New York Rangers Captain History: From 1926 To Present Day

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Rangers Mark Messier (11) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. Rangers Win Stanley Cup

Across 97 years of hockey action, the New York Rangers have had 28 captains. For a team that values grit, hard work, and longevity, their captains’ list is a sight to behold. Explore the New York Rangers captain history below, from 1926 to the present day:

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Bill Cook 1926-1937

The inaugural captain of the New York Rangers held that position for 11 seasons. The winger played 475 games for the Rangers, and was a 4-time All-Star, 2-time Stanley Cup Winner, and Hockey Hall of Famer.

Art Coulter 1937-1942

The handover of the captaincy to Art Coulter went well, and he captained the team for 5 seasons. The defender from Winnipeg, Manitoba played 288 games for the Rangers and continued the success that his predecessor started. Coulter was a 4-time All-Star, 2-time Stanley Cup Winner, and Hockey Hall of Famer, just like the captain he took over for.

Ott Heller 1942-1945

The first non-Hall of Famer on the list, Heller was the captain of the Rangers for only three seasons. He did play 649 games for the Rangers, 140 as captain, but had his captaincy stripped for the 1945-1946 season.

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Neil Colville 1945-1948

Colville took the captaincy from teammate Heller, and at 31 years of age, already had some experience under his belt. Unfortunately, Heller couldn’t replicate the Stanley Cup success he saw early in his career, as the Rangers drought would continue for all 4 seasons of his captaincy. Colville would eventually be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Buddy O’Connor 1949-1950

O’Connor was the first “transitional” captain of the Rangers, as he only lasted one season as team captain before retiring. O’Connor came to New York with quite the resume: 2-time Stanley Cup winner, and a Hart, Byng, and All-Star award in 1947-1948. He wasn’t the last Ranger to have a short captaincy, however.

Frank Eddolls 1950-1951

Eddolls took over from teammate O’Connor in 1950-1951, but the defenseman was only able to muster 8 points in 45 games before handing over the captaincy mid-season to teammate Allan Stanley.

Allan Stanley 1951-1953

Taking over from Eddolls part-way through the 1950-1951 season, 26-year-old Stanley did his best to lead the Rangers to success. The former Calder runner-up remained captain until injuries kept him out of the majority of the 1953-1954 season.

Don Raleigh 1953-1955

Raleigh took over from Stanley mid-way through the 1953-1954 season and held onto the captaincy for only one more full season. The centreman from Kenora, Ontario would put up respectable numbers but would give up the “C” for the 1955-1956 season.

Harry Howell 1955-1957

Rangers fans will recognize the name Harry Howell as having his #3 retired by New York. With that distinction, you’d assume that Howell was also the captain for a long time. The 23-year-old Howell was the youngest captain ever for the Rangers when he was given the honour, so the team must have seen something in him. The future Norris winner and Hall of Famer would captain the team for 135 games before giving up the C to an incoming teammate.

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George Sullivan 1957-1961

George “Red” Sullivan came to the Rangers after 235 games between the Blackhawks and Bruins. The Rangers must have been looking to have their captain be a little older than 24-year-old Howell, so Sullivan was given the captaincy when he donned the Rangers jersey, and held it for 4 seasons before he retired.

Andy Bathgate 1961-1964

Before getting his number 9 retired by the Rangers, Bathgate lead the Rangers as captain for two and a half seasons. The winger from Winnipeg, Manitoba put up 145 points in 196 games over those seasons, but would ultimately concede the captaincy as he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Camile Henry 1964-1965

Taking over for Bathgate was Camile Henry, although this was shortlived as he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks the next season.

Bob Nevin 1965-1971

Bob Nevin brought some stability to the New York Rangers captaincy, as he held the honour for 7 seasons until he left the team in 1971. Over his time as Rangers captain Nevin would play 491 games, being named a finalist for the Lady Byng trophy in 65-66.

Vic Hadfield 1971-1974

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Another future jersey number retiree, Hadfield played for the Rangers for 10 seasons before being named captain at the age of 31. He would captain New York until he left the team in 1974 to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Brad Park 1974-1975

Young upstart defenceman Brad Park was poised to do very well for the Rangers for a long time, so the team named him captain to start the 1974-1975 season. However, the captaincy was short-lived, as he was traded for Phil Esposito, who would take over the captaincy from Park.

Phil Esposito 1975-1978

When Esposito arrived in New York, he brought with him his 8 All-Star nods, 5 Art Rosses, 2 Harts, 2 Pearsons, and 2 Stanley Cups; it seemed like a no-brainer to name the 33-year-old the captain of the Rangers. However, he would only hold that title for 3 seasons before conceding the captaincy to his teammate Dave Maloney.

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Dave Maloney 1978-1980

Maloney was only 22 when he took over the captaincy from 35-year-old Esposito. It was clear the Rangers went in a completely different direction with this captaincy, but Maloney would only hold the “C” for two and a half seasons.

Walt Tkaczuk 1980-1981

When Tkaczuk was named captain in 1980, he was captaining two men who had captained him previously in Esposito and Maloney. Maybe this weighed on Tkaczuk, as he only was captain for half a season.

Barry Beck 1981-1986

Beck ushered in some stability in the captaincy once again for the Rangers after 5 captains in 10 years. Beck led the team for 6 seasons before leaving the team in 1986.

Ron Greschner 1986-1987

After 6 years of stability, the Rangers returned to some quick-hit captains giving the “C” to 32-year-old Greschner for one and a half seasons. 

Kelly Kisio 1987-1991

Kisio had come over from the Detroit Red Wings the year previous and obviously was viewed as a good fit for the Rangers captaincy in 1987. He lead the team for three and a half seasons before another leader was brought in from Canada.

Mark Messier 1991-1997

Messier’s first stint as captain of the Rangers lasted 6 seasons, but it’s the most notable because he lead the team to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years when they won in 1994. He left the Rangers in 1997 for a stint in Vancouver that also goes down in history but for different reasons.

Brian Leetch 1997-2000

Replacing a Stanley Cup-winning captain would be tough, but Brian Leetch was up for the task. Leetch was 29 years old and coming off a 78-point season. He was the Rangers captain for 3 seasons until a familiar face came back.

Mark Messier 2000-2004

Messier returned to the Rangers after a failed attempt at leading the Canucks to success and was immediately handed the captaincy back. He would captain the team for 4 seasons before retiring from the NHL.

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Vacant 2004-2006

Apparently unable to fill the void from Messier, the Rangers went without a captain for 2 seasons.

Jaromir Jagr 2006-2008

Jagr came to the Rangers when there was no captain, and earned the trust of the team to be named captain in 2006. He put up 112 points over his 2 seasons as captain before leaving to sign in Philadelphia.

Chris Drury 2008-2011

Chris Drury signed with the Rangers in 2007, and after Jagr left was named the next captain of the New York Rangers. Drury (who is now the GM of the Rangers) held the “C” for 3 seasons until he retired from the NHL.

Ryan Callahan 2011-2014

Callahan exhibited the grit and hard work that the Rangers sought from their captains, so he was given the captaincy in 2011 at 26 years old. He held that position until he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ryan McDonagh 2014- 2018

Similar to Callahan before him, McDonagh understood what the Rangers wanted their captains to be. He lead by example for 4 seasons until he was traded, also to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Vacant 2018-2022

The Rangers waited patiently to name their next captain, as they kept the title vacant for 4 seasons.

Jacob Trouba 2022-present

Trouba played for the Rangers for 3 seasons before finally being named captain in 2022.

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