Jeremy Schapp excited to tell ‘special story’ of 1994 Rangers in ESPN documentary

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Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News

Jeremy Schapp is a storyteller. But what does a storyteller do when tasked with telling a story that has been told and re-told so many times before?

That was the challenge Schaap and ESPN faced with its latest documentary about the 1994 New York Rangers on the 30th anniversary of, perhaps, the most celebrated Stanley Cup championship in NHL history.

But Schapp believes they nailed it with “No Easy Victories: the 1994 New York Rangers,” which debuts Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

You may be able to tell that by the title of the documentary that the hook here is police officer Steven McDonald and his love of the Rangers and connection to the organization.

“When he was presenting the [Steven McDonald Extra Effort] award in ’94, he said, ‘There are no easy victories in the NHL. Who knows better than the New York Rangers and their fans?’ And that’s what it’s about,” Schapp told Forever Blueshirts. “If you win without the struggle, if you succeed without the challenges, what does it really mean?”

McDonald, a New York City police officer, was shot and paralyzed in July of 1986. His wife, Patti Ann, was expecting at the time, and later gave birth to their son, Conor, who followed in his father’s footsteps to join the NYPD.

Rangers fans know the McDonalds as part of their bigger family. And for the award that bears Steven McDonald’s name, which was won this season by Vincent Trocheck.

“Steven McDonald was probably the biggest Rangers fan of all,” Schapp said. “And that’s saying something.”

What this documentary focuses on is the relationship McDonald had with this special group of Rangers who won the franchise’s first championship in 54 years in the spring of 1994. And how the team’s overcoming adversity along the way was buoyed by McDonald’s faith and strength on a much larger scale.

“It’s about human beings in extraordinary situations under extraordinary pressure, and about love. About love that Rangers fans have for the team, about the love that the Rangers have for their fans, and specifically how Steven McDonald was an inspiration,” Schapp explained. “I think it’s a special story.”

Related: Here’s what’s next for Rangers after being eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoffs

‘Human connections’ at heart of latest 1994 Rangers documentary on ESPN

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Credit: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News

Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Adam Graves, Mike Keenan and Neil Smith are among those interviewed in the documentary. They share memories of The Guarantee, Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!, and The Waiting Is Over!

But family is a big subplot to all this, one that is actually brought out into the spotlight. And, not surprisingly, one that brings Messier to tears during the program.

“The touchpoints we really emphasized are those human connections,” Schapp said.

Schapp appeared to be most touched by McDonald, confined to a wheelchair and on a ventilator the rest off his life until his death in 2017, who publicly forgave his assailant. And then spent the rest of his life preaching forgiveness and unity, whether here in New York or in other stops worldwide.

“That message of forgiveness and faith and peace is a message he continued to deliver throughout the course of his life … people talk about him in terms of being a saint,” Schapp said.

That’s powerful context to this story.

But there’s also the hockey, and the McDonalds sure love their hockey, specifically the Rangers.

“Conor McDonald was seven years old at the time and he remembers everything vividly. Every shift he remembers,” Schapp offered. “That’s another cool thing about this show is that we kind of tell this story of the Rangers in that playoff run through the eyes of a seven-year-old, who had the best seat in The Garden with his dad as history was made.”

Which is part of why 1994 is so special. Generations of Rangers fans sharing in that moment with family, their blood family and their extended Blueshirts family.

And that’s what “No Easy Victories” aims to capture.

“It’s a special connection.”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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