Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Reminiscences of a Ranger Fan

This season concludes my 65th year as a Ranger fan. In some sense it is one of the most disappointing years as a Ranger fan. My biggest disappointment was the '49-50 season and our loss to the Red Wings in that most infamous of all Stanley Cups. The Rangers fell four games to three while playing all seven games on the road. Oh yes, they dressed it up and said we had two home games. In Toronto. Our two home games were in Toronto and five games were in Detroit. The seventh game was in double overtime and I can still hear the clang of the crossbar (on radio, no TV) on a shot by Don "Bones" Raleigh and the Red Wings came down and scored on a shot by Pete Babando. Peter Babando! Gordie Howe I could take but Peter Babando! This was my last lovable team for a while.

I would go off to the US Air Force for the next four years and the only hockey was the St. Louis Blues of the AHL. Remember the NHL was only a six team league and the furthest west was the Chicago Black Hawks. In the local papers of Missouri, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Nevada, not to mention the Philippines, hockey was equivalent to chess. This '49-50 team was coached by Lynn Patrick, son of the legendary Lester Patrick (more later) a great winger in the 30' and 40's on the championship 1940 team. Besides Raleigh they were led by their great goalie Chuck Raynor who won the Hart trophy as the MVP of the NHL. In my opinion, Chuck Raynor was the greatest goalie in Ranger history. Raynor once took a shot in the forehead, remember no masks, fell down like a fallen tree, was carried off, administered 17 stitches and returned after about an hour with a bandage across his forehead. And won the game. And they never washed away the blood in front of the net. In those days teams did not have a backup goalie on the bench. They relied on a backup in the stands who was not dressed for the game.

Other outstanding members of that team were scrappy winger, Tony Leswick, who later in his career would play with a concussion while his head was bandaged. Remember no helmets in those days. Also smooth skating center Edgar LaPrade, center Buddy O'Connor acquired from the Canadians a few years before and also a Hart Trophy winner with the Rangers. Allan Stanley was a defenseman who was a good skater and one who would rather poke check the puck than hit his opponent. He would eventually be booed out of the Garden. These were but a few of the players who led this great ill fated team that was forced to play the Stanley Cup finals away from home for seven games because the Circus was in town. The Circus! We still have the circus in town and it is led by James Dolan and Glen Sather. Do you think that the 93-94 Rangers would have won the Cup if they had to play seven games on the road? I don't think so. More reminiscences to come.

links:
Story & Photos of 1949-50 NY Rangers Hockey Team
Don "Bones" Raleigh - A Look Back...
Lynn Patrick
Chuck Raynor
Tony Leswick
Edgar LaPrade
Buddy O'Connor
Allan Stanley
Peter Babando