Feb
12

Tanks for the memories

February 12, 2018, by

I started becoming a Ranger fan in 1993 or so, mostly because my Dad is an Islander fan and I was a brat. So here I am today, a Ranger fan. He’s still an Islander fan, although he admittedly doesn’t follow as closely as he used to. We still try to go to at least one Isles/Rangers game per year, though.

I started become a fan during the best time to be a Ranger fan. The Rangers were about to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. The team had great players that would become legends. I didn’t understand the concept of gutting the team for a Cup run, and I wondered why the 1995 version was so terrible in comparison.

The 1997 run to the Conference Final was almost as magical as the Cup run in 1994, if only because it was so unexpected. The Wayne Gretzky hat trick. The five game demolition of the Devils. So much fun to watch. Yea the Legion of Doom broke the Rangers, but it was still fun up until that point.

Then came the dark ages. From 1998-2004, the Rangers were a laughing stock. There were $80 million rosters and no playoff appearances. They weren’t even close. They were a train wreck. Finally, in 2004, the team was gutted and the rebuild started.

This trip down memory lane started because of an observation I saw on Twitter the other day, and restated in Adam Herman’s eulogy of the Rangers: There is an entire generation of Ranger fans that have never seen this team as a “bad” team. Most born after the 1994 Cup run may be too young to really remember how bad the Rangers were until after the lockout.

We expected that 2005-2006 season to be a disaster. What was an aging Jaromir Jagr going to do? Michael Nylander? Really? Martin Straka is still in the league? Who the eff is Marek Malik? Kevin Weekes is the goalie? May as well bring back Mike Dunham.

But then the unexpected happened. A kid by the name of Henrik Lundqvist, a budding generational talent, stole the starting job from Weekes. Straka-Nylander-Jagr was the most dynamic line we’ve seen since the GAG line (admittedly before my time). Jagr broke records. Hank began setting records. The Rangers made the playoffs. It didn’t matter to me that they got crushed by the Devils. They made the playoffs.

They did the same thing in 2007. Except this time they had a cupcake matchup as the #6 seed, facing the Southeast Division champion Atlanta Thrashers. I was in my first year of grad school. When Jagr sealed Game Four with his empty netter, I almost broke my neck celebrating. That run, though, was cut short. Stupid Chris Drury.

Brendan Shanahan arrived that offseason, making the Rangers deeper. They finished as the #4 seed, and had another date with the Devils in the playoffs. Sean Avery made his presence felt. His attempts to screen Martin Brodeur led to the “Avery Rule.” Little known fact: The Rangers lost that game, the only one they’d lose that series. Then they ran into the Penguins.

The 2009 playoffs were horrible. The Rangers blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Caps. Stupid Donald Brashear. I’m still convinced that late and dirty hit on Blair Betts was the reason why the Rangers lost the series.

2010…..skip. Stupid Olli Jokinen. (It’s not his fault by any means, but he’s the scapegoat for missing the shootout attempt.)

The 2011 playoffs gave me the greatest experience at a playoff game to date. I was in the crowd for “Can You Hear Us?” It was great, until the third period. I was so shell shocked by the result that I didn’t move after Jason Chimera’s goal. Security actually told me to leave. True story – ask Becky. She was at the game with me.

It wasn’t until 2012 when it all started coming together. The Rangers overachieved for most of the season, but then they made their run. Dan Girardi’s slapper from what felt like the hash marks to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in Game Seven against Ottawa. Marian Gaborik’s 3OT winner against Washington. Joel Ward’s bone-headed high sticking penalty. Brad Richards and 6.6 seconds. Marc Staal’s winner. Stupid Adam Henrique.

The 2013 playoffs had a similar feel. A seven game win over the Caps. Too bad the Leafs pulled a Leafs and blew the three goal lead against Boston. They rode that momentum to the Cup Final. The Rangers didn’t even stand a chance.

Oh my what fun 2014 was. Dan Carcillo and his heroics against Philly. Coming back from down 3-1 against Pittsburgh. Martin St. Louis’ courage and emotional spark that propelled the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers lost in five, but four of those games went to OT. It could have been a lot different.

Then came 2015, which we now realize was the beginning of the end for the Rangers. A five game win over the Penguins. A dramatic comeback against the Caps. Down 3-1 in the series, Ryan McDonagh wins Game Five. Chris Kreider scores a pair in the first in Game Six. Derek Stepan wins it in 2OT in Game Seven. But then came the Tampa series. The first time Henrik Lundqvist lost a Game Seven at home.

The Blueshirts were humiliated in the 2016 playoffs. Then got lucky in the 2017 playoffs, getting an easy matchup against Montreal in the first round. They blew their chance to beat another easy matchup against Ottawa, as the roster holes and poor coaching started to take its toll.

The Rangers are heading in a direction that an entire generation has never seen before, and one that is all too familiar for the majority of the fan base. The 2004 fire sale was needed, but also gut wrenching. We are going to see fan favorites move on, and we should expect that they won’t return. We might see another legend moved. The generation older that I certainly has more heartache and has seen their fair share of legends get traded.

Selling at the deadline is a tough but necessary move for a club that needs to retool desperately. The club in front of them is slow and indecisive with the puck, two things that don’t work in today’s NHL. Add on some bad contracts, and you have a team that needs to reset. The team won’t tank, but it’ll look somewhat similar.

It’s been 12 straight seasons of great Rangers hockey. There are memories that I’ll have forever. I’m looking forward to the new generation of kids that will get this club another Cup. Thanks for everything, 2005-2018 Rangers.

"Tanks for the memories", 5 out of 5 based on 26 ratings.
Categories : Musings

40 comments

  1. Agentsmith says:

    Until they get forwards and d who A . think shooting first B. have a respectable midrange to long range shot, ie one timer/slap shot they ll never be a good possession team.

    U see fowards like zuc and grabner instead of dropping it back for an easy point shot like pit does, they keep circling and circling to nowhere.

    Change is needed. Starts in 2 weeks.

  2. Mancunian Candidate says:

    Nice piece, Dave—good summing up of the most consistent decade-plus run of success in this team’s long and sometimes ugly history. Onwards/upwards for NYR from where they are now!

  3. Peter says:

    David, I was born 40 years prior to the cup that Messier, Leetch, etc. brought to New York. I have seen hard times as a Ranger fan, but I stuck with them nevertheless (even though I was on Long Island when the Islanders were insufferably good when the Rangers were implausibly bad!)

    The current retooling starts with a core of fairly young players and a goalie who is still capable of stealing some games even though he might not be as consistent as he once was. Having Hank as the backstop will benefit them. He will remain a legend even if he doesn’t get a cup.

    If the front office plays it well, they may be pretty good fairly quickly. I don’t see a Buffalo Sabres like period of being lousy in their future. They may be lousy for a little while but not a long time because they are about to make the changes that need to be made. So, I am optimistic that I won’t be pining for the old days the next couple of seasons. Instead, things are looking up.

  4. Brendan says:

    Dave, I’m with you, we started our fandom around the same exact time… went to my first Rangers game in the 1992-93 season. I will never forget the BEEZER cants and having no idea what they meant at the time. I have stayed with this team through all of the ups and downs since then, and I have to say… I am oddly very excited for the Rangers right now.

    Yes, I can’t wait to see the return for players dealt by the deadline, but I also revel in the idea of this team, full of kids, potentially pulling off a playoff birth! Any win at this point feels like a bonus. I had more fun seeing the Rangers beat the Flames and Jets than I can remember any other regular season win in recent history (except maybe the outdoor games).

    We haven’t played the role of underdog in so long, that I forgot what it felt like to NOT have anything but Stanley Cup expectations. It’s just a huge relief to me, as a fan, that I’m not forced to believe we’re going for the cup again this year. And it’s strangely exciting that we may be getting a little sneak peak of some future Rangers… even more exciting that they have a slight chance to showcase themselves, if even just a little while, in the playoffs.

    Let’s Go Rangers.

  5. SalMerc says:

    I suspect our own first round pick will be between 9 and 14. Can we tank enough to get into the top 5? I doubt it. Instill pride and a promise of hard work equals more minutes. Play Tony and Pionk and Vesey and Buch, as they need to lead.

    Trade for picks and NHL ready prospects. If after we move Nash and others , we should have multiple picks in the first 3 rounds. Let’s get these right!

    2018-19 is only 9 months away.

  6. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Appreciate the chronological breakdown of the great memories. Spoiled as we were, they were beginning to blend into one another. Really enjoyed the quick take on each great post season run!

  7. Walt says:

    Dave

    In my lifetime following this wonderful team, the trade that killed me most was the Brad Park & Jean Ratelle for sorry Phil Esposito & Carol Vadnais. At that time period the Bruins were by far the most hated team of we old farts, and Jean was one of the most beloved players to wear the Ranger Blue. Prior to that, in my lifetime, the Andy Bathgate & McKenney trade for Dick Duff, Rod Seiling, and Bob Nevin was the worst as far as I was concerned.

    I’ve been around long enough to see a cellar dweller, and a cup winner, and it’s been too long since the last cup, so I’m all for a rebuild and a cup in the very near future!

  8. BB says:

    I’ve been watching the Rangers since the 52- 53 season. Many many ups and downs in those 65 years. Of course June 14th 1994 was the best. I was in my usual seat up in the blues

  9. Playground 9 says:

    Nice write-up Dave. It is so strange but the 2014 and 2015 seasons seem like a lifetime ago.

  10. supermaz says:

    Great write up, really enjoyed reading. All the great memories.

  11. joe from newburgh says:

    I’ve been a Ranger fan for about 50 years (we were living in Buffalo, and my dad drove to Toronto so we could see the Rangers vs. the Leafs, but I can’t really remember what year it was, sometime around 1950). Obviously the 1994 Cup was the high point, but I really remember how good it felt to watch the Rangers just pound the Islanders into the ice, 6-0, 6-0, 5-2, 5-2, in the playoffs that year, too.

    • Walt says:

      Joe

      With Ron Hextall in goal for the Fishsticks, now that was a classic series that will never be topped again!!!!!!! Big Thumbs Up!!!!!!!!

  12. odielicious says:

    Nice piece dave. I have been around just as long but just never really got that into the sport on TV. I liked playing more then I liked watching it. Now that I am older and fatter I don’t play it anymore I just like watching it. Funny how those things work out!

  13. Stevem says:

    I would say beating the Isles into submission in the opening round of ’94 was an awesome thing to witness.. but I think the ’79 semi final when we beat them in 6 was better.. only because we weren’t expected to win especially ending the season some 25 points behind them.

  14. Dave says:

    Quick poll – The title of this post was:

    A) A clever pun
    B) A not so clever pun
    C) A typo

  15. Richter1994 says:

    Great idea Dave, looking back and waiting to see what happens going forward.
    Some of my historical highlights:

    Became a fan in 1965, because of my dad, who was a fan.

    Got to watch only road games at first on good ole channel 9 (WOR).
    BIG thrill was when CBS, who televised weekly national games on Sundays after football seasons, televised a Ranger home game. I was so excited!!

    Went to my first Ranger game in Oct, 1976, lost to Vancouver. I was excited to go but sad that they lost…

    In the early 80s, I went to a preseason game at the Coliseum, where a bench emptying brawl took place. In a preseason game!! The league banned players from leaving the bench after that game.

    I always wondered how I would react when the Rangers finally won the Cup. After they won, I sat in my basement, on the floor, quietly, and crying… RELIEF!! In my 29th year as a fan. I thought I would never see it.

    Did not get to see the Cup live, but got to see Richter, Messier, Leetch, Graves, Bathgate, and Howell get their #s retired (I attended those games).

    Been going to games regularly since 1995 (of course, lol). Sat through the “Dark Years” when fans were actually sleeping at the games.

    No matter the play of the team, going to MSG has become my “Happy Place.” I love it and I can’t wait until my next game on Feb 23rd.

    LGR!!

  16. Walt says:

    Tony

    ” I sat in my basement, on the floor, quietly, and crying… RELIEF!! ”

    I sat on the couch, with my younger son John, Rick was away in college, and we both cried, John for his dad’s wish coming true.

    I worked for a major corporation, and many of my friends from all around the country called the house that night, just to get my reaction. I remember that like it was yesterday, but then I forget my wife’s birthday, what does that say about me???? LOL

    • Walt says:

      Oh how I would love to have my grandson Jake experience that with me, and his dad Rick.

      The other three boys live in Pittsburgh, and are Pens fans, as is their dad. Lucky boys looking at a possible threepeat!!!!

    • Richter1994 says:

      LOL, great story my friend. I’m sure that your wife understood (lol).

      Yeah, I thought I would scream, yell, go crazy, etc. Nope, relief that we got to see at least one.

  17. JoeS. says:

    Dave! Great Job here, thank you for the great memories. I remember a couple more rebuilds, but this article was the best I have ever read by you. Believe me there were plenty! I just had such a great time walking down the path with you!

    Keep up the great work!

  18. Chris F says:

    Hi, my name is Chris, and I’m a Rangers addict. I’ve been clean for 24 hours.

    I’ve been struggling with the highs and lows of my addiction since the 1993-94 season. I took my first hit of Rangers hockey that year at the age of 8, and while my recollection of how it made me feel is a little hazy, I do vividly remember watching the manic convulsions it induced in my father and two brothers. I knew that moment that I wanted to feel the high myself, and I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since. It was said that to experience that peak would last a lifetime; for me, however, it seems the pursuit is my eternity.

    The ’97 playoff run was probably my first real taste of what this powerful narcotic could do. For a fleeting moment of naivety, I thought I would reach that height of ecstasy, but then I crashed, and crashed hard. It was a humbling moment, and I learned to better manage my addiction from that point forward, spending the next 8 years or so simply indulging on a largely recreational basis, but to be honest, the supply was far weaker than I’d ever experienced before. In fact, there was a brief time there around 2004 when I was completely clean, the market had dried up, and because for years every time I had used, I just felt like crap, I nearly swore it off forever.

    But then I heard of a new strain of Rangers on the market, and it was being pushed hard with all sorts of promises. They were calling it the King Strain, and said it wouldn’t leave you feeling down, no crash, just smooth, euphoric hockey with the ultimate payoff at the end. I knew I shouldn’t, but I just couldn’t resist. One for old times sake, right? And, oh man, it was pretty good. I mean, it wasn’t the ’94 Heave-Ho Strain, but it was steady and consistent. Maybe through all those years I’d learned how to manage the crash better, or maybe this was just a superior product, but even when it let me down, it let me down easy. In retrospect, I probably told myself what I needed to hear, like any addict. And soon enough, I was back in full swing. But something was definitely different this time around. I found myself using consistently, but I had tempered my expectations, enjoying the highs, and not succumbing too hard to the lows. This lasted for years, enjoying it for what it was, while not falling for the chase of what it could be. Call it careful management, call it denial, but I was stronger than the drug, right?

    But, a new dealer had arrived in 2009, and he changed everything. His name was Torts, and he was a blue-collar bulldog, high energy, loud, profane. At first, I resisted, content with my managed routine. But he was relentless, and he just wouldn’t let me be. I’m pretty sure he was using too, but he had an honesty about him that made him seem trustworthy. He’d tell me when a batch was pure sh!t, something I wasn’t accustomed to in this deceptive world of fantasy and delusion, which made me even more intoxicated with the idea of what could be when he actually talked a batch up. Such was the case in 2012. By all accounts, it was supposed to be a pretty mediocre batch. The word on the street was that while it packed a decent punch initially, it would ultimately fizzle out, that it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t particularly good. There were other strains that were getting all the attention, but my dealer was pretty adamant: this was going to be different, and could compete with the best product out there. And, for a brief time, I thought I’d struck gold. For 6 weeks that Spring, I was in an utter fugue state, steadily building in euphoria, with hallucinations of ’94 dancing in my head. But the rumors were true, ultimately there was something pedestrian about it all. Suddenly, the binge was over. This one didn’t let you down easy at all, either, it was a shock to the system when it all came crashing down. It was ’97 all over again. Torts continued to peddle some weaker crap the following year until he was ultimately ran off the block. Rumor is he headed to the West Coast to dabble in something called ‘Nuck. But the damage was done, I was hooked again.

    And so it was that I met AV. He was a straight-laced corporate type. Charming, well dressed. He had come in from the West Coast where he’d been, coincidentally, dealing ‘Nuck himself, which had been all the rage for a few years. It had actually went toe-to-toe on the market back in ’94 with Heave-Ho, but everyone knew its ceiling was always going to be second best. AV knew the business, and he wanted to get in on the newly revamped King Strain. Smart guy, he was. But, he almost didn’t survive his first few weeks in the neighborhood. The initial samples he handed around were clearly laced with something. Some said It was Biron, but the truth is, no-one really knows. It was a dark time, everyone was stumbling around on bad trips. He could have lost the entire market, but he made some important tweaks to the DNA of the strain, adding something called Talbot, and a little bit of Kreids. Anyway, we’re getting off track. What a year that was. After the initial stumble out of the gate, AV regained our trust, and it was a party 24/7. The highs were high, and the lows were nil. I felt unstoppable, the blood rushed, and the head pulsated. We could do anything. Hell, score some one night and you could be feeling great for days. Nothing else seemed to matter, it was just Rangers hockey, all the time. Everyone was talking about it. There was something almost majestic about it all, the way it interconnected so many on a heightened level. AV had done the impossible, and brought back the excitement and euphoria of ’94. Almost… The supply ran out. No one saw it coming, but it was like a punch to the gut. There was no time to ration or wean, the withdrawals ruined more than a few. But, instead of swearing it off for good, the compulsion to get back that high was too strong. Despite increasingly weaker and weaker batches, I kept coming back for more, nearly succumbing myself in 2015. While coming down was just as hard as ever, the highs became less and less lofty. The juice simply wasn’t worth the squeeze any more, and yet I couldn’t stop. Everyone knew we were living a lie. This year, one would think we’ve learned our lesson, and would swear off this habit once and for all. But somehow, we’ve come full circle yet again, with laced dosages yet again finding their way into our supply with lethal regularity, and yet with each new taste it holds the promise of what could be; continually chasing the dream of the forbidden tomorrow.

    My name is Chris and I’m a Rangers addict. I’ve been clean for 24 hours.

  19. Larry says:

    IMHO, this is one of the best blogs Dave posted.
    .

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