Back on June 14, 1994 I was two weeks into my 6th year of birth, getting the chance to fully watch my favorite team; the New York Rangers compete for hockey’s biggest prize: The Stanley Cup.
Not knowing about any other team that wasn’t the New York Rangers, I knew little about the Vancouver Canucks, I didn’t deep dive into their history (the Internet was something foreign to me), I didn’t pay attention to the news or ESPN covering the team (because I didn’t care, if they weren’t covering the Rangers, why bother).
Yet this series had all of its intrigue. There was something about New York being in the cup final, the chance to break that 54 year drought, after failing to do so during the 1970s, you had to think that this quite possibly would be the year that they could do it. This was the year that the Rangers could go to the promise land, and give that city what it wanted; a championship.
When the Rangers took that commanding 3-1 series, I figured that the series would end when it reached back to New York for game 5. That was not the case, and it needed to go to that all important game 7. The game that history truly is made. The game that really brings out the heroes really brings out the best players. The stars shine brightly, but playoff heroes shine brighter, and if you happen to be both, well you’re nothing more than a legend amongst NHL fans.
Mark Messier we knew was something special when the team acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers. We knew that he was going to be a strong leader that would will his way to win, and ask that his teammates do the same. We knew Brian Leetch was going to be a solid two-way defender, whose skill set complemented everything that Messier wanted out of a teammate. We learned that Adam Graves could be a consistent scoring threat, and turned into a New York favorite thanks to the 1993-1994 season.
We knew Craig MacTavish was a solid role player, same with Esa Tikkanen. Sergei Zubov had a solid laser of a slap shot that could beat goalies night in and night out when he was able to shoot. Jeff Beukeboom would be able to deliver bone crushing hits while playing solid defensively. Finally, we knew Mike Richter would stop anything that came in sight, especially penalty shots.
Yet, game 7 wouldn’t be easy for the Rangers. After taking a commanding 2-0 lead after goals from Leetch and Graves, the pesky Canucks would not back off. Trevor Linden would score cutting the lead down to one, but Messier would answer right back with a goal of his own bringing the Ranger lead at the end of 2, back to 2. The third period started, and the Rangers were 20 minutes away from hoisting the cup. Messier was 20 minutes away from hoisting the cup for a sixth time, his second as a captain, his first as a Ranger. Yet, Linden scored again making the game a 1 goal game.
A scare came with five minutes left after a Nathan LaFayette shot trickled along the goal line after it hit the post. Yet, it stayed out of the net and the Rangers held on to the lead. As the time trickled away, the Rangers would spend the final 37 seconds icing the puck down the ice giving Ranger fans, and hockey fans around the world waiting, as I would deem it, and I’m sure many Ranger fans and players would agree “the longest 37 seconds of my life.”
The horn sounded, I jumped up and down on the couch for joy, my dad followed suit (not physically on the couch like I was, but he jumped up), and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, on that magical day, June 14, 1994.
19 years later that game still gives me chills, and as Ranger fans that’s all we have to look back on and remember that one time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup while I was born. Every time I get the chance to insert the DVD of game 7, I’m still at the edge of my seat, even though I know the outcome. The 1994 Stanley Cup Finals as a whole was an exciting series, and that series made me love hockey. It allowed me to open my eyes and enjoy the game as a whole, while still rooting very strongly for the Rangers.
While the Rangers haven’t seen a Stanley Cup final since 1994, things are really starting to look up for them. They have a team, while missing a few pieces, can contend and make a case to strongly compete at a high level for the Cup. They just now need a coach to help guide them to that next level. Few fans (including myself), thought John Tortorella was the answer, and it didn’t turn out too well for him.
So for whoever the next Ranger coach is, I have one plea for you: while watching the 1994 Stanley Cup is fun, please allow me to attach another set of DVDs alongside the 1994 Cup. Thank you.