Revisiting the New York Rangers 1926-27 Inaugural Season
The New York Rangers played their first game on Nov. 16, 1926, against the Montreal Maroons at Madison Square Garden III. Interestingly, the team secured a 1-0 victory with Bill Cook tallying the franchise’s first goal (with an assist from his brother Bun) at 18:37 of the second period against eventual Hall of Famer Clint Benedict. Additionally, Hal Winkler would collect the Rangers’ first win and shutout.
After another win a few days later against the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York would finish November with a 4-1-0 record, scoring 12 goals while surrendering just six. Through the first five games of their history, the Rangers were part of three shutouts, getting wins against both Montreal teams (Maroons and Canadiens) while being blanked by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Unfortunately, the season hit a bump in December, with New York earning a 3-5-1 record in nine games, getting outscored by opponents 18-11. After back-to-back wins over the Boston Bruins, matching a season-high two-game win streak, they ended the month on a three-game losing streak, dropping contests to the Ottawa Senators, New York Americans, and Senators again.
Note: The NHL had ties up until the 2005-2006 season when they introduced the shootout.
New York Rangers History: The Inaugural Season
As 1927 started, the Rangers jumped out of the holiday break and won four straight games with consecutive shutouts over the Chicago Black Hawks (in 1987, they became the Blackhawks) and Canadiens before edging the Detroit Cougars (later Red Wings) and Maroons. Overall, New York finished January with an 8-1-2 record, nearly doubling their rivals on the scoreboard with a 30-19 goal difference.
In a pattern all too familiar with Rangers fans across decades, the team stumbled through February, finishing the shortest month with a 5-4-1 record. Interestingly, New York was 1-2-1 in overtime contests during this stretch, which included another three-game win streak. Statistically, they scored just 20 goals while giving up 18, finding themselves on the wrong end of a shutout on two occasions.
As the regular season wound down in March, the Rangers finished 5-2-2 in the final nine games, outscoring opponents 22-11. After getting shut out in the first two games of the month, they responded by completing the franchise’s first five-game win streak from March 15 to March 25 with wins over the Pirates, Cougars, Americans, Pirates, and Black Hawks. However, the Rangers did lose the final contest of the year, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Bruins on March 26.
Surprisingly, New York finished first in the American Division with a 25-13-6 record, good enough for 56 points, 11 points higher than the second-seeded Bruins, who were 21-20-3 with 45 points. As the top seed, the Rangers earned a bye to the Semi-Finals, where they lost a two-game series against the Bruins, scoring just a single goal. Eventually, the Senators would go on to defeat the Bruins and win the Stanley Cup, about a year before the Silver Chalice would make its first appearance on Broadway.
Inside the numbers of the Rangers’ first season
Although Winkler got to play in the first game in franchise history, he finished the year with just eight starts, earning a 3-4-1 record, but still sported an impressive 1.65 goals-against average (GAA), based on today’s standards. Ultimately, most of the playing time went to Lorne Chabot, who played 37 games, compiling a 22-9-5 record with ten shutouts and a 1.51 GAA.
Offensively, 30-year-old Cook led the way with 37 points in 44 contests, the only player in the lineup with over 30 points. Surprisingly, the right winger became the Rangers’ first 30-goal player, finishing the campaign with 33 lamplighters and four assists. Additionally, Cook led the team with seven game-winning goals while having the third most penalty minutes with 56. His brother Bun Cook and linemate finished third in team scoring with 25 points.
Interestingly, six skaters, Clarence Abel, Bill Boyd, Frank Boucher, Murray Murdoch, and both Cook brothers played in all 44 games, with Murdoch scoring the first hat trick in club history with three goals in a 5-4 win over the Black Hawks on Jan. 16, 1927. Moreover, Bill Cook had two against the Pirates on Feb. 12, 1927, and Mar. 22, 1927, with Boucher collecting all the goals in the season finale against Boston on Mar. 26, 1927.
Collectively, the team scored 95 goals, which ranked fourth overall behind the Black Hawks (115), Canadiens (99), and Bruins (97). Meanwhile, their netminders only gave up 72 goals, good enough for seventh in the league, just ahead of the Senators (69), Maroons (68), and Canadiens (67).
Although the NHL only had three awards in 1926-27, with the Hart Memorial Trophy, Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, and the Vezina Trophy, no one from the Rangers won any hardware that year. However, Cook was the unofficial winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for potting 33 goals, the only skater in the league to score more than 25. Additionally, if the Art Ross Trophy existed, Cook (37 points) would have won that too, edging out Dick Irvin (Black Hawks), who finished his year with 36 points.
During their first season in the league, the Rangers beat every team at least twice, producing a winning record against seven other clubs except the eventual Stanley Cup champion Senators. Interestingly, Ottawa earned a 3-0-1 record in four head-to-head matchups, allowing New York to score four goals in those contests.
Statistically, the Pirates were the Rangers’ favorite opponents, with New York picking up five wins in six games, outscoring Pittsburgh 15-6. Other matchup totals broke down like this: Black Hawks (4-2-0), Bruins (3-2-1), Cougars (3-1-2), Canadiens (3-1-0), Americans (3-1-0), Maroons (2-1-1), Maple Leafs (2-1-1). Meanwhile, the Rangers were tough to play at home with a 13-5-4 record, compared to an average 12-8-2 mark on the road.
Overall, the New York Rangers had one of the best debut seasons of an expansion franchise, which included five future Hall of Famers in the lineup: Bill Cook, Bun Cook, Frank Boucher, Ching Johnson, and the legendary Lester Patrick. Although the team came up short in year one, within 12 months, the Rangers were the kings of the NHL, capturing their first Stanley Cup title on Apr. 14, 1928.
Stats via Hockey-Reference and the NHL.