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AN AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING The first 14 years of the New York Rangers' existence brought the glory of three Stanley Cups and some of the most exciting moments in their history

June 22, 1994
June 22, 1994

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June 22, 1994

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AN AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING The first 14 years of the New York Rangers' existence brought the glory of three Stanley Cups and some of the most exciting moments in their history

THE YEAR WAS 1926 B.C. (BEFORE CURSE). Tex Rickard, president of
the new Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue (which is the old
Garden to anyone over the age of 40), had founded a Garden-owned
hockey team to share the ice, and the profits, with the New York
Americans, who had been in business for one year. ''Tex's Rangers,''
Herald Tribune sports editor George Daley called them, and the first
logo, done in blue, was a cowboy on horseback waving a hockey stick.
The Rangers were ahead of their time. Change the dark blue to teal,
and 68 years later kids all over America would be wearing the jersey.
To his everlasting credit, Rickard hated the insignia. Before the
first game on Nov. 16, it was changed to the diagonal slash
R-A-N-G-E-R-S.
The new logo was classy. So was the new team. Now they are
considered part of the NHL's Original Six, but in the era when people
still danced the Charleston and drank at speakeasies like the Green
Door on 49th Street, when Saks Fifth Avenue ran fashion ads for ''the
well-dressed chauffeur'' and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
was getting good reviews, the Rangers became one of the greatest
expansion teams in sports. They won the Stanley Cup in their second
season and two more times -- in 1933 and 1940 -- over their first 14
years. They missed the playoffs only once.
They were also the toast of New York. Basketball was in its
infancy, and, along with boxing, hockey ruled the Garden. ''The
Rangers were adopted by the hoi polloi,'' says Murray Murdoch, 90,
who played in 508 consecutive games for New York. ''If not for
hockey, that old building would have been a bus terminal.''
Murdoch was one of the original Rangers, recruited out of Winnipeg
by Conn Smythe, who lost his job as general manager to Lester Patrick
even before the $ first season started. (''That,'' says current New
York general manager Neil Smith, ''is the origin of Rangers
front-office firings.'') The first line had the slick Frank Boucher
centering the hopelessly bowlegged Bill Cook and his brother Bun
Cook. They were backed by marshmallow defenseman Taffy Abel and Ching
Johnson, who had a bald head, a perpetual grin and arms the size of
other men's legs. All but Bun Cook would be elected to the NHL Hall
of Fame. Lorne Chabot was the goaltender, and late in the 1927-28
season he went 297 minutes and 42 seconds without allowing a goal.
An injury to Chabot in the Cup finals against the Montreal Maroons
two months later led to one of hockey's legendary moments. Early in
the second period of a scoreless Game 2, a shot by Montreal's Nels
Stewart struck Chabot in the left eye. He was unable to continue, and
because most teams didn't carry spare goaltenders, Patrick, the
44-year-old general manager and coach, strapped on Chabot's pads. The
Maroons fired 16 shots, and Patrick stopped all but one. ''They were
taking a lot of long shots on Lester, shooting as soon as they got
past center ice,'' Murdoch recalls. ''Lester used to put on pads
during practice and coach from the other goal, and he knew about
goaltending. But we were lucky. The refs gave us a break, letting us
stop the Maroons any way we could.''
New York won in overtime, evening the series, and went on to win
the Stanley Cup three games to two with a goalie borrowed from the
Americans.
The Rangers won the 1933 and '40 Cups at Maple Leaf Gardens, the
annual visit of the Ringling Bros. circus having forced them out of
their own building early in the final round. ''The elephants
certainly did leave an aroma,'' says Clint Smith, 80, who joined the
Rangers in 1936-37 and would go on to twice win the Lady Byng
Memorial Trophy as the league's most gentlemanly player. Through the
decades it seemed as if the stench around the franchise would never
go away. Said Clint Smith, ''I figure we should have won another two
or three Cups.''
Of course that is another 54 stories.

This is an article from the June 22, 1994 issue