It’s that time of the year again, when we honor our Irish-American heritage by eating salty, stroke-inducing corned beef and everyone’s favorite vegetable, cabbage. But it doesn’t have to be all bad; it’s time we honored the greatest Irish hockey players to ever lace ‘em up for the New York Rangers. It took a while to sift through the list of every player to ever play for the Rangers, but as you can expect, I hit pay-dirt once I got to the M’s.
7. Ryan Callahan (2006-present): It was no surprise that Callahan’s best game as a Ranger came three seasons ago in a game versus the Boston Bruins on St. Patrick’s Day. The Rangers went on to win 7-0 and the game was dubbed the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre”. Callahan had both his first NHL hat trick and fight that night, in a game I’ll never forget. Callahan continues to be a very important Ranger, by killing penalties alongside Olympic Teammate Chris Drury. If he plays a few more seasons here, you can be sure his ranking among the Irish greats will go up.
6. Brendan Shanahan (2006-2008): No other player to play for the Rangers in my lifetime wore his nationality on his sleeve like Brendan Shanahan. The beloved “Shanny” always had the “Irish Jig” played for him when he scored goals in Detroit, and that was played a few times during his tenure with the Rangers. His mother speaks with a slight Irish accent, but I do not know if she was actually born there. During his two short years with the Rangers, he was the voice in the locker room the team needed and was apart of the Rangers 600 goal club that included Jaromir Jagr, who both netted the milestone goal within games of each other.
5. Lynn Patrick (1934-1946): If you’re allergic to the name “Patrick”, now is your chance to turn the page because they next three players all share the same last name. Lynn played 455 games with the Rangers, spanning ten seasons. He won two Stanley Cups with the Rangers, led the team in goal scoring once, and won the team MVP award twice. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously in 1980.
4. James Patrick (1983-1994): When one thinks of defenseman James Patrick, they think of longevity. Patrick played from 1983 until 2004, for four teams and appearing in 1280 games. Patrick started his career with the Rangers, and played in 671 games, scoring 104 goals and 363 assists. He was apart of the many battles between the Rangers and Flyers, and Rangers and Islanders during the mid-80′s, which remain some of the most intense hockey games ever played.
3. Lester Patrick (1927): Lester Patrick would only play one game in his career with the New York Rangers, but it was enough to seal his name in the annals of hockey history forever. In the deciding game of the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals, Rangers goalie Lorne Chabot was injured and had to leave the game. When the Rangers could not find a goalie to replace him, the 44 year old Patrick, who was coach at the time, donned the goalie equipment and finished the game, which went to overtime with the Rangers becoming victorious on Frank Boucher’s game winning goal.
2. Dave Maloney (1974-1985): When Dave Maloney was given the captaincy in 1978, he became the youngest captain in Rangers history. The defenseman appeared in 605 games for the Rangers, and was as much of a scrapper as he was a good offensive defenseman. Four seasons in a row, Maloney recorded ten or more goals and more than a hundred penalty minutes. He currently serves as color analyst for the Rangers radio team on 1050 ESPN.
1. Don Maloney (1978-1989): Dave’s brother Don gets the nod as the greatest Irish player in Rangers history. Don Maloney would score twenty or more goals five times in his eleven seasons with the Rangers. He would also experience playoff success on very unsuccessful playoff teams, recording 57 points in 85 games. Six years after retiring from the NHL, Maloney would become the Rangers assistant general manager where he would remain for ten years. This makes him the longest tenured Ranger; 21 years with the franchise. Lester Patrick served 20. Don Maloney is now general manager for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Honorable Mentions: Have to give shout-outs to Buddy O’Connor, Angus “Scotty” Cameron, Kilby Macdonald, and Bruce MacGregor, just because of their last names. Rob McClanahan also deserves a mention because he scored twenty goals as a Ranger once and was on the 1980 US Olympic team.
The final mention goes to a player that should have never even been in the NHL, but nevertheless, left a lasting impression. I do not know whether or not Ryan Hollweg was of Irish decent, but who could forget this idiocy…err, I mean, patriotism, three years ago before the Rangers 7-0 win over the Bruins on St. Patrick’s Day?