opening bell: no quit in new york’s 1926 debut

New York Rangers captain Bill Cook (right) flanks coach and manager Lester Patrick alongside Frank Boucher on the ice at the Chicago Stadium in November of 1934. It was on a Tuesday night eight years earlier that these three featured in the Rangers’ very first regular-season NHL game at Madison Square Garden as the brand-new home team dispensed with the visiting Montreal Maroons by a score of 1-0 on  the night of November 17, 1926 in front of a crowd of 13,000.

It was Cook who scored the first goal in Rangers’ history 96 years ago, beating Clint Benedict in the Montreal net in the second period for the game’s decisive goal. Hal Winkler recorded the shutout for New York. Referee Lou Marsh wielded a bell on the night, notably, instead of a whistle. He put it to use in the third period when the famously peaceable Boucher got into the only fight of his long career, clashing with Montreal’s Bill Phillips. Both players got major penalties for their troubles, and each was fined $15. Boucher was badly cut on the neck in the melee and had to leave the game for repairs.

 

(Image: SDN-077304, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum)

ranger rehearsal

Point Taken: New York Rangers’ coach and GM Lester Patrick (right) puts his players through their paces in a pre-season session in November of 1934. From left, the players are winger Bert Connolly, defenceman Ott Heller, and goaltender Percy Jackson. Jackson was Patrick’s pick to start the season guarding the Ranger goal, but he lasted just a single game, an 8-2 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Andy Aitkenhead took over for a month, before Patrick settled on a more permanent replacement that December, buying Dave Kerr from the Montreal Maroons. Jackson made it back to NHL ice the following season, but for part of one more game, as a Boston Bruin, when he relieved Tiny Thompson towards the end of a 3-1 loss … to the Rangers. (Image: SDN-077312, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum)

four at the door

Rejected: No, not Jean Béliveau — he wouldn’t start wearing Montreal’s number 4 for another nine years after this photograph was taken at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday, February 11, 1945. Trying his luck on net here is Canadiens’ defenceman Leo Lamoureux. Turning him away is 20-year-old Ranger netminder Doug Stevenson, from Regina, Saskatchewan, on a night off for New York’s regular 1944-45 goaler, Ken McAuley. Canadiens eventually prevailed on this night, leaving town with a 4-3 victory sealed Elmer Lach, another Saskatchewanist, whose winning goal was his second of the game.

ranger resolve

A Blueshirt believer shows his love for the visiting team at Montreal’s Forum on the Saturday night of February 4, 1989, when Guy Lafleur’s Rangers were in town to take on the local Canadiens. Stephane Richer (below, right) opened the scoring for Montreal in the first period, beating Bob Froese in the New York net. Lafleur put a pair of his own past Patrick Roy in the second period, though it wasn’t enough: Montreal prevailed 7-5 on the night. Bill McCreary was the referee; that’s him on the chase in the background.

(Images: Bernard Brault, Fonds La Presse, BAnQ Vieux-Montréal)

madison square eye in the sky

It was the New York teams battling it out, Rangers versus Americans, that Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, December 16, 1937, with the visiting team eventually prevailing by a score of 2-0 — which is to say, the dark-shirted Rangers.

“A speedy, well-played contest that was packed with action,” is how The New York Times accounted for it. Ching Johnson was playing his first game as an American on this night, after 11 years a Ranger, and he almost scored. Dave Kerr is the Ranger goaltender at the centre of things here, covering up to stymie the Amerks’ John Gallagher and preserve his shutout. Just a few months after this smothering, Kerr, who was 27 at the time, with a Stanley Cup and a Vézina Trophy both still in his future, would  become just the second hockey player to grace the cover of Time magazine.

Also in the frame? Arriving late are Rangers Lynn Patrick (9) and Ott Heller (3), with Sweeney Schriner (11) of the Americans following up with Art Coulter (2). Tussling in front on the right is Americans’ Hap Emms (skating his only shift of the game) and the Rangers’ Cecil Dillon, a right winger who was born in Toledo, Ohio, on a Sunday of today’s date in 1908.

Lynn Patrick scored the Rangers’ initial (and winning) goal in the first period, with  Neil Colville scoring a second on Earl Robertson in the Amerks’ net in the third. According to the Times, Toronto manager Conn Smythe was in the house this night, and at the end of the game he offered Lester Patrick the sum of $20,000 if the Ranger boss would sell son Lynn to the Leafs. The answer was a no.

two so blue

Ranger Rock: Born on a Sunday of this date in 1968 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Brian Leetch is 54 today, so here’s a tap of an Easton Ultralite Graphite stick to him. A veteran of 18 NHL seasons, he was a dominant force on the blueline for the New York Rangers, winner of a Calder Trophy and two Norrises. In 1994, he became the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Rangers claimed their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. When, in 2008, the team retired his number, two, long-time teammate Mark Messier called Leetch the, all caps, GREATEST RANGER EVER.

you are very star

Born in Melville, Saskatchewan, on a Sunday of this date in 1914, Jim Franks was another protégé of prairie hockey honcho (and the man who named Melville’s Millionaires) Goldie Smith. He was a 22 in early 1937, a spare goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, when (as reported by Saskatoon’s Star-Phoenix) he talked to Smith by “long-distance telephone” from Montreal. “I’ve been travelling with the team for several weeks now,” he said, “but you never can tell when the big opportunity will come.” That same night, in Detroit’s Stanley Cup semi-final against Montreal, Red Wings winger Herbie Lewis fell on Detroit starter Normie Smith in a goalmouth pile-up. With Smith retiring from the ice with a torn ligament halfway through the game, Franks made his NHL debut. Guarding the Canadiens net that night was Wilf Cude, a former Millionaire and disciple of Goldie Smith’s. According to the Regina Leader-Post, this was the scene as Franks took the Forum ice:

From his cage way down the ice, Cude raised his arm and waved. Franks waved back. Tucked inside his shirt was a note of greeting and good luck from his sporting rival.

As Franks was strapping on his pads in the Detroit dressing room, a messenger boy had passed him the paper. “It read something like this: ‘Good luck to you, kid. Remember Melville,’ and it was signed ‘Wilf Cude.’”

Two Montreal shots got by Franks, one that Johnny Gagnon, another from Babe Siebert that “knocked him over.” Canadiens prevailed by a score of 3-1.

Earl Robertson took over the Red Wing net after that; Franks finished the year with the IAHL Pittsburgh Hornets. It wasn’t all in vain: for his efforts in Montreal, Frank did see his name engraved on the Stanley Cup that the Red Wings went on to wrest from the New York Rangers that year.

It was with the Rangers that Franks got his main NHL chance. That didn’t come until five years later, 1942, when Franks started 23 games for a wobbly wartime New York team. He went 5-14-4 as the Rangers finished last in the NHL standings. The following year, 1943-44, his last in the NHL, Franks was back with Detroit. As it was in the beginning, so it ended up: he also got into a game that season as an EBUG for Boston, lent by the Red Wings after Bruins’ starter Bert Gardiner was hurt.

 

(Image: City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 82627)

can take care of himself in any kind of sailing

Hot Shots: Ranger linemates (left to right) Grant Warwick, Ab DeMarco, and Hank Goldup face the camera in January of 1945 during a week in which the trio accounted for seven Ranger goals in two games.

It was on this date in 1999, another Monday, that former New York Rangers right wing Grant Warwick died at the age of 77. He was just 20 in 1942 when he was voted the NHL’s top rookie, winning the Calder Trophy ahead of Montreal’s Buddy O’Connor and Bob Goldham of Toronto. A proud Saskatchewan newspaper reported on the distinction: “Warwick, native of Regina, is just five feet six, but he packs about 175 pounds on that frame and can take care of himself in any kind of sailing on the ice.” He played parts of seven seasons with the Rangers through the ‘40s, twice notching 20 goals; he later had a 22-goal season with the Boston Bruins before finishing up his big-league career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1949-50. Skating alongside his younger brother Bill, he was the playing coach of the Penticton Vs when they represented Canada at the World Championships in West Germany and beat the Soviet Union 5-0 to win gold.

rod gilbert’s number 7: like a cardinal’s hat at st. patrick’s cathedral

Amid New York Rafters: This LeRoy Neiman portrait of the late Ranger great Rod Gilbert dates to 1976, near the end of Gilbert’s distinguished career with New York. In October of 1979, the Rangers retired Gilbert’s number 7 where (as per this subsequent caption of Neiman’s) it hung “like a Cardinal’s hat at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.” It was no fault of Gilbert’s then — and it’s no disrespect to his legacy now — to mention that the Rangers somehow forgot to honour that same 7 for the first Ranger to don it (in 1927), the inimitable (and possibly best-ever Ranger) Frank Boucher. Then again, the team has made a strange tradition of overlooking its earlier stalwarts, and any time the Rangers get around to retiring Bill Cook’s number 5 and his brother Bun’s 6 wouldn’t be too soon. Recognitions for Murray Murdoch, who wore 9 before Andy Bathgate and Adam Graves, and Ching Johnson, a long-serving 3 before Harry Howell, wouldn’t be out of place, either.  

who can impress the forest?

Branch Plant: Born in Sudbury, Ontario, on a Saturday of this same date in 1957, Ron Duguay is 64 today. A sometime centreman and right winger, he was drafted, you’ll maybe remember, by the New York Rangers in 1977, and in his rookie campaign scored 20 goals and 40 points. He reached the goal-scoring peak in 1981-82, when he scored 40 goals. In two stints with the Blueshirts, Duguay played parts of eight seasons with New York. Veteran of a dozen NHL seasons in all, he also suited up for the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Los Angeles Kings. He played for Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup. In recent years, Duguay worked as a TV analyst on MSG Networks’ Rangers broadcasts. 

ed-dee!

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, on a Tuesday of this same date in 1939, Ed Giacomin is 82 today, so a birthday nod to him. ““Ed-dee! Ed-dee! Ed-dee!”  is what the fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden chanted in 1989 when the Rangers retired the number 1 Giacomin wore in his decade with the team, starting in 1966. He was twice named to the NHL’s First All-Star team and (with Gilles Villemure) won the 1971 Vézina Trophy. He was beloved in New York, which is why it registered as such a shock in the fall of 1975 when Rangers GM Emile Francis exposed him on waivers. Snapped up by the Detroit Red Wings, Giacomin played his next game was at MSG … against the Rangers. Wearing Red Wing red and number 31, Giacomin stymied his former teammates sufficiently for Detroit to depart with a 6-4 win. Fans booed the Rangers that night, and every time Giacomin stopped a shot, his name echoed through the building: “Ed-dee! Ed-dee! Ed-dee!”  

Ed Giacomin played parts of three seasons with Detroit before he retired in 1978. He was elevated to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987. The sales job depicted here dates to 1974.

crease confab

Coaching Sesh: Born in Winnipeg on a Friday of this date in 1923, Church Russell played three seasons at centre and left wing for the New York Rangers in the mid-1940s, scoring a creditable 20 goals in 1946-47. That’s him in the middle here, number 16, alongside another Manitoban Rene Trudell (Mariapolis), with whom Russell often lined up that season on the Atomic Line, in partnership with Transcona’s own Cal Gardner. At right is the dapper (Ottawa-born) Ranger coach, Frank Boucher.