Even though there are still several big names that could change teams this summer including Doan, Nash, Ryan and Semin, it already feels as if we are in the midst of the “dog days of summer.” You know, the period of time after the big name free agents have chosen where they are going to play next season and before the opening of training camp. That unfortunately leaves a scribe like me with little to write about so I’m just going to have to use my imagination.
For those of you unaware, I am a born and bred So Cal kid so the sport of hockey wasn’t a big deal when I was growing up. Like many in the area, once Wayne Gretzky was traded/sold to the LA Kings, thus bringing the league’s best player to an untraditional hockey market, I began to take notice of the world’s most exciting game. It would be a few more years before my love for the game really took hold however. Surprisingly, despite the presence of Gretzky practically in my backyard, I didn’t become a Kings fan. Instead I was a big fan of the way Mark Messier played the game and upon his trade to New York I became a Rangers fan.
As unlikely as my Ranger fandom may sound, I have been a die-hard fan ever since and the more time passes the greater my love for the team becomes. I was cheering during each stage of the cup run; I was there for the last gasp of the Messier and Gretzky pairing through the 1996-1997 playoffs; I prayed for change during the lean years that immediately followed that improbable postseason run; I was hopeful when Slats assumed power and imported stars like Lindros and Bure to town; I was watching as Jaromir Jagr led a rebirth of Rangers hockey and helped the club reach the playoffs again and; I sat glued to my seat through every single postseason game this spring as the Rangers nearly made it back to the Cup Finals for the first time in 18 years.
Over the years I’ve developed strong emotional attachments to many players who have donned the Rangers sweater. Some players I’ve even admired from afar only to see them eventually join the Blue Shirts. Since there isn’t much else to write about and because everyone likes lists, I’ve decided to list my 25 (okay, actually 27 since there were a couple of ties) favorite Rangers of all time in a five-piece series. Remember, this is my list; there is no right or wrong answers on this. Also, since I didn’t begin following the club too closely until the early 1990’s, several notable players won’t make my list simply because I never saw them play for the Rangers. So, if you are expecting to see Nick Fotiu, Ron Duguay, either of the Maloney brothers or Ron Greschner on here, sorry to disappoint you.
(Tie) 25. Marek Malik – “Harry” spent three seasons with the Rangers, recording 49 points and posting a terrific plus-67 +/- rating during his time in NYC. He usually was paired with Michal Rozsival on the blue line serving as the more defensive half of the duo. He makes this list simply for scoring one of the best shootout goals ever. Here’s the link to the You Tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x2E1cyTVBA
His reaction after the goal was scored securing the win is gold.
(Tie) 25. Derek Boogaard – The signing of “The Boogey Man” earned heavy criticism from most fans who were tired of the club throwing money at one-dimensional enforcers. Unfortunately and tragically, Boogaard’s life was cut short after just one season in the Big Apple. Still, Boogaard left me with fond memories including the time he was sent on the ice late in a win over the Flames when it seemed some Calgary players were playing a little rough. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jacuTt-vjA. Boogaard tried to engage Tim Jackman but it’s clear Jackman wanted nothing to do with Boogaard. I love seeing the humor in Boogaard’s face.
The other memorable event was his one and only goal as a New York Ranger. Fresh out of the penalty box Boogaard was sprung on a breakaway and rocketed a shot by the Washington Capitals goalie. From the celebration that ensued it’s evident he was well-liked by his teammates. Here’s the clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbDP6QdXL0Q
24. Sergei Nemchinov – Nemchinov netted 105 goals and 215 points in parts of six seasons with the Rangers while playing mostly as a third-liner. He potted 30 as a rookie in 1991-1992 and was a member of the cup winning team. He was part of the trade to reacquire Esa Tikkanen at the deadline of the 2006-2007 season.
23. Pat Verbeek – Verbeek was a hard-nosed winger who would go on to score over 500 NHL goals and record 2,905 PIM. He only spent a season-and-a-half in Manhattan but would net 51 goals in just 88 games before signing with the Stars as a free agent. He played strong in the postseason scoring 7 goals and 19 points in 21 playoff games as a member of the Blue Shirts.
22. Theo Fleury – Fleury had his personal demons, which he now seems to have come to terms with. His time with the Rangers was marked by several “incidents” on and off the ice but he still produced pretty good numbers (201 points in 224 games) as a Ranger. I always admired the fact he carved out such a great career playing the game as tough as he did at just 5’6”. I also loved how he was unafraid to mix it up physically, verbally and in other ways with some of the Rangers most hated rivals. Here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=de8HVHxa4Tc.
Also of note in the video was tough guy Sandy McCarthy (if I went top-30 big Sandy would have made it) giving the universal sign of “talk is cheap,” and also pointing at his bicep while on the bench.
21. Michael Nylander – Nylander proved to be an excellent fit with the Rangers following the lockout playing with Jaromir Jagr and Marty Straka. He potted 49 goals and recorded 162 points in his two years in New York. Unfortunately the two parties couldn’t agree on a contract extension as Nylander would eventually agree to sign with Edmonton before changing his mind and going to Washington instead. Things didn’t work out for Nylander in DC and his departure opened the door for Slats to make a huge splash adding free agent pivots Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. In many ways that was a lose-lose for both Nylander and the Rangers.
Up Next: My Favorite Rangers – 20 – 16
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