New York Rangers History
The New York Rangers are one of five teams in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Rangers play at Madison Square Garden in New York City and wear uniforms of blue, red, and white.
The Rangers were one of the NHL’s most dominant clubs in the league’s early years, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals six times and claiming three league titles from 1928 to 1940. New York’s championship teams of 1928 and 1933 featured forwards Frank Boucher and brothers Bill and Bun Cook—-all future Hockey Hall of Fame members. In 1994 center Mark Messier, left wing Adam Graves, and defenseman Brian Leetch led the Rangers to their first NHL title in 54 years. After the 1995-96 season the Rangers signed renowned center Wayne Gretzky as a free agent.
The Rangers were founded in 1926 by G. L. “Tex” Rickard, the president of New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Local sportswriters dubbed the new team “Tex’s Rangers.” A former defenseman for several Canadian amateur and professional hockey teams and co-founder of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, Lester Patrick became the team’s first head coach. The NHL’s Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to the sport of hockey in the United States, first awarded in 1966, is named for him.
Under Patrick’s direction the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals five times. They won the Stanley Cup in 1928 when they defeated the Montréal Maroons 3 games to 2. In game two of the series, Rangers goalie Lorne Chabot was knocked unconscious by the puck, and the 44-year-old Patrick took his place, registering 18 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory. The Rangers won the Stanley Cup again in 1933 when they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3 games to 1. Bill Cook earned the Art Ross Award as the league’s leading scorer in both 1927 and 1933. Frank Boucher earned seven Lady Byng Trophies (1928-1931, 1933-1935) as the league’s most gentlemanly and sportsmanlike player.
In 1940 Frank Boucher became head coach. In his first season he took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they defeated the Maple Leafs 4 games to 2. Dave Kerr, who was awarded the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding goaltender that year, anchored the defense. Other notable players on the team included center Neil Colville, defenseman Art Coulter, and right wing Bryan Hextall, all future Hockey Hall of Fame members.
In 1949 former left wing Lynn Patrick, Lester Patrick’s son, became the Rangers’ head coach. He led New York to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1950, but they lost to the Detroit Red Wings 4 games to 3. Center Buddy O’Connor and goalie Chuck Rayner—both eventual Hockey Hall of Fame members—led the lineup. Two years earlier O’Connor had become the first New York player to earn the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player (MVP). Rayner earned the MVP award in 1950.
From 1951 to 1966 the Rangers registered just two winning records and qualified for the playoffs only four times. Notable individual achievements during that span included right wing Andy Bathgate being named league MVP in 1959; Doug Harvey winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in 1962; and goalie Lorne “Gump” Worsley and center Camille Henry winning the Calder Memorial Award for the NHL’s rookie of the year, in 1953 and 1954, respectively.
Under head coach Emile Francis, the Rangers re-emerged as an NHL power in 1967, making the first of nine consecutive playoff appearances. Left wing Vic Hadfield and center Jean Ratelle led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1972, where they lost to the Boston Bruins 4 games to 2. With center Phil Esposito leading the team, the Rangers made another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979, losing to the Montréal Canadiens 4 games to 1.
The Rangers’ failure to win another NHL championship ended in 1994 when, under the direction of first-year head coach Mike Keenan, they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals 4 games to 3. Adam Graves scored 52 goals during the regular season, and Mark Messier, who had previously earned five championships with the Edmonton Oilers, provided a valuable leadership role. Brian Leetch emerged as one of the league’s finest defensemen. In 1996 Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer and Messier’s longtime teammate in Edmonton, joined the Rangers. Led by Gretzky and Messier in the 1996-97 season, the team advanced to the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs but lost in that round to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4 games to 1. Before the start of the 1997-98 season, Messier left the Rangers as a free agent. Despite an experienced roster that featured Gretzky, Leetch, left wing Kevin Stevens, and goalie Mike Richter, the Rangers failed to qualify for a playoff berth in 1998 and 1999. Gretzky retired after the 1999 season.
Official New York Rangers Web Site