Top 10 New York Rangers in the Hockey Hall of Fame
On June 21, 2023, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced the upcoming class of inductees, headlined by New York Rangers fans favorite netminder, “The King” Henrik Lundqvist. After the induction ceremony on Nov. 13, 2023, Lundqvist will join 53 other Hall of Famers who have skated with the Rangers, plus an additional nine from the Builders category. All told he will become the 64th member of the organization to earn enshrinement amongst the hockey immortals in Toronto.
Despite some of the game’s greatest players calling Madison Square Garden home, whether it was for one season or a decade, names like Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Brad Park, Eric Lindros, Sergei Zubov, Pavel Bure, Martin St. Louis, Brendan Shanahan, and Pat LaFontaine are missing from this list. Realistically, when people think of those names, they remember highlights from other teams. Although many of them had heroic moments on Broadway, most people would rarely associate their careers with being prominent players for the Rangers.
Ultimately, our goal with this list is to determine which inductees have the strongest association with the Blueshirts. So, after crunching the numbers, and separating the players based on merits, here is the list of players in the Hockey Hall of Famer who best represent the Rangers.
Top 10 New York Rangers in the Hall of Fame
10. Andy Bathgate
Anytime anyone writes a top ten list on any subject, some may question the last entry unless it’s concrete. Although many deserving names could have slid into this spot, we ultimately chose Andy Bathgate, who spent the first 12 seasons of his NHL career with the Rangers. Upon his departure from the team in 1964, he was the franchise’s leading scorer with 729 points, a mark he held for a decade until Jean Ratelle broke it in 1974.
Coincidently, Bathgate’s jersey #9 is retired, sharing the honor with Adam Graves, who wore the number three decades later in the 1990s. Despite leaving New York 59 years ago, he still ranks fourth in goals, assists, and points. Even though he played in several other cities, and the team waited decades to retire his jersey, there’s no denying his place in Rangers’ history.
9. Bill Cook
Bill Cook made his NHL debut at 30 after a dominant professional career in Canada, playing in his native Ontario, before venturing west to Saskatchewan (pre-NHL days). Eventually, he came to New York, joining the Rangers upon their inception in 1926. As the first captain in New York history, he also scored the first goal for the franchise on Nov. 16, 1926.
Interestingly, Cook became one of the first players to surpass 60 points, achieving the feat alongside Frank Boucher in 1929-30. By that time, he had already won a Stanley Cup title (1928) and, within three seasons, would add another ring to his collection. Although he never won awards as a player, he served as Rangers’ head coach from 1951 to 1953, spending his entire NHL career with the Blueshirts.
8. Ed Giacomin
Long before Mike Richter established a new record for wins by a goalie in 2003, a mark Lundqvist would break later, the winningest netminder for 25 years was franchise icon, Ed Giacomin. As a late bloomer, making his NHL debut at 26, the Canadian netminder would also set a franchise record for wins during the regular season with 38 in 1968-69, a total only surpassed by Richter (42) and Lundqvist (39) decades later.
During his career, Giacomin was a five-time All-Star and won the Vezina Trophy in 1970-71, becoming only the second Rangers goalie (at the time) to win the prestigious award. Although he finished his career with the Detroit Red Wings from 1976 to 1978, New York made him the second player in team history to have his number retired in 1989.
7. Jean Ratelle
Jean Ratelle was just 20 years old when he put on a Rangers jersey for the first time in 1960-61, going on to forge one of the best statistical careers on Broadway over the next 16 seasons. As the center for the famous GAG line (Goal a Game) with Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield, the trio rewrote the team record book and registered the first 100-point seasons in Rangers’ history.
Interestingly, Ratelle set the record at 109 in 1971-72, which stood for 34 years before Jaromir Jagr broke it with 123 points. Although he left town in the famous Phil Esposito trade in 1976, he remains amongst the top three in goals, assists, and points. Meanwhile, he is one of 11 players with their number retired by the club.
6. Harry Howell
It has been 54 years since Harry Howell last wore a Rangers jersey, skating with the club from 1952 to 1969. And even though the league did not play 82 games in a season, he became the franchise’s leader with 1,160 games, a record that still stands today.
Of course, there have many big names to patrol the blueline at Madison Square Garden, but no one did it longer than Howell, who won a Norris Trophy and was an All-Star in 1966-67. Even though he played eight seasons with other teams in the NHL and WHA, there’s no denying that he’s forever linked to the Rangers as one of their longest-tenured players.
5. Frank Boucher
Outside of 24 games with the Ottawa Senators in 1921-22, Boucher was the first true “Mr. Ranger,” playing in 533 games over 13 seasons. Additionally, he served as New York’s coach from 1939 to 1949, with another season in 1953-54, compiling a 181-263-83 record behind the bench. Ultimately, he was a part of the Rangers organization in one capacity or another for 1,060 games.
Statistically, at the time of his retirement in 1944, Boucher ranked as one of the franchise’s top scorers with 424 points. Furthermore, he won two Stanley Cup titles as a player in 1928 and 1933 and served as head coach of the 1940-winning team. As of 2023, he remains the only player in NHL history to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy seven times, claiming the award from 1928-1931 and 1933-1935.
4. Mark Messier
There’s no denying that by the time Mark Messier came to New York in 1991, he was already a Hall of Famer. Five Stanley Cup championships during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers will do that for a player. Additionally, he had already won the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) and Hart Trophies (league MVP).
However, Messier will forever be associated with the Rangers for one historical playoff run in 1994, ending a 54-year championship drought. Whether it was guaranteeing a victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final and scoring a hat trick or scoring the Cup-clinching goal a few weeks later, those two iconic moments are the crown jewels of his Hall of Fame career.
Messier ended his career with 1,887 points which ranks third all-time. While many will argue that he should be higher on this list, we took into account the majority of his points and accomplishments were in Edmonton.
3. Rod Gilbert
There’s no denying some highly talented players have skated in a Rangers jersey, but there will be one that always stands out more than any other: Gilbert. Even though his franchise record for games played has fallen since his retirement in 1978, he remains the only player in team history to score 400 goals (406) and collect 1,000 points (1,021).
Known as “Mr. Ranger,” Gilbert spent his 18-year career on Broadway and was very active in the community serving as the Rangers’ alumni association president until he died in 2021. Additionally, he played a significant role in the team’s charity Garden of Dream Foundation, engaging with countless fans who never saw him in action. Ultimately, no one represented the Rangers like he did, leaving behind a legacy that may go unmatched forever.
2. Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist is the greatest goalie to play for the Rangers and, without a doubt, only second to Martin Brodeur in accomplishments amongst the three NY/NJ area franchises. Unfortunately, the Swedish netminder never won a Stanley Cup; but instead rewrote the team’s record book and was one of his generation’s best statistical goalies with 459 wins.
Although there is an argument that Lundqvist is ranked too high on this list, he spent his entire career in the Big Apple. Ultimately, many Rangers fans will remember his acrobatic saves in those Lady Liberty pads, backstopping his team to another win in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
1. Brian Leetch
Although the Rangers have four Stanley Cup championships, the team has only one Conn Smythe winner, Brian Leetch. As a two-time Norris Trophy winner and Rookie of the Year in 1989, the American-born defenseman played the first 17 years of his career in New York, helping the team to a championship in 1994.
Statistically, Leetch came just 40 points shy of the franchise record (1,021) and was only 39 games away (1,160) from becoming the all-time leader in appearances in a Rangers jersey. Unfortunately, the team traded away a franchise icon in 2004, who finished his career with brief stops in Toronto and Boston. Moreover, he was the last defenseman to score 100 points in a season, with 102 in 1991-92, until Erik Karlsson scored 101 in 2022-23.
At the end of the day, these lists are subjective as to ranking, but it’s hard to argue with the place these names hold in New York Rangers history.