Rick Carpiniello on the New York Rangers past and present
Rick Carpiniello has covered the New York Rangers for decades with his last stop coming at The Athletic prior to retiring in 2021. He’s now back as an author with a new book giving fans an amazing insider’s account on some of the biggest players and moments in franchise history.
On the latest Forever Blueshirts Show, we caught up with Rick to talk about his book titled The Franchise: New York Rangers.
Covering the 1994 New York Rangers
Being a veteran journalist covering the Rangers as long as he has, Carpiniello is one of the few to report from Madison Square on June 14, 1994.
“I just remember how tense the Garden was,” Carpiniello recalls. “Having lost Games 5 and 6, there was an utter panic among the fans and utter chaos around the team.”
That chaos was caused by fiery head coach Mike Keenan, who wanted to move the team’s practice before Game 7 to Lake Placid. Carpiniello notes how insane that idea was and that both Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe talked him out of it.
As for Game 7 itself, he called it the most excited it could be and as nervous all at the same time. “That was the feeling in the building. It was a nervous, nervous, excitement.”
In the end, the Rangers secured a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks to end a 54 year Stanley Cup drought. However, what Carpiniello remembers most is how the team shared that championship with the City.
“Before they exited the ice, they took the Cup around and let people reach out over the glass and touch it,” Carpiniello says with a smile. “That was a sign of how they were going to share that championship with the city– and they did. That night, the party at the Auction House was wild and the Stanley Cup was everywhere.”
Brian Leetch the greatest Ranger
We had the opportunity to ask Rick, after covering the team for so many years, who was the greatest player he ever saw wearing a Rangers sweater.
“Well, I’m a little biased because he wrote the Forward to my book, Brian Leetch,” Carpiniello states. “Brian was the best all-time Ranger. Then, of course, there’s Rod Gilbert, Mr. Ranger, a wonderful human being and a great player. But Mark Messier was the most influential– he changed the franchise.”
Leetch, now 55, was one of the greatest U.S. born players in the history of the game. He had an NHL career that spanned 18 seasons, 1205 games, and 1028 points (247 goals, 781 assists). The Corpus Christi, Texas native is one of only eight defensemen in league history to break the 1000 point mark, with 981 of those points coming with the Blueshirts.
Today’s New York Rangers
We couldn’t let Rick go without talking about the New York Rangers today and if they are a real contender in his eyes.
“Let’s be honest, they went to the Eastern Final beating a third-string goalie (Louis Domingue), and a Pittsburgh team that lost Sidney Crosby,” Carpiniello notes. “In their losses, they were out-structured in a big way, the games in Carolina, they were just manhandled (until Game 7).”
The Rangers acknowledged that lack of structure this past offseason by hiring head coach Peter Laviolette.
“I think Laviolette was a necessary hiring,” Carpiniello admits. “Even if it wasn’t him, it had to be someone that can instill a system you can play in the playoffs. They didn’t have that under Gerard Gallant.”
Carpiniello, who still watches many of the Rangers games today, didn’t feel the 2021-22 team that came within two games of the Final was a contender. He did believe that last year’s group had a chance, but was embarrassed in the first round by the New Jersey Devils. As for this year’s squad, he thinks they are real close.
“I’m not breaking news here,” Carpiniello concluded. “Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, K’Andre Miller, and Braden Schneider all have to take a step forward to win a Stanley Cup. The veteran core can do that, because they have what they need.”
Forever Blueshirts would like to thank Rick Carpiniello for joining the show and giving us some of his time.
Note: Steven Pappas conducted the interview.
Franchise: New York Rangers
From the Triumph Books website:
In The Franchise: New York Rangers, take a more profound and unique journey into the history of an iconic team.
This thoughtful and engaging collection of essays captures the astute fans’ history of the franchise, going beyond well-worn narratives of yesteryear to uncover the less-discussed moments, decisions, people, and settings that fostered the team’s iconic identity.
Through wheeling and dealing, mythmaking and community building, explore where the organization has been, how it got to prominence in the modern NHL landscape, and how it’ll continue to evolve and stay in contention for generations to come.