The Rangers Always Get Their Man
“They all seem to want to play there.”
I came across the above quote on Twitter Monday afternoon from a prevalent NHL Insider after the news broke that prized free agent Artemi Panarin chose the New York Rangers over his former Blue Jacket team and other would-be suitors.
Even though the New York Rangers history is not inundated with individual or team success, the Blueshirts continue to be, year in and year out, one of the more desired destinations for highly sought after players. And, in some cases, like with Panarin and New Rochelle, NY native Kevin Shattenkirk a couple of years ago, players will leave millions of dollars on the table for a chance to star on Broadway.
Generations of Garden Faithful members, going back to the Original Six days, have seen their share of marquee names donning that beautiful blue sweater. The likes of Howie Morenz, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Terry Sawchuck, Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky all called Madison Square Garden home during the twilight of their Hall of Fame careers.
As is now part of the “Legend of the Messiah,” in 1991, Mark Messier engineered his exodus from Western Canada to Manhattan for a chance to defeat the 1940 monster. Which, of course, he did. When Jaromir Jagr’s days playing in Our Nation’s Capital were coming to an abrupt end, the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer wanted to be traded from Washington to Gotham and join the Rangers, Jagr would go on to re-write the offensive portion of the Rangers record books.
When former New Jersey Devils Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez and Vlad Malakhov were hitting the open market and could choose their respective franchises, all three decided to head east through the Lincoln Tunnel for greener-er bluer-pastures.
Theo Fleury, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, Marian Gaborik, I mean, the list is endless of All-Star caliber players who got sucked into the gravitational pull that is the New York Rangers. Heck, back in the summer of 2011, when the free-agent frenzy was centered around Brad Richards, hockey teams from all over North America tried their darnedest to try and land the Prince Edward Island native. The LA Kings even enlisted the help of NBA star Kobe Bryant and the “Great One” himself Wayne Gretzky to try and recruit the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner to the City Of Angeles. Richards chose the Rangers, as we all know.
So, my question is, what is the perpetual appeal that, since before World War II, has drawn some of the NHL’s best and most accomplished players to want to play for the New York Rangers? Artemi Panarin is just the latest in a long line of superstars to put his Ivan Hancock on a Rangers contract. Sure, being able to live in and play in the greatest city in the world has a certain cache to it. Being able to play for an Original Six franchise has it’s advantages. But, let’s be honest here, the New York Rangers franchise has not been synonymous with winning championships nor has this franchise had players who light up the scoreboard. Since, um, 1940, the Rangers have won one Stanley Cup and the next time a Ranger wins the Art Ross or Richard Trophy will be the first time.
As Rangerstown collectively gives general manager Jeff Gorton one gigantic pat-on-the-back for his franchise altering off-season transactions, I sit here inquisitive and humbled at all of the wonderfully talented hockey players that chose to play for the team that I have lived and died with (mostly died) for the last 40 years. This current Ranger roster, all be it very young and raw, has a level of talent that could rival the Emile Francis teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Garden Faithful is ready. Ready for the return of playoff hockey. Ready to make a playoff run that had been so commonplace in these parts during most of the last decade. Ready to see Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and Jacob Trouba make their MSG debuts.
Ready to welcome back John Davidson with open arms. Before I go, just one more question. Out of curiosity, who do you think will get a louder ovation opening night at the Garden? Jeff Gorton or John Davidson? We will find out in October.