Friday, January 27, 2012

Down Memory Lane

Reaching the 1,000th post milestone kind of jogged my memory, no old age jokes please, to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit a few highlights and many more disappointments. It's hard to imagine a day in my life without a thought, a smile or a frown about the New York Rangers. It's a voyage that is not a solo trip. It involved family, my wife, my children and now my three grandchildren. It also involved in-laws and especially jb. This Rangers' journey included many friends and co-workers, who I have dragged along, some almost willingly. To all of them, especially my grandkids, I offer my deepest apologies for fostering this malady upon them. While there have been smiles and successes, there have been more frowns, disappointments and failures over the years.

And don't forget the fans. The many, many fans who suffered through the same misadventures that this franchisee, however lovable, has foisted on us. They say that to truly enjoy the fruits of after life that one must first go through trials and tribulations. If this be true then the Rangers are our Purgatory, so all Ranger fans have a one way ticket to Paradise. I think of Larry and Sal, who sit behind us in section 337. My Italian friend across the aisle and his wonderful family and the many other fans who I have crossed paths over the years, but due to some circumstances beyond my control I may have forgotten their names, but not their faces.

And then the players. I have been very fortunate to have met some players over the years and all of them have been beyond gracious. And some of them in the most curious places. Like meeting Gump Worsley in a Minnesota hotel bar many years ago and sharing a libation or two together. Hot Rod Gilbert, who zipped by me many times in the LIRR station and shouting out, "Hi buddy" almost every time and finally meeting him and talking with him in a luxury box on a night they raised Mike Richter's number to the rafters. The phone call from Adam Graves when he called to inquire about my health and wished me well. God bless you Adam. There was Jeff Beukeboom, during an intermission, sheepishly denying my claim that he would be better on defense than the comics parading as D-men on the Rangers. Then there was Sean Avery, taking the time to crash my 80th birthday party despite a busy charity events schedule. And of course, the Stealth GM. We had met a few times before, always pleasant I might add, until that ill fated night when neither one of us was in the mood to be civil.

The 1930's, the formative years.

I became a Ranger fan by way of radio station WHN 1050 on the dial. Now ESPN radio. The Ranger games were done by Bert Lee and the station had the legendary Marty Glickman as one of its sportscasters. Marty was a great basketball announcer. The station also had big band music so it was a natural for me. The Rangers were loaded with historic names: Phil Watson, Lynn and Muzz Patrick, Alfie Pike and the fabulous Dave Kerr in goal. They would form the nucleus for the Cup in 1940.

The 1940's, the War Years.

Little did I realize that winning the Cup would lead to one of the most frustrating droughts in the history of sports. We had won in 1938, came back in 1940 and it looked like a dynasty was forming. Then came World War II. Players were being drafted into the Canadian armed forces. Almost all the players were Canadians. But they had curious rules. Phil Watson was drafted and assigned to Montreal. In its wisdom the NHL allowed Watson to play for the Canadiens. He played the 43-44 season with the Canadiens before returning to the Rangers. Toward the end of the decade the Rangers rebuilt with Edgar Laprade, Buddy O'Connor, Bones Raleigh and future Hall Of Famer, goalie Chuck Rayner. It was the team that made the spirited run in 1950.

The 1950's, that dreaded crossbar. Who is Peter Babando?

A magnificent run almost brought Cup number four home. Game seven in OT Bones Raleigh hits the crossbar and the Red Wings come down and Peter Babando scores the goal that gives the Red Wings the Cup. All seven games were on the road. The Rangers played two 'home games' in Toronto. The Rangers were evicted from the Garden because the circus was in town. To some fans, considering the performance after this disappointment, the circus never left. Two big events in this decade. I spent four years in the USAF 1951-1955 and Andy Bathgate arrived in the '52-'53 season. Starting with 1955-56 he led the Rangers in scoring for eight straight seasons. No other Ranger before or since has ever done that.

The 1960's, Bathgate goes North.

In the 1963-64 season the Rangers traded Andy Bathgate to Toronto and the Ranger drought hit epic proportions. They raised the white flag and surrender. In four playoff appearances they won four games. They had players like Worsley, Doug Harvey, Harry Howell and Bathgate, but no cigar. Emile Francis would start his coaching run which almost produced results in the 1970's. Almost.

To be continued...

Continue Down Memory Lane (Part 2)

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