Stanley Cup in only their second season of existence, and would go on to win two more in the next 12 years.
After their Cup win in 1940, the Rangers then suffered through one of the longest championship droughts in NHL history, which became known as the Curse of 1940. The 54-year drought ended with a Cup win in 1994 by a team led by captain Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, and Mike Richter, all of whose numbers have since been retired by the team.
- 1 Early years
- 2 1927–1928 Stanley Cup
- 3 1932–1933 Stanley Cup
- 4 1939–1940 Stanley Cup
- 5 The post-Original Six era
- 6 1993–1994 Stanley Cup: the ending of the curse
- 7 1994–2004: expensive acquisitions
- 8 2005–2013: post-lockout revival
- 9 2013–2014: Return to the Final
- 10 2014–2015: Third Presidents' Trophy
- 11 Traditions
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
In 1925, the New York Americans joined the National Hockey League, playing in Madison Square Garden. The Amerks proved to be a greater success than expected, leading Garden president Tex Rickard to seek his own franchise for the Garden, despite promising the Amerks that they would be the only hockey team to play there.
Rickard was granted a franchise, which he originally planned to name the "New York Giants". By the time the franchise was granted in April 1926, the name "New York Rangers Professional Hockey Club" was the official name. The origin of the name Rangers, as in "Tex's Rangers" is variously attributed to Rickard himself or the New York press. 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 $10,000 to leave. Smythe was replaced by Pacific Coast Hockey Association co-founder Lester Patrick, but kept all of the players Smythe had assembled. 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 Twenties 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".
1927–1928 Stanley Cup
In only their second season, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Montreal Maroons three games to two. One of the most memorable stories that emerged from the Finals involved Patrick playing in goal at the age of 44. At the time, teams were not required to dress a backup goaltender so when the Rangers' regular goaltender, Lorne Chabot, left a game with an eye injury, Maroons head coach Eddie Gerard vetoed his original choice for a replacement (who was Alex Connell, another NHL goalie of the old Ottawa Senators who was in attendance for the game). An angry Patrick lined up between the pipes for two periods in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals, allowing one goal to Maroons center Nels Stewart. Frank Boucher would score the game-winning goal in overtime for New York. An expansion team would not come this far this fast in North American professional sports until the Philadelphia Atoms won the North American Soccer League title in their first year of existence.
1932–1933 Stanley Cup
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.
1939–1940 Stanley Cup
In 1939–40, the Rangers finished the regular season in second place behind the Boston Bruins. The two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins gained a two-games-to-one series lead from the Rangers until they recovered to win three straight games, defeating the first-place Bruins four games to two. The Rangers' first-round victory gave them a bye until the finals. The Detroit Red Wings disposed of the New York Americans in their first round best-of-three series two games to one (even as the Americans had analytical and notorious ex-Bruins star Eddie Shore) and the Toronto Maple Leafs ousted the Chicago Black Hawks two games to none. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings would play a best-of-three series to determine who would go on to play the Rangers in the Cup Finals. The Maple Leafs swept the Red Wings and the Finals match-up was determined. The 1940 Stanley Cup Finals started in Madison Square Garden in New York. The first two games went to the Rangers. In game one the Rangers needed overtime to gain a 1–0 series lead, but they won game two more easily with a 6–2 victory. The series then headed to Toronto where the Maple Leafs won the next two games, tying the series 2–2. In games five and six, the Rangers won in overtime, taking the series four games to two to earn their third Stanley Cup.
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 post-Original Six era
The Rangers missed the playoffs in 12 of the next 16 seasons. 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 had 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 1970s 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 led 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, injuries and a 1-11 finish landed the Rangers in the cellar of the Patrick Division after being in a playoff position for much of the season. 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.
During this period, the Rangers were owned by Gulf+Western, which was renamed to Paramount Communications in 1989, and sold to Viacom in 1994. Viacom then sold the team to ITT Corporation and Cablevision, and a couple of years later, ITT sold their ownership stake to Cablevision, who still owns the team today
1993–1994 Stanley Cup: the ending of the curse
The 1993–94 season was a successful one for Rangers fans, as Mike Keenan led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years. Two years prior, they picked up center Mark Messier (now with the Rangers as special assistant to president and general manager), who was a part of the Edmonton Oilers' Cup-winning teams. Adam Graves, who also came from the Oilers, joined the Rangers as well. Other ex-Oilers on the Rangers included Esa Tikkanen and trade deadline acquisitions Oilers Captain Craig MacTavish and Glenn Anderson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Graves would set a team record with 52 goals, breaking the old record of 50 held by Vic Hadfield. This record would later be broken by Jaromír Jágr on April 8, 2006, against the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers clinched the Presidents' Trophy by finishing with the best record in the NHL at 52–24–8, setting a franchise record with 112 points. Their winning of the inaugural Atlantic Division title was only one of three times that the division title wasn't won by two of their biggest rivals, the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Rangers successfully made it past the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping the New York Islanders, who were seeded eighth in the first round, and then breezed by the Washington Capitals, seeded seventh, in five. However, things got interesting in the Conference Finals against the third-seeded Devils. The Rangers lost the series opener at home in double overtime, but won the next two games before the Devils beat the New York offense and defeated them 3-1 and 4-1. The series headed back to the Meadowlands for the next game, but the day before that sixth game, Rangers' captain Mark Messier stepped up and guaranteed a win. Keenan said of the guarantee:
|“||Mark was sending a message to his teammates that he believed together we could win. He put on an amazing performance to make sure it happened.||”|
In that sixth game, Messier rose to the occasion and scored three times in the final period to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 win and set up a seventh game back at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won game seven 2-1, when Stéphane Matteau scored a goal in double overtime, leading the team to the finals for the first time since 1979.
Up against the Vancouver Canucks, the Cinderella team from the west, the Rangers again lost the series opener at home in overtime. Brian Leetch hit the crossbar at one end, and the Canucks going down to score the winner at the other on a shot from Greg Adams. The Rangers then bounced back and they won the next three games, allowing the Canucks just four goals. That set the stage for a game-five Stanley Cup celebration at home, the first time the team had ever been in a position to win a Cup at the Garden.
That night, the Canucks were leading 3-0 by the third minute of the third period. Even though the Rangers pulled even by the midway point, Vancouver took the lead 29 seconds later and cruised to a 6-3 win. New York's parade hopes were given another jolt two nights later when the Canucks put together a 4-1 win. Keenan said of playing game seven:
|“||Even though we were up 3-1 in the series and had to play a seventh game, the team was very confident and very poised. We had a lot of experience and a lot of leadership in our room...I told the players they should be proud of themselves...play hard and enjoy the moment. This is what we all dreamed about, playing a seventh game on home ice to win the Stanley Cup.||”|
Entering Game 7, Keenan became the first person to be a head coach in game sevens of the Stanley Cup Finals for two different teams. Keenan had coached the Flyers in 1987 when they lost to the Oilers. Mike Babcock would join him in this feat in 2009 while with the Detroit Red Wings, having been with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim when they lost to the Devils in 2003 (the home team won all seven games of the series).
The seventh game was a classic. The Rangers took a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Leetch and Graves, but Vancouver captain Trevor Linden scored short-handed to cut the lead. Messier scored later on a power play to put the Rangers up 3-1. Linden scored a power play goal early in the third, but the Rangers managed to hang on, 3-2, as the Garden erupted in cheers and tears. Mark Messier provided two of the most memorable images of that Stanley Cup Finals that would become iconic images to the Rangers and their fans and in all of hockey: first, jumping up and down like a little kid with overwhelming emotion as ticker tape fell, then, showing incredible emotion as he accepted the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, as he became the first (and to this date, the only) player to captain two teams to the Stanley Cup, having been with the Oilers in 1990. This image was taken by George Kalinsky, photographer at Madison Square Garden, and were captured on film.
Leetch became the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, the first non-Canadian to win it, and Keenan avoided being the first coach to lose Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals with two teams. However, this unfortunate fate would befall Babcock in 2009 when the Red Wings lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in-state rivals of the Flyers.
The Rangers winning this Stanley Cup was the highest-rated single CBC Sports program in history to that point (Now that distinction belongs to the men's ice hockey gold medal game between Canada and the United States at the 2002 Winter Olympics, when Canada won its first Olympic ice hockey gold medal since the 1952 Winter Olympics). CBC commentator Bob Cole said that Game 7 was one of his most memorable TV games.
1994–2004: expensive acquisitions
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 defenceman 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.
2005–2013: post-lockout revival
Towards the end of the 2003–04 season, General Manager Glen Sather finally gave in to a rebuilding process by trading away Brian Leetch, Alexei Kovalev,and eight others for numerous prospects and draft picks. With the retirements of Pavel Bure and Mark Messier, as well as Eric Lindros signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the post-lockout Rangers, under new head coach Tom Renney, moved away from high-priced veterans towards a group of talented young players, such as Petr Prucha, Dominic Moore and Blair Betts. However, the focus of the team remained on veteran superstar Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers were expected to struggle during the 2005–06 season for their eighth consecutive season out of the post-season. For example, Sports Illustrated declared them the worst team in the League in their season preview, but behind stellar performances by Swedish rookie goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Straka, Prucha and Jagr, the Rangers finished the season with their best record since 1993–94 (44–26–12).
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 and Philadelphia, the Rangers fell back to third place in the Atlantic 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 goaltender Martin Brodeur took two shutouts and a 1.00 GAA 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 progressed. He missed Game 2 of the series and was back in the lineup for Game 3, though he was held to just one shot on goal. On his first shift of Game 4, however, Jagr re-injured his shoulder and was unable to return for the remainder of the game.
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. On opening night of the 2006–07 season, Jagr was named the first team captain since Mark 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 Detroit Red Wing Brendan Shanahan to a one-year contract. However, the organization remained committed to its rebuilding program despite the signing of the 37-year-old left 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 the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders to face the Atlanta Thrashers 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 the Buffalo Sabres by four games to two.
At the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers chose Alexei Cherepanov 17th overall. Cherepanov had been ranked by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau 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 New Jersey on a seven-year, $51.5 million contract, as well as Chris Drury from Buffalo on a five-year, $32.25 million deal. 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, however, the Rangers failed to meet expectations, losing their second round series four games to one to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers were one of four NHL teams to open their 2008–09 season in Europe, being featured in the Victoria Cup final, defeating the European Champions Cup winner Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Bern, Switzerland. The Rangers followed by playing two NHL regular-season games against Tampa Bay in Prague on October 4 and 5, winning both games by 2–1 scorelines. A successful start to the season, however, was tempered with by the news of the death of 2007 first-round pick Alexei Cherepanov on October 13, 2008. After a disappointing second half of the season, coach Tom Renney was fired, with 2004 Stanley Cup winner John Tortorella named as his replacement. The Rangers made the 2009 playoffs, but lost their opening round series to the Washington Capitals four games to three after having a 3–1 series lead and a three chances to close the series.
In the 2009–10 season, the Rangers failed to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. There was some criticism that the off-season acquisition of superstar Marian Gaborik, amongst other top-tier players, had not paid off; Gaborik, however, scored 42 goals in the season, an impressive return for the team. In spite of a strong start (8–2) to the season, the Rangers appeared to play inconsistently with numerous losing streaks. By March 2010, the Rangers were in danger of falling out of the 2010 playoff race entirely, but they registered a respectable 7–1–2 record to finish the season. The final two games of the season were a home-and-home against the Philadelphia Flyers. The first was April 9, 2010, in New York, and the Rangers skated away with the victory, keeping their post-season hopes alive. The final game of the season would become the deciding game to see who would make the playoffs. The Flyers peppered the Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 47 shots, but only scored once. The game would then go into a shootout, seeing the Flyers prevail to move on to the playoffs despite the strong overall finish to the season by the Rangers.
For the 2010–11 season, the Rangers waived defenseman Wade Redden and brought in several players to achieve more balanced scoring. They wore a third jersey for the first time in several years. On November 12, the Rangers unveiled the new Heritage Jersey for the first time at the rink at Rockefeller Center in a special ceremony featuring Rangers alumni and current players discussing the history of the storied franchise. The club wore the jersey for the first time on November 17 when they played the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden. The jersey was to be worn every time the Rangers play an Original Six team, or on a Sunday afternoon game at home. The Rangers' fate of making or missing the playoffs would come down to the final day of the regular season for the second-straight year. The team defeated the New Jersey Devils on the final day of the season to finish with 93 points on the year. In order to qualify for the 2011 playoffs, however, they would need the Carolina Hurricanes to lose their final game of the season, as Carolina owned the tiebreaker as both teams finished with the same number of points. Carolina ultimately did indeed lose its final game to Tampa Bay, 6–2, putting the Rangers in the playoffs after missing-out the previous season. The Rangers would then go on to face Washington in the first round. After blowing a 3–0 third period lead in Game 4, with Washington ahead in the best-of-seven series two games to one, the Rangers would go on to lose the series in five games. It was the second time in three years that the Capitals eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs.
On May 13, 2011, Derek Boogaard, a player whom the Rangers signed for four years, was found dead in his Minnesota apartment. On July 2, 2011, Brad Richards, an unrestricted free agent who had played with the Dallas Stars during the prior season, signed a nine-year, $60 million contract to play for the Rangers.
On September 12, 2011, Ryan Callahan was named the 26th captain in New York Rangers history. He became the fifth-youngest captain in team history. Brad Richards and Marc Staal were named alternate captains on the same day.
In the 2011–12 season, the Rangers finished as the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Recording 51 wins, 24 regulation losses and seven overtime losses, the team finished with 109 points for the regular season. Their leading goal-scorer for the regular season was Marian Gaborik, who finished the season with 41 goals while playing all 82 games. The Rangers, however, missed-out on the Presidents' Trophy on the final day of the season to the Vancouver Canucks after a 4–1 loss to Washington. In the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers faced the eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators. After falling behind 3–2 in the series, the Rangers bounced back to win Game 6 in Ottawa, as well as the deciding Game 7 at home, propelling them to the Conference Semifinals. In the Semifinals, the Rangers faced the Capitals. In Game 3, Marian Gaborik received a pass from Brad Richards to seal a victory 14:41 into the third overtime, giving the Rangers a 2–1 lead in the series. Washington then came back to tie the series 2–2 in Game 4. The Rangers avoided going down 3–2 in the series when Richards tied Game 5 at 2–2 with just 6.6 seconds left in the third period. The goal was scored on a power-play as a result of a high-sticking double-minor committed by Washington's Joel Ward on Rangers' forward Carl Hagelin. Then, in overtime, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal scored on the second penalty of the double-minor just 1:35 into overtime, giving the Rangers a 3–2 series lead. The Rangers went on to win the series 4–3, sending them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997. In the Conference Finals, they faced the New Jersey Devils, a major divisional rival. The Rangers lost Game 6 in New Jersey, giving the Devils a 4–2 series win and ending the Rangers' season.
2013–2014: Return to the Final
After the 2011–12 season and during the 2013 season, the Rangers signed Aaron Asham, Matt Gilroy, Micheal Haley, Jeff Halpern, Darroll Powe and Roman Hamrlik. During that off-season, they also traded Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for All-Star Rick Nash, Steven Delisle and a 2013 conditional third-round pick. At the NHL trade deadline, the Rangers then traded Marian Gaborik to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore. After the Rangers were eliminated from the second round of the playoffs by Boston, management fired Head Coach John Tortorella, and on June 21, 2013, General Manager Glen Sather formally introduced ex-Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault as Tortorella's replacement, becoming the 35th head coach in franchise history. On March 5, 2014, the Rangers traded their captain Ryan Callahan, a first-round draft pick in 2015, and a second-rounder in 2014 for Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis. The trade occurred in large part after the Rangers and Callahan were unable to reach a contract extension in the days leading up to the deadline. During the regular season, the Rangers won 25 road games, setting a new franchise best. In the first round of the 2014 playoffs, New York defeated Philadelphia in seven games, and in the next round, the Rangers rallied from a 3–1 series deficit for the first time in their history to defeat Pittsburgh in seven games. They then defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games to become the Eastern Conference champions, moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years. In the Finals they faced the Los Angeles Kings, the Western Conference champions and champions in 2012. The Rangers led the first two games by two goals and eventually fell in overtime, and were then shut-out at home 3–0 in Game 3. The Kings outshot the Rangers in Game 4, but the Rangers staved off elimination by winning the game 2–1 to force a Game 5 in Los Angeles. They had another lead in Game 5, but after the game was tied and subsequently sent to overtime, Kings defenseman Alec Martinez scored with 5:17 left in the second overtime period to win the game for Los Angeles, 3–2, as well as the Stanley Cup.
On June 20, 2014, a week after their season ended, the Rangers bought-out the remaining six years of Brad Richards' contract in order to free up salary cap space. This move left Marc Staal and Dan Girardi as the team's remaining alternate captains.
2014–2015: Third Presidents' Trophy
The Rangers would go on to win the Presidents' Trophy for the third time in franchise history, also finishing in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 113 points. After dispatching the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the first round, they would come back from a 3–1 series deficit to win their series against the Capitals in seven games. However, after winning the first game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers would lose Game 2 by four goals. The two teams split the first four games of the series, but the Rangers lost Game 5 by a 2–0 scoreline at home, which would give the Lightning an opportunity to clinch the Conference Finals in Tampa Bay. This did not happen in Game 6, however, as Derick Brassard scored a hat-trick and assisted on two other goals in an emphatic 7–3 Rangers victory to force a Game 7 in New York. In Game 7, however, Tampa Bay shut-out the Rangers 2–0, thereby ending the Rangers' season and marking the first occasion the Rangers had ever lost a Game 7 at home in franchise history (and the first time they lost an elimination game at home since they lost to Buffalo in 2007).
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The Chief, whose real name was Robert Comas, was a fan of the Rangers who donned an Indian headdress complete with Ranger facepaint from 1971 to 1995. He became an unofficial mascot, "wandering around Madison Square Garden shaking hands, whooping and doing a war dance." Comas retired from his role as The Chief in 1995, one year after the Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
In 1998, Comas ran for public office as the Republican Party candidate for the State Senate in the 21st District, which includes Sheepshead Bay, Mill Basin and other parts of southern Brooklyn. When he was unable to gather enough signatures to make the ballot, the Republican party had no candidate in the contest. Comas did run on the Conservative line. He managed to gather 3,255 votes, or 7.64% of the total votes counted, losing to incumbent Carl Kruger, who was convicted on federal bribery charges in 2011.
Shortly after his bid for the New York State Senate failed, the Chief moved to Florida, where he resided until his death on September 17, 2009. He was 62.
Dancing Larry has been a Rangers season ticket holder since 1988, and his famous dance routine began in the mid-to-late 1990s, when he danced in the aisle between sections 406 and 407. After the most recent MSG renovation, he now dances in the portal between sections 223 and 224. The dance usually occurs during the last TV timeout of the third period to get the crowd and the team pumped up. Larry dances to the song Strike It Up by Black Box which is cued up on the Madison Square Garden loud speakers by the technical staff.
Larry's real name is Larry Goodman.
When the Rangers score a goal at Madison Square Garden the "Slapshot" (aka "The New York Rangers Goal Song") song is played following three blasts of a NYC Fire Engine horn. The song made its debut on January 20, 1995, the night the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Banner was raised to the rafters. It was written by Ray Castoldi, the Music Director at Madison Square Garden. The song can be heard here.
After every home victory the "New York Rangers Victory Song" is played. It was written in 1940 by J. Fred Coots (an avid Rangers fan and New Yorker) to pay tribute to the then-Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. The music for the song can be heard here.
Salute the crowd
After every Rangers home win, the team gathers at center ice and raise their sticks in the air to salute the Rangers supporters. The salute (the idea of defenseman Darius Kasparaitis) began in the early part of the 2005–06 season, and has proved extremely popular with both the players and fans alike.
The salute to the fans is typically done only after home victories. However, after the Rangers fell to the rival New Jersey Devils in a four-game sweep in the first round of the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, the fans' cheers at the conclusion of an otherwise outstanding breakout season caused the players to stay on the ice after the loss and give the fans one final salute for the year. The Rangers also did the salute after being eliminated from the 2007 playoffs by the Buffalo Sabres, and after being eliminated from the 2015 playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lighting.
At the start of the 2005–06 season, Rangers coach Tom Renney unveiled the popular Neil Diamond song "Sweet Caroline" as the club's theme song for the year. This song is one of Jaromir Jagr's favorites, and when he was captain, the song was played in the Rangers locker room following each victory. Eventually, the fans discovered this, and the song was played over the MSG PA system during games in which the Rangers were winning handily with five minutes left to go in the game.
The blue seats
In Rangers fan lore, one of the most traditional, as well as one of the rowdiest, sections of the Garden is the blue seats, in what was the 400 level, before the most recent renovation. The nickname came from the original color of those seats before the first Garden renovation in the early 1990s. In the 1970s, "blue-seaters" would heckle opposing players, and also heckle the "red-seaters", down below. This led to the perception that the blue seats were also home to a great deal of profanity, or "blue language."
The seats in the 400 level at MSG were redone in teal during the 1990 renovation of the Garden, but fans continued to refer to them as "the blues".
Following the 3-year transformation at the Garden that began in 2011, the blue seats now occupy only one end zone of the west side of the arena where the Rangers shoot twice. Because of the new balcony added above, these seats are considered "limited view"; they remain the cheapest seats in the building.
John Amirante is the long-time national anthem singer at Madison Square Garden. He first performed the national anthem at the Garden ice in October 1980, and has also sung for the Knicks and Yankees. In 2009, when Amirante was 74, he was singing the anthem at about half of the Rangers' home games. On Saturday, April 18, 2015, after a 35-year run, Amirante sang what was thought to be his last National Anthem before Game 2 in Round 1 of the 2015 playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The following day, after a negative reaction from fans regarding the decision to forcibly retire Amirante, the Garden announced that Amirante would be invited to be a guest anthem singer from time-to-time.
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