The number three has some symmetry. Three strikes and you’re out. In fairy tales, a genie grants three wishes. Of course, in hockey, there’s three periods and three goals is a hat trick. So when it comes to the players who have worn the blue, white & red for the Rangers, which three have worn three the best?
Well, let’s start with the players who have worn Uniform # 3:
Of the 15 players who have worn this number, all but one was a defenseman. Fern Perreault is the only non-defenseman in the bunch. Some of these players are well known in hockey circles. Tim Horton these days is probably better known for his coffee and doughnut shops than as an NHL’er. Fred Shero won two Stanley Cups as head coach of the Broad Street Bullies during the Philadelphia Flyers heyday in the mid 70’s and led the Rangers to the Final in 1979. Harry Howell is one of the all-time greats of the NHL and has his number retired in the Garden rafters. With the retirement of Howell’s jersey in February 2009, the number 3 will never be worn again in Rangers history.
So with some of that in mind here are my own top 3 uniform number 3:
1) Harry Howell (1952-1969)
When compiling these lists, I usually shy away from players that were before my time as comparing them to players I did see would not be an equal comparison. However, with Howell, I made an exception. Howell appeared in more games than anyone in Rangers history with 1160 games played. He registered 345 points on 82 goals and 263 assists. During the playoffs, he appeared in 34 games and had 3 goals and 2 assists. He served as Rangers Captain from 1955-1957. He was an All Star in 1953, 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1968. He won the Norris Trophy in 1967 and was the last player to do so before Boston’s Bobby Orr went on his remarkable streak of 8 straight Norris Trophies.
Unfortunately he did not win a Stanley Cup while with the Blueshirts. In the summer of 1969, his rights were sold to the Oakland Seals (who later became the California Golden Seals) for which he played for two seasons before going on to the Los Angeles Kings for three seasons. The WHA beckoned and Howell bounced around first suiting up for the New York Golden Blades/Jersey Generals (1973-74), then the San Diego Mariners (1974-75) and finally the Calgary Cowboys (1975-76). He would be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 and would receive the ultimate team honor by having his Rangers jersey retired in 2009.
2) James Patrick (1983-1993)
The Winnipeg, Manitoba native was a consummate professional during his career with the Blueshirts. Patrick joined the Rangers and bridged the gap form Ron Greschner to Brian Leetch. During his time with the Blueshirts, Patrick provided the Rangers with a steady influence on the backline. While not noted for his physical play, Patrick made up for that on the offensive side of the puck. In 671 games he recorded 467 points on 104 goals and 363 assists. In 63 playoff games, he recorded 31 points by netting 5 goals and 26 assists.
He was a leader on the team and served as assistant captain at various times during his stint in Blue. Patrick had a very effortless fluid skating style which would enable him to join or lead the rush, yet get back into defensive position. He did not possess the jaw dropping artistry of Leetch but Patrick was a very steadying influence.
However, during his time on Broadway he was under appreciated for his talents. The 1991-92 season was Patrick’s finest moment on Broadway. In 80 games he had career highs in points (71), goals (14) and assists (57) and was a perfect number 2 compliment to Leetch’s number one. With the addition of Mark Messier, the Rangers would win the President’s Trophy as the top team in the regular season. 1992-93 was a disaster for the Rangers and Patrick’s production also declined.
Head Coach Roger Neilson and Interim Head Coach Ron Smith were fired and Mike Keenan was hired for the 1993-94 season. Off the bat, it was apparent that Patrick wasn’t the type of player that fit into Keenan’s plans and 6 games into the season GM Neil Smith shipped Patrick and Darren Turcotte to Hartford for Steve Larmer, Nick Kypreos, Barry Richter (no relation to Mike) and a 6th round pick. Needless to say, that move proved instrumental in the Rangers winning The Cup later that spring.
He would go on to enjoy several more seasons with Hartford, the Calgary Flames and the Buffalo Sabres before retiring in 2005. In 2006, he joined the Sabres as an assistant coach and was there through 2013. After Head Coach Lindy Ruff was fired, Patrick joined him again in Dallas where he again is presently assistant coach.
3) Ivan “Ching” Johnson (1926-1937)
Like Howell’s submission on this list I usually shy away from players I never saw play. However, our next entrant’s career cannot be overlooked. Ivan “Ching” Johnson spent 11 season in the red, white and blue of the Rangers, covering a span of 405 regular season games and 55 playoff games. He was an instrumental part of the 1928 Stanley Cup run. He was a rough and tumble player and is considered to be the Rangers first true enforcer. He also helped the Rangers to the Stanley Cup again in 1933. He was a First Team All Star in 1931-32 & 1932-33 and a Second Team All Star in 1930-31 & 1933-34. He played in the 1934 All Star Game. He received the ultimate individual honor when he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958, 20 years after he played his last NHL game.
So there you have it. Rangers Numerology 3 is in the books. We did strongly consider Tom Poti for the third spot but we are a serious publication and it just wouldn’t be right now, would it? But I digress. Those are my three choices, what are yours? Agree or disagree. Sound off we want to hear!