As time passes, and we avidly follow our favorite sports teams, many players come and go. While we may recall them during their time with the team, some slip through the crevices of our memory, only to resurface through a nostalgic memory or an old piece of media, causing us to reconnect their faces and names with the iconic Rangers uniform.
Among the hallowed names like Messier, Leetch, Giacomin, Lundqvist, and others, there are those more unknown Rangers, such as Pascal Dupuis and Ilkka Heikkinen, Enver Lisin, and others who may have faded from our recollection. As we traverse the regular season, we’ll delve into a few of these “Forgotten Rangers.” In this edition, we look at a big, burly center who was a lifelong Duck and a guy who won a Stanley Cup, but for Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
Steve Rucchin, Center
Time with Rangers: 72 games in 2005-06
Steve Rucchin was a vital cog in what would become the ’03 Western Conference champion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Before that, in 1994, he was selected as the 2nd overall pick in the NHL Supplemental Draft by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. This move marked a significant moment in his career as he became the center of Anaheim’s top line, alongside Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.
Rucchin served as an alternate captain from 2000 to 2003 and later as the team captain from 2003 to 2005. One of his most memorable moments came during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he secured a place in Mighty Ducks history by scoring the game-winning and series-clinching overtime goal in Game 4, leading his team to a sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.
In August 2005, he was traded to the New York Rangers as part of a salary-dumping move, with Trevor Gillies and a conditional 2007 draft pick going the other way. Rucchin made his mark in Ducks history, ranking fifth in assists (279), goals (153), points (432), and game-winning goals (23).
Renowned for his positive presence in the locker room, he provided valuable veteran leadership during the 2005–06 season as an alternate captain on a youthful Rangers squad that overachieved and made the playoffs. In his only season with the Rangers, Rucchin notched 13 goals and 23 assists. Although his stint with the Rangers was short, it was a productive one for a player nearing the end of his career.
On July 3, 2006, Rucchin signed with the Atlanta Thrashers as a free agent. Unfortunately, his time with the Thrashers was marred by a concussion he sustained on March 6, 2007, in a game against the Colorado Avalanche after a hit by Ben Guite. This injury resulted in him being sidelined for the rest of the season due to post-concussion syndrome.
Prior to the 2007-08 season, Rucchin failed a physical at training camp, effectively marking the end of his professional career.
Petr Sykora, Right Wing
Time with Rangers: 40 games in 2005-06
Petr Sykora’s NHL career saw him drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1995, where he made a strong rookie debut. He hit his stride in his fourth season, contributing to the Devils’ Stanley Cup win in 2000 as part of the “A-line.” However, he faced an injury in the finals. Sykora went on to play for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and reached the Stanley Cup Finals again in 2003, but lost to his former team.
As NHL play resumed in 2005–06, Sykora expressed a desire to be traded from Anaheim, leading to his acquisition by the New York Rangers on January 9, 2006, in exchange for young defenseman Maxim Kondratiev and the return of a fourth-round draft pick previously traded to Anaheim.
Sykora would perform admirably, netting 31 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 40 games, mostly shuffling around with players like Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander, Martin Straka, and others. After concluding the season with the Rangers, Sykora announced on July 7, 2006, that he wouldn’t be returning to the team.
After New York, he made stops with the Edmonton Oilers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he had a productive season in 2007. He played in another Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins but ultimately lost. Sykora scored his first NHL hat-trick and reached the 300-goal milestone in his career.
After leaving the Penguins, he briefly played for the Minnesota Wild, then ventured to Europe, including the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He made a return to the NHL with the New Jersey Devils in 2011, signing a one-year contract. Sykora would retire from professional hockey after the 2012-13 season, finishing his career with SC Bern in the Swiss National League.