June 6, 2020

Rangers Rivalry Series: Beantown VS Broadway

Bobby Orr terrorized Emile Francis’ Rangers (NHL)

New York, New York. Boston, Massachusetts. Two of American’s most iconic and beloved cities. Two of America’s most important hubs during the Revolutionary War period of the latter part of the 18th century. Two of America’s most profoundly influential and recognized metropolises. And, as it pertains to sports in the United States, New York City and Boston are home to many of our country’s most legendary franchises and home to some of sport’s most fiercest rivalries.

The Yankees and Red Sox are considered the gold standard when it comes to mutual disdain and unbridled hatred. The Knicks and Celtics have been doing continuous battle on the hard wood floor since the NBA’s inception back in 1949. The Jets and Patriots have been sworn enemies since 1960 and the debut of the old American Football League when they were known as the New York Titans and Boston Patriots respectively. Heck, even the Giants and Patriots have a great deal of animosity towards one another thanks to Big Blue’s two monumental upsets of the heavily favored Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.

Long History

In 1926, Madison Square Garden honcho Tex Rickard was awarded his own NHL franchise. “Tex’s Rangers” as they were known as, commenced play on November 16th with a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Maroons. On December 7th of that year, the Rangers played their inaugural game against the Boston Bruins and the National Hockey League joined the ranks of the New York versus Boston rivalry landscape.

The Blueshirts and Bruins rivalry got off to a rousing and immediate start in the 1929 Stanley Cup Finals where team from Bean Town knocked off the defending champions from the Big Apple in a brief two-games-to-none series. During the pre World Ward II era of the NHL, the Bruins and Rangers were consistently among the upper echelon franchises winning divisions, capturing Stanley Cups and having some of the league’s top players and engaging personalities.

However, when the United States and Canada entered the overseas conflicts in Europe and Japan, New York and Boston’s rosters were depleted when their best players went off to war. In fact, from 1942 through 1967, a 25 year period commonly refereed to as the “Original Six” era, the Rangers and the Bruins are the only franchises that survived World War II and The Depression not to capture hockey’s ultimate prize.

The Pain, The Trade

Phil Esposito (Getty Images)

After almost three decades of futility and frustration, the late 1960’s saw a resurgence to the Bruins/Ranger rivalry and saw each team return to prominence and Stanley Cup contention. In 1972, these two historic combatants battled in a memorable six game championship series. Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the rest of the “Big Bad Bruins” proved to be too much for Rod Gilbert, Brad Park the rest of Emile “The Cat” Francis’ squad. The Bruins raised Lord Stanley’s silver chalice inside the hallowed halls of the World’s Most Famous Arena which must have made the Long Suffering Garden Faithful cringe, snarl and weep.

In November 1975, the unthinkable happened when these two bitter enemies made one of the most blockbuster and controversial trades in NHL history. The Bruins dealt superstar center Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais to the Rangers for Brad Park, Joe Zanussi and Jean Ratelle. The shock waves this deal sent throughout Rangerstown were enormous

To put this trade in perspective, the above transaction is tantamount to today’s Rangers sending Henrik Lundqvist, Chris Kreider and Adam Fox to the Islanders for Anders Lee and Nick Leddy. You talk to any Ranger fan north of 55 years old, and I guarantee you they remember where they were when they found out about the Bruins larceny and how they felt.

The Shoe Incident

Unarguably, the singular most infamous, viscous and unforgettable (for the wrong reasons) moment in this 90-plus year rivalry is what took place two days before Christmas in 1979 at the Garden. The Bruins defeated the Rangers 4-3 and right after the final buzzer, several Bruin players climbed over the Plexiglas to attack antagonizing Ranger fans. Of course, the visual of Mike Milbury beating a fan with his own shoe is seared into the memory bank’s of each franchises fan bases.

With the addition of the New York Islanders and then the New Jersey Devils to the NHL ranks, the Rangers and Bruins rivalry has lost some of its luster since that 1979 near-riot in the stands. Being in separate divisions and meeting only once in the postseason (2013) in almost 50 years also douses the figurative flames that have burned since the roaring 1920’s. Be that as it may, New York versus Boston, Rangers versus Bruins still, to this day, is a hot ticket whenever each franchise travels along the I-95 corridor to face off against one another and each team’s fan bases commonly venture into enemy territory to support their beloved franchise.

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