Before the trades begin, we bid a fond farewell to this era of Rangers hockey

Hank and McD IN 2014 (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Saying goodbye is never easy. It doesn’t matter who it is. A friend, a family member, someone with whom you have had an intense connection with… it’s never easy and it never gets easier. As Rangers fans and sports fans there come times in our lives when players leave our team via free agency, players retire or players are traded. Very soon a lot of our favorite faces may not be here anymore. But above all, there’s something that needs to be said to all of these guys: Thank you. With a lot of the hysteria surrounding the team regarding the recent rebuilding announcement and the uncertainty of the trade deadline hanging in the air, there has been a lot of talk about who is getting traded, who is staying and what this team will look like next year or even a few years from now. But you know… I don’t think it’s hit anyone of us yet. And I mean really hit us with what this all means

This isn’t just a goodbye to those who may get traded at the deadline or during the summer. This is a goodbye to an era of Rangers hockey that saw the team have one of the most successful runs in franchise history. In the past few years we’ve seen a Stanley Cup Final appearance, we’ve seen a Presidents Trophy winning season, we’ve seen players turn into stars before our eyes, and we’ve had our hearts stolen by those fan favorites. Those same players made our hearts race or stop by so many big moments along the way. 

This is a goodbye to an era of Rangers hockey that got my family into the same sport for the first time ever. It’s a goodbye to an era of Rangers hockey that got my friends into the sport and gave us some great memories while we were either cheering our boys at the Garden or ordering every kind of pizza off the menu and flipping out on the couch when they scored. This team and the things that they did will always hold a special place in my heart and in yours.

Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi 2014 (Getty Images)

The era brought some stars to the bright lights of Broadway: you can’t tell me you weren’t excited when Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and other stars got to call the Garden home. This era brought us heart and soul guys who did everything they could to win us games. like Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. This era brought us the best Norwegian born player in NHL history in Mats Zuccarello. This era saw Glen Sather rob Montreal blind when Ryan McDonagh was brought over and turned into one of the best shutdown defensemen in the game of hockey. This era brought us the best goaltender of the past 13 years in Henrik Lundqvist.

The moments… well there are just so many aren’t there? Henrik Lundqvist stopping Daniel Briere on a penalty shot in the closing moments of the 2012 winter classic. Gaborik scoring in triple overtime a little past midnight to give the Rangers a huge playoff win over the Capitals in 2012. Brad Richards tying goal with 6.6 seconds to go in game five of that same series and Marc Staal blasting home the game winner in overtime.

St. Louis scores in the third (Photo: Jared Silber/Getty Images)

Move ahead two years and magical Cup Final run of 2014 would occur and players like Martin St. Louis, Dominic Moore, Derick Brassard and others stepped up in big moments. St. Louis gave this team the boost it needed and scored one of the most memorable goals in Rangers history on Mothers day against the Penguins after his mom’s tragic passing. A seven game war against the Flyers along with an emotional showdown with the Penguins would pave the way to an epic Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens. Dominic Moore would score the lone goal in game six of the Eastern Conference Final to send the Rangers to their first final in 20 years.

2015 saw the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference Final yet again. Two of the biggest goals in Rangers history saw Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan sink the Capitals twice in overtime in the same series.

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Sprinkled throughout these big playoff moments was the debut of the man we now call “ZUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUC,” the record breaking seasons of Henrik Lundqvist, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes becoming big parts of the core of the team and the tenures of three different head coaches. There’s so many more moments that happened over the course of this era that if I listed them all, we’d be here all day. But with this era soon behind us it’s time to look to the future.

Now it’s true, not everyone from this era of the team is leaving. Some will of course stay here. Guys like Brady Skjei, Kevin Shattenkirk and Mika Zibanejad will be there with us while we embark on this rebuild. Same with the King.

Although we may feel sad or upset that many of the guys we’ve come to know and love will be leaving, we’ve already seen the impact that the young guys can have. Like recent call-ups Neal Pionk and John Gilmour already making noise. Guys like Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil will join the ranks of the Broadway Blueshirts and some new and exciting young players will be arriving through the draft or from trades. There is a lot to look forward to while the Rangers embark on this rebuild.

It doesn’t feel real right now that so many of these guys won’t be here soon and I’ll tell you one thing: there won’t be a dry eye in the house when Mac, Zucc, Nash and others make their eventual returns to the Garden. That’s when it’ll hit us. When they come back and they’re no longer on our side. When they come back and they’re the enemy.

One more big THANK YOU to this era of Rangers hockey for giving this kid from Brooklyn and his friends and family something to cheer for and rally around and increase our love for the game of hockey.  This era of Rangers hockey sent me down my path of sports media and it’s become a life-long obsession. I’ll be forever grateful to this era of Rangers hockey.

This era began when Jaromir Jagr helped end this team’s dreadful playoff drought and ends with the team management looking to the future, preparing for the long haul and ready to do all they can get this team another parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

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