THE NEXT BANNER THAT SHOULD BE HUNG AT MSG AND THE GREATEST RANGER EVER

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

      

It was wonderful to see the Rangers finally retire the numbers of 1950’s and 60’s greats Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell (Kallas Remarks, 2/23/09).  While others have opened the debate as to what other (if any) numbers from that era should be retired (Jean Ratelle’s #19, Vic Hadfield’s #11 and/or Brad Park’s #2, to name a few), isn’t it about time that the real greatest Rangers of all-time be recognized in the rafters at the Garden?

      

The New York Rangers of the late 1920’s through the mid-1930’s was a great team that won two Stanley Cups.  In other words, a run never equaled by any Ranger team from the mid-1930’s until today.  While it would be foolish to hope that the numbers of individual greats from that era hang in the rafters, why not hang one banner with five names (not numbers) of the Ranger greats who made the Hall of Fame and won MULTIPLE Stanley Cups as RANGERS?  In the history of the New York Rangers, nobody has done what this group did up to and including 2009.

      

FIVE HALL OF FAMERS (AS RANGERS) WITH TWO STANLEY CUPS (AS RANGERS)

       

Let’s look at this group of Ranger giants in alphabetical order:

    

1) FRANK BOUCHER — One of the smoothest centers ever, Boucher centered the famous “Bread Line” (between the Cook brothers), the dominant line through the Rangers’ Stanley Cup runs.  Boucher was a slick passer who led the NHL in assists three times and was second four times.  He also finished in the top six in scoring in six different seasons.  Frank Boucher won the Lady Byng Trophy (best “gentlemanly” player) so many times (seven times in the eight seasons between 1927-28 and 1934-35) that the NHL gave him the original trophy.  While known as a playmaker, Boucher dominated the scoring in the 1927-28 playoffs (the year of the first Ranger Cup) with seven goals and three assists (no other Ranger had more than two goals or five points total).  He made the Hall of Fame in 1958.

       

2) BILL COOK — Arguably the most talented of this talented group and considered one of the greatest right-wingers ever, Bill Cook was the dominant scorer for these superior Ranger teams.  Cook led the NHL in goals three times and finished in the top four in scoring five times, including winning two scoring titles in 1926-27 and 1932-33 (the year of the second Ranger Cup).  Cook was a first-team NHL All-Star three times and a second-team All-Star once (his linemate Boucher equaled him in both categories).  In addition, Bill Cook was the first Ranger captain, scored the first goal in the history of the New York Rangers and scored the first ever Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in NHL history against the Maple Leafs in 1933.  He made the Hall of Fame in 1952.

     

3) BUN COOK — The left wing on the famous “Bread Line”, Fred “Bun” Cook was a key component to the Rangers’ success during the late 1920s through the mid-1930s.  Bun Cook has been credited with “introducing and perfecting the drop pass,” according to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s website.  Cook finished in the top ten in goals scored four times and in points scored three times.  A very popular Ranger, Bun Cook was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995.

       

4) CHING JOHNSON — The rugged defenseman was considered one of the hardest bodycheckers ever in the NHL.  According to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, “he perfected the technique of nullifying the opposition by clutching and grabbing them as discreetly as possible – a pragmatic defensive strategy for the wily but slow-footed rearguard.”  He was a first-team NHL All-Star twice and a second-team NHL All-Star twice.  Johnson also could score for a defenseman: in the time of 44- and 48-game seasons, Johnson’s 10 goals in 1927-28 and eight goals in 1932-33 (the Rangers two Cup-winning seasons) were very high numbers for a defenseman back then.  Johnson finished second for the Hart Trophy (MVP) in 1931-32 and he scored the winning goal against Detroit in the first game of the semi-finals for the Cup in 1932-33.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1958.

        

5) LESTER PATRICK — “The Silver Fox” was a great player in his own right and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.  Patrick was the coach of both Ranger Cup winners (1927-8 and 1932-3) and also made the playoffs as Ranger head coach in 12 of his 13 seasons.  He also had only one losing season in those 13 years.  But Patrick did something that should have his name up in the rafters that even his basketball Hall of Fame counterpart Red Holzman (coach of the Knicks whose 613 (for his number of Knick wins) hangs in the rafters) never did:  Coach Patrick played a major role, at the age of 44, in winning a Stanley Cup game on the ice.  Down 1-0 in games in the 1927-28 Cup Finals, Rangers goalie Lorne Chabot was hit in the eye in the second period of Game 2 and could not continue.  With no back-up goalies in those days, Lester Patrick, after being denied permission to use another goalie in the stands, donned the equipment himself.  Patrick gave up one goal (with 18 saves) in 46 minutes as the Rangers won in overtime to tie up the series.  They went on to win their first Cup.

 

While, given the reality of sports in America today, it would be hard to argue for multiple jerseys from the 1920’s and 30’s to be hung up in the rafters in 2009.  BUT HOW GREAT WOULD IT BE TO HAVE THESE FIVE NAMES ON ONE BANNER HANGING IN THE GARDEN FOREVER?  These five, all of whom did more for Ranger tradition than anyone else, including all the numbers already in the rafters, should be recognized.  Certainly they have relatives around (be they grandchildren or great-grandchildren).  Certainly the Patrick family still has people involved in hockey.  It really wouldn’t be that hard.  AND IT WOULD BE THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

    

Was it all just too long ago?

    

FRANK BOUCHER – THE GREATEST RANGER EVER

         

 The main reason that Boucher is the greatest Ranger ever is that he’s been intimately involved with three of the four Stanley Cups that the Rangers have won in their existence.  Much of his greatness as a player is discussed above.  It should also be mentioned that, in the famous Lester Patrick game in the 1928 playoffs discussed above, the Rangers won 2-1 in overtime.  Guess who scored the game-winning overtime goal?  Frank Boucher.  When the Rangers got their second win (in the best-of-five series), who scored the only goal of the game?  Frank Boucher.  In addition, when the Rangers beat the Montreal Maroons 2-1 in the clinching game to win the Stanley Cup in 1928, guess who scored both Ranger goals?  Frank Boucher.  To recap, Frank Boucher scored four of the five goals that the Rangers scored in the 1927-28 Stanley Cup Finals.  Has anyone ever had a more dominant Stanley Cup Final?

       

Few know that Boucher was the coach of the Rangers when they won their third Stanley Cup in 1939-40.  While he was coach, and when the Rangers’ roster was decimated during World War II, Boucher suited up for 15 games in 1943-44 and scored an amazing 14 points at the age of 42.  Always known as an innovator, Boucher was the first coach to “pull the goalie” late in the game for an extra skater.  And he was still around in 1949-50, as general manager, when the Rangers made an amazing run but lost the Cup in Game 7 of the Finals in double-overtime (on the Pete Babando goal which gave the Cups to the Wings). 

     

LET’S NOT FORGET THESE GUYS!!

    

While Frank Boucher and the other greats discussed above have not been totally forgotten, if something is not done soon, some day they will all be forgotten.  They should have at least one banner in the rafters forever. 

     

Next season would be a wonderful time to do it.

                            

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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One response to “THE NEXT BANNER THAT SHOULD BE HUNG AT MSG AND THE GREATEST RANGER EVER

  1. Joseph Durocher

    Steve:

    Once again I find myself in agreement with you. The salute to Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell – finally – opens the door to a celebration of those great Rangers who played before them.

    Anyone at all interested in the history of the blueshirts should know that the team arrived in the NHL in fine style. The Rangers finished in first spot – in the American Division – in their inaugural season (1926-27), and then won the Stanley Cup in their sophomore season. Between 1927-28 and 1939-40, the blueshirts won three Stanley Cups and made it to the finals during three other seasons. Over a space of 16 seasons – 1926-27 to 1941-42 – the Rangers only missed the playoffs once. Yes, Virginia, that was a very successful team.

    Steve, I think you’re right in assuming that we probably cannot realistically expect to see jerseys retired in honour of those great players – Boucher, Johnson and the Cook brothers – who were instrumental in the success of that Rangers team, but – yes – I think we could have a banner carrying the names of the gentlemen you named.

    I would have a banner for each decade – each banner carrying the names of the great players who joined the blueshirts in that particular decade. In this way, we could – finally – salute the Rangers who are overdue for a formal tip of the hat.

    The blueshirt has been worn by many great players, and we should salute them properly.

    One final note: let’s not forget the gentlemen in the suits who coached and constructed the Rangers teams. In particular, let’s salute Emile Francis while he’s still with us.

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