Sunday, January 12, 2020

Books: The Legacy Of The New York Rangers

The Big 50: New York Rangers - The Men and Moments that Made the New York Rangers
By Steve Zipay; foreword by Pete Stemkowski
Triumph Books; paperback, 288 pages; $16.95

The Broadway Blueshirts are one of New York's most captivating teams. While memories of 1994 still linger around Madison Square Garden, Henrik Lundqvist has shepherded the team through one of its greatest eras in the past decade.

As one of the NHL's landmark Original Six teams, the Rangers have cemented their place in hockey history, producing some of the sport's most iconic stars and legendary moments.

In the fun new book, The Big 50: New York Rangers, veteran Newsday hockey writer Steve Zipay combines his experience covering the team with his lifelong passion for the team to put together this ranked collection of essays capturing the history of the franchise.

There is a heartfelt foreword from legendary Ranger Pete Stemowski, profiles of the biggest Rangers personalities such as Brian Leetch and Mark Messier, the inside story of how Tex Rickard brought the Rangers into existence, and a look at the moments that have defined generations of Rangers hockey such as trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1972 and 1979, as well as the championship in 1994.

Zipay writes of Messier's role in bringing them the Cup, ending their 54-year title drought: "The path was long, but in his willful way, 'The Messiah' delivered.

After 54 years without lifting the Stanley Cup, naturally there were doubters in the Rangers fan base and elsewhere - for good reason.

Despite rosters that had boasted future Hall of Famers and individual trophy winners, when it came to crunch time, the valiant Blueshirts fell by the wayside.

In those five-plus decades of drought, the Blueshirts did not claim the ultimate reward, gazing from the sidelines as the curtain fell early and late, and watching opponents celebrating.

In fact, the Rangers too often were a Broadway flop, missing the postseason completely 24 times: six years in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s; three years in the '90s; twice in the '70s; and once in the '80s. The Rangers had come close to snapping the streak, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1979, 1972, and 1950. A combination of injuries, unfortunate bounces, overtime goals, and maybe even a couple curses had undercut those opportunities.

Yet the jeers and taunts of 'Nine-teen-forty!', the date marking the long-ago last championship. burned and refused to fade.

It wasn't until center Mark Messier, carrying a stick, a stare, and the rep as a leader during the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty, arrived in Gotham with the mission of taking the franchise to the mountaintop that there was a sliver of hope among the devoted and battered.

Like New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath's prediction of a Super Bowl upset or New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson powering three homers in a World Series game, Rangers followers needed a warrior, a legitimate sports hero to finally carry the day. A Braveheart."

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