ANY MARKS LEFT BEHIND BY DEFENSEMAN Jeff Beukeboom won't be found
in the box scores but rather along the Madison Square Garden boards,
which have served as his personal anvil the last three seasons.
Content to patrol the defensive zone and freight-train any opponent
who dares pass through it, the 6 ft. 5 in., 225-pound Beukeboom has
been the perfect complement to offensive virtuoso Brian Leetch, his
partner on defense since November 1991.
''He's of a dying breed,'' says Ranger general manager Neil Smith
of Beukeboom, ''the defenseman who is content to play a physical,
stay-at-home role and not get the glory that comes from carrying the
puck and getting a lot of points.''
When he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers with the 19th pick in
1983, ! Beukeboom became the first nongoalie ever taken in the first
round who hadn't scored a goal the previous season. In 1993-94 he put
in eight goals, one shy of his personal record, set during a minor
league season. Beukeboom hasn't been a scoring threat since his days
as a teenager playing street hockey in his hometown of Lindsay, Ont.
''I might have scored eight in a game then,'' says Beukeboom. ''Of
course, we never used a goalie.''
The Rangers obtained Beukeboom from Edmonton on Nov. 12, 1991,
completing the deal that brought Mark Messier to New York a month
earlier. Beukeboom, despite earning three Stanley Cup rings with the
Oilers, could not crack the regular lineup in five full seasons in
Edmonton. Nonetheless, he was a menacing presence behind the blue
line, particularly in the postseason, when his fresher legs allowed
him to launch search-and-destroy missions.
It was as a Junior player under the eye of coach Ted Tobias that
Beukeboom abandoned any visions of offensive grandeur. ''I probably
did fancy myself as a different type of player then,'' says the
29-year-old Beukeboom. ''But my one goal was to play in the NHL, and
Ted made it pretty clear that it wasn't going to happen if I tried to
be Bobby Orr.'' And so Beukeboom became an intimidator, pummeling
smaller opponents with such frightening regularity that referees
started sending him to the slammer for inordinate amounts of time.
As a Ranger, Beukeboom's increased playing time has dictated that
he be more judicious in throwing his weight around. ''When I was
younger, I was always looking for the big hit to make an
impression,'' he says. ''Now I might space things out a little bit
Beukeboom, though, has also had his moments offensively for the
Rangers. For a handful of games in the middle of the season, New York
coach Mike Keenan used Beukeboom as a forward on the power play. The
result: a man-advantage goal against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 3.
The feat didn't quite match those eight goals he scored in that
street hockey game in Lindsay, but at least there was a goalie in the
net this time. -- C.S.