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Rangers fans walk the long road

Celeb_Team_0613_1994

And the waiting is over…until it began again

Well, I certainly never thought I’d be writing this post. The Rangers return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994 when Richter, Leetch, Messier, Graves and company became legends for slaying dragons, making guarantees, but most importantly — getting the job done. It still amazes me to think that it has been 20 years.

I first started following the Rangers in 1988, the same season Brian Leetch was a rookie. My old man worked for a construction company, which had seats by the old Bud Light sign near the away team tunnel. I still have tickets to my first game that season. It was against the Devils and they were $67.

After watching games on TV with my dad, I remember walking down the stairs to our seats and being blown away at how vivid all the Rangers jerseys were and how gold the Garden ceiling was. Standard TV in those days just did not do the hockey experience justice.

The Garden crowd was thunderously loud back then. I remember fights breaking out in our area and police escorting drunken fans out of the building. I can’t imagine that happening in those prime seats these days. It seemed like chaos was everywhere in those crowds.

Though, my father seemed immune to it all. His eyes were just fixated on the play. That’s when I started to learn how to be the hockey fan that I am today. It didn’t matter what was going on around us, what the papers were saying, etc. Just watch the damn game.

When the Rangers won in 1994, I was ecstatic. Not because I had been following the team for all these years, but because I knew what it meant to my old man. Being so close to seeing a Cup in the 70’s followed by the Islanders run in the early 80’s must have been a tough pill to swallow. Then I learned the way he did, what it was like to feel the pain of being a Rangers fan. Eight years without a playoff berth.

The crash and burn of Theo Fleury. Messier in a Canuck jersey. The Mike York trade. Trottier’s penmanship. Tom Poti being called the next Brian Leetch. The Brian Leetch trade. The ending of Mike Richter’s career. The plight of  Sather’s free agencies. Mike Dunham.  College was a fun four years, but following the Rangers at that time, not so much. I don’t know how I managed to listen to half of those eight dark seasons on early versions of internet radio. Oh the buffering.

It’s been a long road back up the mountain. The Czechs have come and gone. The Black and Blueshirts are but a memory. Egos have been crushed. Reset buttons have been pressed again, and again, and again. Finally were close to the pinnacle once more. Whether or not this series ends like the triumph of 1994 or like the forgetful heartbreaks of 1972 and 1979 remains to be seen.

All of these trades and moves that Sather has made these past few years could go down as his final hours being his finest, or they could just be another page in the history books. We might look back at Martin St. Louis as a savior as Messier was, or he could just be Phil Esposito, doing wonders in his late 30s, but just not enough to get us over the hump. Lundqvist could be Richter or he could be Eddie Giacomin. There’s a small but critical difference between being great and being the greatest.

Either way, no matter what happens these next two weeks. Ignore all the nice narratives. Ignore all the critics. Forget all the chaos around you. Just watch the damn game.

"Rangers fans walk the long road", 5 out of 5 based on 29 ratings.

47 Responses to “Rangers fans walk the long road”

  1. supermaz says:

    Youngin, you have not yet begun to suffer what your dad did, trust me.
    Good article, from the heart.

  2. Gary says:

    Middleton/Hodge… Ratelle, Park, Zanussi?/Esposito (my mind has blocked out the rest, just shut down, Espo was bad enough). Humiliation.

    Schulz on Rolfe… the lovable Smurfs, trying by just not able… Ridley and Miller for an over the hump Carpenter. That blight of free agents that nearly killed the franchise (Fleury, Lindros, etc.) and bad trades Kovi/Nedved and of course Brendl/Lundmark, when they had a chance to really do damage at the draft… oh yeh, Hugh Jessimen too.

    Let’s incorporate all of this ghastly history and drag it forward. We are underdogs but the Rangers have caught something in a bottle. They have got something going on.

    Rangers in 7. It’ll be amazing.

  3. Walt says:

    Supermaz

    Great retort, but true!!!

    Let’s go Rangers.

  4. Mark says:

    I have been a Ranger fan since 1979. I remember listening to the radio when they beat Montreal in game 1, took a 2-0 lead in game 2 and then it was 1994.
    I’ve gone to so many games, but I’ll never forget the buzz in the building the day Don Maloney was traded to Hartford for Carey Wilson…
    Or a pre-season game in1987 when a then unknown Ranger prospect scored 4 goals. That player was Tony Granato.

    Time for another memory….Bring it boys!!!!!

  5. SalMerc says:

    I remember Saturday nights were the only games that was ever broadcasted. Had to watch the game and listen to Bill(goalies best friend in the goalpost)Chadwick. Either made or ruined my Saturday night.

  6. supermaz says:

    1967…
    Dave Balon, Rod Seiling, my 1st favorite Rangers player, Greg Polis. So many old names, could chat all day with player #’s and all. John Bednarski …..etc.

    • Walt says:

      Here’s one for you, Orland Kurtenback?? Tough as nails!!!!!

      Eddie The Entertainer Shack!

  7. joe719 says:

    I started rooting for this club in the winter of 1970. I was a rabid, 10yr old Mets fan, who had just won the whole shebang. I had a friend who was into hockey and was also my fellow Mets lover. After the Mets won, he told me I should start following the Rangers because their ‘gonna win the cup!’ I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. He gave me a whole bunch of Hockey Mags; including the Hockey Digest(Do they still even publish that?). And that’s where it started. I lived through some of the most exciting and excruciating moments of my life. I watched the likes of Greg Polis, John Bednarski, Gils Gratton, Eddie “Shaky” Johnstone, and the “ooh la la boys..” of the 70’s. It all culminated in that wonderful June night in 1994. Since then, although I still haven’t missed a game, I have to admit I’ve felt different watching this team. I sit back now and take it all in. I love watching my nephews living and dying with every shot on goal; just like I did all those years. Don’t get me wrong, I still can get up in a heated discussion regarding all matters concerning this team. But it seems a little more detached now. That’s why this run to the Cup has been so much fun. It was so unexpected. If they win it I’ll be screaming with my nephews just like always; be right there at the parade. But if they don’t, the sun will come up tomorrow. And that’s a good thing. I guess with age comes perspective. But its still a lot of fun!!

    • Ray V says:

      Joe – you are more my era than some of these youngins. I remember listening to Marv Albert on the sneak on my little AM radio under the bed covers since 8:30 was my bedtime. I remember Jim Gordon and The Big Whistle on channel nine watching ONLY away games since we could not get home games in Queens. It was the early days of cable and only Manhattan had MSG and you could only watch the games on MSG….sigh. Watching the news back then and seeing highlights of the games with the Rangers wearing HOME WHITE would make me so sad since we could only watch the away games on TV. First time I walked into the garden (1973) was very emotional for me. I was only 11 and this was by far the biggest thrill of my life at the time. We scored like 6 or 7 goals and beat the Bruins. I did not want to leave the Garden after the game. Who remembers the CHIEF at the garden in the late 70s and 80s ; ) Such great memories and some real painful heartaches over the years. As for this year, I honestly thought we could get by the Flyers in round one, then get knocked out by the Pens round two. After the Pens I told my wife, Montreal will put us away in 5 or 6. Not being negative here, but this team for the most part has always set me up for bigger let downs. It has been painful, but right now I am enjoying the ride. Did never think we could get this far this year. Like the Suit suggests, I always ignore the narratives and the “experts” and just watch my games. I judge my Rangers on what I see. I have not missed a game in at least 17 years. I now live in Hawaii and just got back from Toronto. If you love this game, you need to make a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame at least ones. I got to watch games 5 and 6 at Real Sports Bar inside the ACC where the Leafs play. Crazy sitting a few tables away from Steve Yzerman. Was one of maybe a handful of Ranger fans surrounded by rabid Habs fans. It was great seeing them all eat crud when we clinched and now all I can say is LETS GO BOYS. Lets GET IT DONE !!!!!!! = ) P.S. – I don’t and will never get Don Cherry.

  8. Chris F says:

    Is it Wednesday yet?

  9. Chris says:

    It’s great fun reading all this. Here’s my contribution: Sheldon Kannegiesser! (Go Rangers!)

  10. Becky says:

    This gave me chills. I started watching in ’08 and it’s been six years now, just like it was for you ;) but in all seriousness, this post is lovely. Thanks Suit.

  11. Tommy T says:

    Awesome write up, i too remember the days of the legends of 94. i was a mere 8 years old and the joy i saw on my old mans face was unreal, we ran outside and were banging pots and pans in the streets. I now hope 20yrs later the miracle happens again. I love my NYR and the shield is tattooed on my leg. Here is to heart attack hockey for next two weeks. LETS GO RANGERS

  12. upstatetom says:

    been doin rangers since 1962, i think, with marv albert & sal messina on radio and can relate to all that you said plus more. GREAT POST and you’re right, just watch the damn game !!!!!!!

  13. SalMerc says:

    A little off-topic. Heard that it may be cheaper to fly to LA, spend a night in a hotel and scalp tix for the first 2 games rather than buy tix to game 3 & 4 in the garden. Crazy

  14. bayman says:

    Ron Stewart and Larry Jeffrey on the PK. Phil Goyette scoring the first goal at the new MSG. Reg Fleming, winner by TKO. The boobirds out for Bob Nevin and Arnie Brown.

    • Walt says:

      Slats killing penalties, came to us from the Pens!
      If I recall correctly, wore #6?????

      Bobby Rouseau on the PP, he wore #22!!!!!!

  15. Ray says:

    Sad to hear you had to listen on the internet. I was at the University of Wisconsin in the early 70s and I remember listening to the Rangers against the Bruins in the playoffs on a Boston AM radio station that faded in and out. Even the Black Hawk games were not fully reliable. There was no chance of an actual Ranger broadcast.

    As with your father, 1994 was the great sports thrill that can never be matched.

    How many people remember the last day of the 1970 season when the Rangers scored nine goals to get into the playoffs on tiebreak. (In hindsight, they only needed seven.)

    • Walt says:

      Wasn’t that the reason Montreal didn’t make the play-offs that year??

      • Ray says:

        Yes, in their finale, Montreal needed a win or a tie or five goals. Down 5-2 against Boston with fifteen minutes to go, they pulled their goalie (lost 10-2).

        • Walt says:

          Good stuff Ray. I believe that was the first time in the history of the NHL where a cup champ didn’t make the play-offs the followig year!!!

  16. Rangers Rock says:

    Getting rid of Zubov was the downfall with the coach following Keenan.

  17. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Maybe not for this post, but how will we overcome the (glaring) mismatch at center?

    Kopitar
    Carter
    M. Richards
    Stoll

    v

    Stepan
    B. Richards
    Brassard
    Boyle/ D. Moore

    Additionally, will we win 1 faceoff this series?

    • Chris F says:

      I know. The matchups at C were incredible between LA and Chicago.

      We’re going to be extremely outmatched in that category this series, which is going to hand LA the possession game. Our neutral zone game needs to be on point, and when we force turnovers, the transition needs to be fast zone entry.

      The dump and chase wont work well against LA, as their D battles on the boards really well.

      This has potential to be a really fun series, but it could also get really ugly really quick.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        Well said. Especially agree with your last sentence.

        Another thing which will be interesting to watch is how the relationship between Dustin Brown and the Rangers’ fanbase blossoms over the next 2 weeks.

        I hope our players fare better against his big body than we did against Lucic last year in the second round. Because he has the ability to bring the pain on the forecheck.

        • Chris F says:

          Haha, my wife was saying last night that she doesn’t like Sutter’s perma-scowl. She said it will make it easier to hate LA in the finals.

          I assured her, after one game of seeing how the Kings’ players play, she wont need any extra incentives to hate.

  18. Bill says:

    Third SCF with this team. I was a 9 year old who knew NOTHING in 1979. Then the magical ride in 1994 when we were clearly the best team in the NHL. This year has that “Why not us?” feel that Detrick Brassard keeps mentioning. We weren’t supposed to beat Pitt. We weren’t supposed to beat MTL. Don’t tell them they’re not supposed to beat LA either!

  19. FL Swarty says:

    I started watching the Rangers when cable TV hit Binghamton way back when. WOR had the Rangers and the Knicks back when basketball was actually fun to watch – probably around 1965. I ‘ve been hooked ever since.

    Rod Gilbert was always my favorite – The Goal a Game line with Hadfield and Ratelle was awesome. Harry Howell – Earl Ingerfield. I was fortunate enough to meet Rod and spend some time chatting with him over a cocktail in Binghamton when he was coaching the New Haven Nighthaws. No one in the place knew who he was and he walking out when I was walking in. I said hi and he instantly stuck up a conversation and he went back in and we had a beer or two. What a great guy…

    How about Eddie Mio and Jim Gordon’s line – “looks like another el solo Mio tonight” . Loved the Big Whistle as well – “Shoot the Puck Barry”

    I loved 1994 – My wife tells the story that the whole neighborhood could hear my scream “Richter” after another kick save (and a beauty).

    We moved to Tampa in 1999 and have supported the Lighting as a Season Ticket holder ever since but never lost the Ranger love. Witnessed the Stanley Cup run and ultimate triumph in 2004 with Torts, Richie, and MSL. What a scene that was.

    1994 – NYRangers; 2004 – TB Lightning; 2014 – Could it happen – Yes it could – LA just will not go away but Quick is now back to human form and giving up goals and the Rangers may have finally have run into a team that is more tired than them.

    I will tell you all again that MSL is the real deal; He is the ultimate team hockey player and leader which makes it very difficult to understand his desire to get out of Tampa. He is now public enemy number one down here. Folks just don’t get how Yzerman stiffed him on the way the captaincy was handled. The olympics was just the tipping point.

    Anyway – one question – if “the trade” was not made – would we be in the Finals – My answer – NO WAY!!!

  20. The Suit says:

    Great posts. Nice to hear everone’s story. Keep em coming.

  21. Ken in Shandaken says:

    Followed all NY teams since Willy and the Giants beat a mighty Cleveland team in four, but didn’t become a crazy Ranger fan until ’79. Tough year for me as my marriage was breaking up and I needed a diversion. Espo, JD, Nickie, Dugie, Gresch, Maloneys, Walt, etc. saved my sanity. Oh, yeah, we lost the cup. Again. So what. I’m now happily remarried for over 35 years. Perspective!!
    ’94: Was supposed to teach calculus and program my school. Blew it off to bike down Ocean Parkway, across the Brooklyn Bridge and down to Battery Park and over to City Hall to honor our heroes. Thank you Roger for turning me on to the Boys in Blue! Sharing season tix with you and Nancy and all. Great fun. Let’s go to this parade together!!! I love this team and I love all you knowledgable bloggers!! LGR!!!

  22. "The Original" Rob says:

    Went to my first game in 81-82. Never forget as an 8-9 year old walking into Garden late into first period w my Dad and just totally being mesmerized by the beautiful white home jerseys under the Garden lights, w that faint tint of yellow from the lights glistening off the jerseys. One of the first things I remember was Reijo Ruotsalainen make a gawwwwgeous outlet pass to Duguay, and hearing all the fans start whistling whenever he touched the puck. To top things off, Nicki “Pie Face” Fotiu lose the beginning of a fight and make a fierce comeback to win it with about a couple seconds left in game.

    Spent most home games, on my knees in my bedroom playing ball hockey with my brother, as we listened to Marv Albert call the games, because home games were NEVER on TV unless you had cable, and that wasn’t available until the late 80’s growing up in Bayside Queens.

    Fast forward to 1994 after going to several hundred Ranger games, most with my Dad. May 10th 1994, the Day Leetch scored against Washington in the second round from the point. I get word from my uncle that my dad at the age of 46 died from a sudden brain hemorrhage. Dad, had a jewelry store on the corner of 47th and 6th ave. Is the place I went to after I went to game 7 against Vancouver, In tears, as I sat in front of his store, which was still locked, fresh from my Dads recent untimely death, and had a Heineken for him and me to celebrate the cup.

    • SalMerc says:

      Shoot the puck Barry, shoot the puck!

    • Walt says:

      Great story, wow!!

      • "The Original" Rob says:

        Thanks Walt! I have many, many more Ranger stories that have been a huge part of my life, and I’m sure that many of us do as well. When, we love this team , the way we do over the years, it’s inevitable that the Rangers touch our lives in many ways.

  23. Rockdog says:

    Love reading the stories. Ranger fan since ’79 here, and really thought that they were going to win the cup after winning the first game that year. Loved watching Barry Beck, Mark Pavelich, and Reijo Ruotsalainen (now who remembers that slap shot?)

    • "The Original" Rob says:

      You see, THAT was MY very first Ranger team, and will always be ingrained in me as the original team! Don’t forget Mike Rogers, Tom Laidlaw, Eddie Mio, and of course Greschner. Reijo “Rexi” Ruotsalainen, was my child hood IDOL! I had a poster of him above my bed growing up, and boy did that 5ft 7′ Finn have a BLAST of a shot!!!

  24. John says:

    I bought a silver NY Rangers Stanley cup championship medallion in 1994. I can’t wait to get a new one for 2014!

  25. flatbush says:

    Might as well contribute, For u old guys; Remember in late 50″s early 60’s the Daily News Sunday color section would have photos of every player? Maybe it was the color of the Rangers blue that got me hooked or maybe goin to my first game with my dad vs the Black Hawks. The uniforms, the ice, crowd, a bench clearing brawl. We sat just below where the lady played the organ. Talk about spontaneous interactive excitement. It bombarded the senses and that was well before my first “purple “O”. Lets not forget the tradition of getting a hot dog and orange drink, in those little paper cups, at Nedicks and then browsing at Cosby’s. The penalty box where both players sat with a cop in between. Vic H, going after Henri Richard in the penalty box or battling “terrible Ted Green’, Vic scaling the glass behind the goal to defend the “Cat”. Loved # 11, even tryed to comb my hair like him! The Chief walking around the garden! The Blarney Stone, my 14 game plan blue seats in sight of JD & Sam; 2 seats shared by 6 guys in 1994. I can rest in peace but it would be great to see another cup and parade. Lets go rangers!!!

    • Walt says:

      In my lifetime, I purchased only one Ranger jersey, it was #11 Hatfield, still have it, and wear it when I get a chance to visit the garden with my son Rick!!!!!

      Talk about Ted Green, doesn’t he have a steel plate in his head from a stick swinging incident, back around 1970 or so???????