54 years! 54 long, arduous, difficult and intolerable years between Stanley Cup championships for the New York Rangers. But, you knew that already as the Blueshirts went from 1940 up until 1994 before adding another banner to the iconic ceiling of the World’s Most Famous…
Lord Stanley’s two-score-and-14 year absence from Broadway remains the longest such drought in NHL history. What you may not know, what you may not be aware of, are the other two organizations who currently have championship droughts north of the half-century mark. You see, it’s been 52 years since the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs hoisted that beautiful silver chalice at center ice when the “Over The Hill Gang” shocked the powerful Montreal Canadians in the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals.
The other NHL franchise whose drought is on the other side of 50 years is the St Louis Blues. The Blues were part of the “Expansion Six” group that entered the league prior to the 1967-68 season. The Blues joined the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings, and the long-since defunct Oakland Golden Seals. The Flyers, Penguins, Stars and Kings have all sipped champagne from the cup while the Seals ceased operations after moving to Cleveland following the 1978 season.
The Maple Leafs are considered to be the NHL’s flagship franchise. The Toronto Arenas, as they were called during the World War I era, were the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in 1918. The Leafs would go on to capture hockey’s top prize twelve more times, culminating with their 1967 stunning triumph over the heavily favored Canadians,
The Blues, believe it or not, advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in each of their first three NHL seasons from 1968 through 1970. They were lead by a neophyte head coach, a fella you may have heard of named Scotty Bowman. Under Bowman’s tutelage, the Blues emerged as the cream of the expansion crop. Even though the Blues were swept in the finals by the Canadians in 1968 and 1969 and by the Boston Bruins in 1970, hockey fans in the “Gateway City” assuredly felt very good about the future of their young, but successful franchise.
Since their epic upset over the Habs in 1967. the Maple Leafs have not been able win more than two playoff rounds in any playoff year. Bobby Orr’s legendary and immortalized Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime of game four in 1970, to this day, remains the last time the Blues were playing for the right to be called champions of the world.
Why are we discussing the futility of the Maple Leafs and Blues? Well, if one or both of these meandering franchises go a few more years sans a championship, that means their respective droughts will surpass the 54 year tragic number that has become synonymous with your beloved hockey team.
Why it matters
Why is that important? Well, the 1940 monster may have been slayed 25 years ago by Mark Messier and Co. However, when a team is trying their darnedest to change their culture, like the Rangers currently are, erasing any and all blights and slights (my Walt “Clyde” Frazier impression) from their history is of great importance. Expunging any and all negative connotations from the NHL record books can help this group of “Baby Blueshirts” forget about the not-so-successful past and focus on what’s ahead of them.
You can count on one hand all of the universally agreed upon notions in today’s polarizing society. One of those rare sentiments is that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in the major North American team sports. With Toronto and St Louis having gone over 50 years without winning a championship and with the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres (48 years) closing in fast, maybe, just maybe, that 54 year number isn’t such an anomaly after all. Throw in the Flyers 44 year drought, and hey, it’s quite possible that some, or all of these franchises will surpass the Rangers infamous mark for ineptitude over the next decade.
The Rangers are in full rebuild mode as they have spent the last two seasons injecting impressionable youth into their suspect line-up. With youth comes inexperience. With inexperience comes mistakes and bad habits. David Quinn and his staff will try everything in their power to limit the mistakes and bad habits of the players entrusted to him. No longer having the longest Stanley Cup drought in NHL history hovering over the franchise will do wonders for the growing-up process of these talented youngsters.
So, while you’re following the remainder of these playoffs. perhaps you should root for the opponents of the Blues and Maple Leafs. Just three more fruitless springs for either of these franchise won’t erase one of the biggest blemishes in New York Rangers history, but it will give the mantle for longest Cup drought to someone else.