Tonight the Rangers organization will pay tribute to the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship team. It is expected that all members of that club, save for Alex Karpovtsev, who died in the Yaroslavl plane crash in 2011 (he will be represented by his wife and daughter), will be there. There is all-day programming on MSG to relive the moment. The ceremony will begin at 6pm tonight.
I was just ten years old when the Rangers won the Cup. I knew what 1940 was, but it didn’t process with me at that time. All I knew was that the Rangers hadn’t won in a long time. I was happy to see them win the Cup, but I didn’t truly understand the meaning of it all. I didn’t understand why someone held a sign that they could die in peace. I did, though, understand why Mark Messier was elated when Gary Bettman told him to come get the Stanley Cup.
I watched most of that playoff run. I remember laughing when the Rangers swept the Islanders in a tennis-esque score (6-0, 6-0, 5-1, 5-2). I was irrationally upset when the Rangers lost one game to the Capitals (HOW DARE THEY!). After they won that series 4-1, I knew the Rangers wouldn’t lose again. Right?
Then the Devils series came. I couldn’t understand how they could lose Game One at home. Who the hell is Stephane Richer? At least they answered back strong in Games Two and Three (Matteau!). But what happened the next two games? These aren’t the Rangers. How do you even pronounce Zelepukin? This is what goes through the mind of a ten year old.
Then it was time for Game Six, and the Rangers were down 2-0 already. I knew they were going to lose. My dad, the Islanders fan (yea yea yea), taught me a valuable lesson that night. Even though it may seem lost, always play to the last whistle. Then Alex Kovalev scored. “See, they just cut the lead in half.” Then Messier tied it. Then Messier gave the Rangers the lead.
Game Seven. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to grasp what happened. Again…what’s a Zelepukin? I could barely keep my eyes open when Matteau ended it (don’t judge, I was ten!), and i knew the Rangers were going to win it all. It’s amazing how quickly my mind could be changed off one or two games.
Who is Greg Adams, and why do the Rangers keep losing Game One?!?!
Three straight victories – they are going to win Game Five! I recorded the game on VHS (for our younger readers, a VHS predated DVDs to watch movies. They had long film tape on two small reels. Be Kind. Please Rewind). They lost. I recorded Game Six. They lost. Should I even record Game Seven?
I recorded it. You know the rest.
I had a school trip to the Connecticut Aquarium the next day. Everyone on the bus was chanting 1994, although I’m pretty sure most didn’t quite grasp what it truly meant. We knew the basic meaning, but not the emotional suffering that came before or the elation that came following.
I wouldn’t truly understand what all that meant to me until Messier left for Vancouver. Then Adam Graves was traded to San Jose. Mike Richter retired. Brian Leetch was traded, the most gut wrenching of them all.
I thought that when the Rangers won in 1994, I’d see them win again. We all know how that went.
I now fully appreciate what that team did. They may have been the best team in the NHL, but the playoffs in New York, with that kind of burden and curse, are a whole different animal. That team was special.