A 50th anniversary is something special, and the gift to be given is usually gold. After all, 50 years is quite a long time for anything, whether it be marriage or the amount of time a company or franchise has been around. 75 years is something even more momentous, and can be awarded with gold as well. 100 years is something that is monumental, and can be awarded with a 10K diamond. But 85 years is something that goes right between the last two major anniversaries.
According to About.com, the 85th anniversary is something that can be commemorated with diamonds or sapphire. The New York Rangers will be commemorating their 85 years in the National Hockey League this season, and have only four diamond rings of their own to show for it. That is roughly one championship every 21 and a quarter years. Why is there a celebration of this?
The Rangers are not the only team obsessed with nostalgia. The Montreal Canadiens seem to be honoring someone every season, and their schedule is chock full of games with pre-game ceremonies. But they can, after all, they’ve only won 24 Stanley Cups. They can honor the equipment manager from 1946 if they want.
But the Rangers never seem to let go of the past. In the last 85 years, just look at the names who have donned the Broadway Blue: Andy Bathgate, Eddie Giacomin, Brad Park, Phil Esposito, Harry Howell, Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Wayne Gretzky, and Jaromir Jagr, to name just a dozen. All those marquee names, all that firepower, and only four measly Stanley Cups to show for it.
In 85 years, the Rangers have had 39 coaches behind the bench, 57 Hall of Famer’s lace up skates, and they have only reached the playoffs 52 times, not to mention a recent seven-year stretch without one single playoff berth.
No matter what team they assemble, whether it be a team of greats or scrubs, there have always been complications. Good offense-bad defense, good defense-bad offense, great team-bad goaltending, great goaltending-bad team, great team-bad coach, great coach-bad team, too many stars, not enough stars, no voice in the locker-room, too many voices in the locker-room; the list just goes on and on.
Again I ask, what is there to celebrate?
The Rangers have the right to honor their history; pay homage to the “founding fathers”, so to speak, and of course, pay tribute to the 1994 heroes. But giving respect is not the same thing as ramming ’94 down our throats, the last great achievement this franchise has reached, and essentially the only one of note in the last 70 years. All this talk, all this rehashing of the same events over and over again from 16 years ago, at the same time as waiting more than thirty years to retire the numbers of Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell.
Out of the “original six” teams, let us look at the amount of years they have been in the league, the amount of Cups they have, and how many championships per season they have won:
1. Montreal Canadiens- 24 Stanley Cups in 101 years (1/4.21 years)
2. Toronto Maple Leafs- 13 Stanley Cups in 94 years (1/7.32 years)
3. Detroit Red Wings- 11 Stanley Cups in 85 years (1/7.72 years)
4. Boston Bruins- 5 Stanley Cups in 86 years (1/17.2 years)
5. Chicago Blackhawks- 4 Stanley Cups in 85 years (1/21.25 years)
5. New York Rangers- 4 Stanley Cups in 85 years (1/21.25 years)
The Rangers are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for lowest amount of Cups won for an “original six” team, as well as Cups-per-season ratio. The Blackhawks are coming off a championship this season, their first since 1961. That distance of 49 years is just shy of what the Rangers went through from 1940-1994, their longest Cup drought. The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have not won since 1967, the longest current streak in the NHL.
The Blueshirts may have won 16 years ago, but if you look at the broader picture, it is one Stanley Cup in the last 70 years.
The only reason I can think of for the Rangers picking such an odd year for a commemoration is because the older Rangers legends are just that– getting older. The Rangers have been very lucky to have some of the franchise greats live into old age, and still be capable of coming to Madison Square Garden and even appearing on television and radio from time to time. Emile Francis is 84, Eddie Giacomin is 71, Andy Bathgate is 78, and Harry Howell is 77. In my grim assessment, it is reasonable to assume that the Rangers are going to choose this year, rather than wait until the 100th anniversary for some fan fare, because those aforementioned players are in great shape and are still able to appear and revel in the team’s history. Fifteen years from now, will these greats still be around for the century mark of this team’s existence?
I can only hope that in the next fifteen years, the Rangers will add at least another Stanley Cup championship. As teams around them continue to get better, and the Rangers evenly tread water, how would it look for the one hundredth anniversary, to still have only four Cup banners raised to the rafters? The Rangers could then have a very even one championship for every quarter century they have been in the league.
The Rangers have many bright young prospects in the minors, and perhaps the best farm system they have ever had. The Rangers will be under pressure in the next few seasons to put a winning product on the ice, but not just one that can get it done in the regular season, but one that can thrive in the playoffs and push for a championship.
So as the Rangers unveil their new shoulder patches, jerseys, and center ice logo, I hope they will not only look to honor their somewhat disastrous past, but strive for greatness in the future. The fans of this team have stayed loyal all these years, and with prices never decreasing, they deserve to see a better product on the ice, and be proud of their New York Rangers.