Rangers Flashback: A look at Blueshirts with Hart

By Jeff Weinstein
Jun 19, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Mark Messier is pictured on the red carpet during the 2019 NHL Awards at Mandalay Bay. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Time for a little bit of New York Rangers trivia for my friends out there. How many players who have donned the red, white and blue Rangers sweater, have captured the Hart Trophy for league MVP and can you name them?

Since you were kind enough to come here let me just give them to you.

They would be Buddy O’Connor, Chuck Rayner, Andy Bathgate and Mark Messier. Each had been voted as the National Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player.

On a side note, it was an absolute travesty that Jaromir Jagr was denied the Hart Trophy in 2006 when he shattered the franchise’s single season scoring records, and carried the franchise to the playoffs for the first time in eight season. #68 should have easily become the fifth member of the elusive and exclusive aforementioned club.

Buddy O’Connor 1948

O’Connor will forever go down in NHL history as the first Blueshirt to capture the league’s most valuable player award. O’Connor’s 1947-48 season, his first on Broadway after six seasons playing in Montreal for the Canadians, was a bright spot for a team that finished 4th in the Original 6 standings and lost in the premier round of the playoffs to the Detroit Red Wings. O’Connor tallied 60 points in 60 games, leading his squad in scoring.

Chuck Rayner 1950

One of just seven net-minders (and the only New York Ranger goalie) to capture the Hart Trophy. Rayner nearly single handedly carried his upstart squad of Blueshirts to the Promised Land in 1950. Sadly they lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals in double overtime to the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings. Rayner’s historic 1949-50 campaign will forever go down in Ranger lore as one of the greatest single season accomplishments in franchise history.

Andy Bathgate 1959

Rangers mvp
NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 22: (L-R) Former New York Ranger players Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell have their numbers retired by the team prior to the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers on February 22, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Bathgate was the face of the franchise through the down years of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The talented centerman from Winnipeg, MAN was the epitome of class, skill and consistency throughout his entire twelve year stint on Broadway. #9’s 1958-59 season saw him light the lamp 40 times and dish out 48 helpers. His 88 points were good enough for third in the NHL in scoring and his splendid all round play earned him accolades from the powers-that-be who determine the winner of the MVP award.

Mark Messier 1992

Let’s be honest, awarding a most valuable player award in a team oriented sport like hockey is a bit of an oxymoron. However, if there was ever a case to be made about a particular player being MOST valuable to a certain team, it assuredly was Mark Messier and the 1991-92 New York Rangers.

Acquired from Edmonton in October of 1991, Messier took his talented, but young crew of Blueshirts and hoisted them on to his gilded shoulders. Messier, his five Stanley Cup rings and his 107 points in the 91-92 season, led his Ranger team to their first ever President’s Trophy is history. You don’t have to be a Ranger fan or even a hockey fan or even a sports fan to understand the true impact Messier had on this organization upon his arrival in New York in the fall of 1991.

A future Rangers MVP?

Stanley Cups and individual awards are certainly a rarity in Rangerstown. You can count on one hand the amount of championships the Rangers have captured since their inception in 1926. You can also count in the other the total amount of league MVP’s this franchise has produced in over 90 years of play.

The Garden Faithful is hoping their decades of allegiance, devotion and loyalty will pay off with the current aspirational group of talented players. Do that Blueshirts currently have a player on their roster who may some day be presented with the coveted citation donated to the NHL in 1923 by a gentleman named Dr. David Hart?

As this young team continues to improve and gel and find teamwide chemistry, we’ll see if, one day soon, the Rangers have a player worthy of taking home the Hart trophy. In my view, Alexis Lafrenière, Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin (who was a finalist last season) could have their name announced at the annual NHL awards show extravaganza as the winner of the National Hockey League most valuable player award.

Thanks to the team’s struggles and inconsistency in this Covid shortened 2021 season, it is highly unlikely that any Blueshirt will be a candidate for any induvial award. Who will be the first New York Ranger since Mark Messier in 1992 to be selected by the Hockey Writer’s Associated as the league’s most valuable player? The answer this that query remains to be seen. It could be one of the five mentioned in this piece, or it could be a dark horse candidate that no one would expect.