Sunday, June 01, 2014

N.Y. Rangers: After Thirty-Five Years, It's Time To Ooh La La Again



Rangers Defeat Montreal 4-2
I - NYR 7; MON 2
II - NYR 3; MON 1
III - MON 3; NYR 2
IV - NYR 3; MON 2
V - MON 7; NYR 4
VI - NYR 1; MON 0


NEW YORK RANGERS: ...And Lord Stanley Said, Let There Be Hockey In June!


Payback - for Ken Dryden and the 1979 Montreal Canadiens, for Patrick Roy and the 1986 Montreal Canadiens, and for any other game we ever lost to the Montreal Canadiens.

I don't expect my fellow Blueshirt brothers and sisters to understand unless they've been there, but the team that lost to the Habs in the '79 Cup finals always remained a little more dear to me than the 1994 Stanley Cup champions.

Don't get me wrong.   I attended the '94 playoffs, and felt what every other Ranger fan felt when our boys lifted the Cup for the first time since 1940.  I went to the parade, saved my ticket stubs and made a scrapbook with all the local news clippings.

I was clearly older by then, and there's the rub.  The revisionist history (even back then) is hard to ignore. For all intent and purpose, the 1994 Rangers raised the (Eastern) Edmonton Oilers 6th Stanley Cup championship trophy, only this time at MSG.

Mark Messier was clearly the Messiah, and Adam Graves became a great Ranger his own way.  Then outside of homegrown heroes like Brian Leetch and Mike Richter, most of those Rangers were mercenaries - but very good mercenaries.  We all knew GM Neil Smith created a win now situation by trading away the club's youth, but we fans were okay with that.  Mike Keenan was perhaps the biggest reason why.  But Coach left shortly thereafter, and Neil Smith went on to make several more questionable moves.  After Wayne Gretzky's swan song, the lights off-Broadway went out for a while.

I guess, when you're younger, you're much more impressionable.  I was 10, 11, and 12-years old when the Blueshirts of Ron Greschner, Phil Esposito, John Davidson, the Maloney Brothers, Ron Duguay, Don Murdoch, and all those guys sparked my passion for Tex's Rangers and hockey in general.  Phil Esposito?   Yeah, I was too young at the time to grasp the trading of Brad Park to the Bruins.

I was more part of the Ooh La La generation:

As a late teen, the Smurfs of 1986 were just that, a 4th place, but likable band of smallish blue shirted skaters named Tomas Sandstrom, Mike Ridley, and Mark Pavelich, whom overachieved in advancing to the conference finals against Montreal.  The Beezer was at the height of his popularity, but many years after the fact, fans were still deliberating over the trade to acquire Barry Beck.

It's been 20 years since Mark Messier skated to center ice in MSG to accept Lord Stanley's Cup from Commissioner Bettman, and 35 years since my childhood heroes beat the New York Islanders, and advanced into the 1979 Cup finals.

This era, these Tortorella-Vigneault Rangers, stand to change everything.  My son was 3 1/2 years old in 1994.  His welcoming into the Blueshirt Brotherhood came later in the careers of the Four Horsemen of the Impossible (Richter, Messier, Leetch, Graves).  So this is his first Cup series.

I started taking him to Rangers games regularly after the lockout, in Henrik Lundqvist's rookie season.  Since then, we've experienced many highs and lows together, but obviously none quite like this.

He hates Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils like I learned to hate ALL the Islanders in my youth.  In fact, he chides me for not having the same disdain towards the Devils as him.  But because the Islanders have fallen on hard times over the last two decades(!), that rivalry does not resonate with him as it does with me.

What we do have in common is the Glen Sather era.  (Sigh)  To my son's credit, he did not like John Tortorella.  I did.  He liked the hiring of Alain Vigneault.  At the time, I didn't.  So chalk one up for the kid.

Back in 1994, my wife of five years was quite indifferent to our (then) 54 year plight, and my personal 15-year odyssey getting back to the Cup finals.  After spending the previous 20 years of my life furiously rooting for the Rangers, I was confronted by a strong headed mommy wanting to take our little pookie to Disney World, right in the middle of the Stanley Cup finals no less.  The significance of 1940 meant nothing to her.   Needless to say, I watched the Rangers lose games Five and Six in a Florida hotel room with two people too pooped to stay up and watch with me.

The wife has come a long way since then.  She started out understanding the basics - icing, off-sides, the power play, and stuff like that.  But ever since the lockout, she expects to attend games and becomes quite the vocal one.   She even has her own ticket connection now, and attended the Pittsburgh series without me.

Go figure.

Today, she is at the point where good play is recognized, strategy is questioned, and poor play gets trashed. But where is she exactly?  She enjoyed a good cry this morning while reading Dominic Moore's background story in the Sunday paper.  I think it safe to say blue blood finally courses through her veins.

In 1994, I suffered through the Rangers and Devils Game Seven double overtime thriller as both my son and wife slept.  Twenty years later, the wife and I celebrated the end of Game Six against Montreal together.  (If she only knew how I felt in 1979).  I then waited till 2:00am for my son to arrive home from work so we could have another mini celebration. be continued.


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