New York Rangers: 1994 And The 11-Year Old Fan


It’s been 21-years since the New York Rangers hoisted the Stanley Cup. This letter from an 11-year old remembers the magical run from start to finish.

Most of the news, recent happenings and full gravity of the situation was over his head.

After all, when an 11-year old boy becomes so emotionally invested in a team, there’s only so much he can handle.

However, this boy was different. Some might say strange, even. He knew things about the New York Rangers that 50-year old veteran fans didn’t know. He memorized Mike Keenan’s lines from Mark Messier’s dominant No. 1 unit to Greg Gilbert, Joey Kocur and whoever played in the middle with those guys on the fourth.

Knowing the “Black Aces” was just as important to him.

The 11-year old even knew how unusual it was that young defenseman Sergei Zubov led the team in regular season points with 89 during the 1993-94 Presidents’ Trophy campaign. He felt it should have been his favorite player, Brian Leetch.

Nevertheless, after a trade deadline that saw general manager Neil Smith make wholesale changes to the lineup – mortgaging the future to add the necessary toughness for the Stanley Cup Playoffs – the kid was hooked on watching his Rangers in the postseason.

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  • The first two-rounds were a breeze.

    Remember, this little guy is only 11-years old. He’s in fifth-grade, and watching the game with his father, who is the soul responsible for creating such a monster of a Rangers fan. Because of his age, he’d have to go to bed when the old man directed him to do so.

    Sweeping the New York Islanders in the first-round and disposing the Washington Capitals in five games in the second-round, allowed the youngster to breathe easy on those weekday nights he had to head to bed before the final horn.

    Then came the New Jersey Devils.

    The Devils. The actual name itself means evil. This is how the fifth-grader viewed the team from Jersey. Furthermore, to him, captain Scott Stevens reminded him of that very dark symbol. The symbol for which all evil was rooted.

    After the young Rangers fan witnessed Stephane Richer shelf an overtime winner past Mike Richter in Game 1, he simulated the game the next day on his Sega Genesis through EA Sports NHL 94.

    There was no chance he was ever going to allow the Devils to get away with a Game 1 win.

    As the Rangers and Stephane Matteau took control of the series after Game 3, all was right in the world again.

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    What made this series one of the greatest in history – while looking back – was the giant swings in momentum each team pulled off. As we all know, the Devils took Game 4 after Keenan inexlicably pulled Mike Richter, and destroyed a lifeless Rangers team in Game 5 back at The Garden.

    During Game 6, the young boy’s father was out of town. He was all alone to battle this one out.

    Instead of watching the game on the big TV, he took to the secondary room in the house that featured an old-school dial TV with no remote.

    By the time the Devils took a 2-0 lead, the kid was thanking his lucky stars John Starks and his New York Knicks were still alive in the NBA playoffs. Even when his mom came downstairs to pay him a visit, he uttered that exact sentiment to her.

    Next thing you know, history was made by the Messiah.

    It set the stage for an epic Game 7 as the old man and the young boy were both on hand to watch from the friendly confines of their living room.

    Fully understanding the gravity of 1940, the young boy was ecstatic as the Rangers held a slim 1-0 lead – thanks to the great Leetch and his spinorama that sneaked past rookie Marty Brodeur – with under a minute to go in regulation. He was even more excited that the old man allowed him to stay up way past his bedtime (as he also knew what this moment meant for the both of them).

    What happened with 7.7 seconds to go was, at that time, the single worst thing that has ever happened to the young lad.

    Valerie Zelepukin jammed one past Richter, with the 11-year old’s favorite player, Leetch, draped all over him.

    1940 was no longer a year to the kid, it was a disaster.

    This was the second time in the series the Devils had tied up the game in the final seconds, and the Rangers had a habit of allowing it all season long.

    When the puck went in, the young Rangers fan let out a scream that could only be described as a blood-curdling shot in the back. Mainly because he was afraid his Rangers were going down in flames, but partly due to thinking he’d be forced to go to bed because of the late time on this school night.

    How quickly fate turns.

    Perhaps only when despair is so deep is when the riches taste so sweet. The first overtime was the most anxious time of their lives. Sam Rosen excitingly shouting “where’s the puck?” as Richter scrambled in his crease, explained this anxiousness so perfectly.

    Of course, Matteau famously wrapped it around the goal to allow the old man and the 11-year old boy to explode with enthusiasm.

    Not one, but two little boys were in full celebratory mode at that very moment as Esa Tikkanen continuously fell en route to the group celebration.

    Of course the youngster was allowed to stay up past his bedtime – for this was history in the making.

    Nothing could stop them now.

    Even after another Game 1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals, and two very disappointing losses in Games 5 and 6, the young Rangers fan knew his team wouldn’t be denied.

    Through it all, he was so into his team, this sport, and this curse, that he actually prayed during games.

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    He would tell god that he didn’t care about any other season past 1994. He proclaimed that if the heavens above would allow the Rangers to take home the 1994 cup, that he would never ask for another Rangers championship for as long as he lived.

    Well, today that young fan has taken back that promise. It’s not fair to the youngsters who live and die with the 2015 New York Rangers.

    That prayer takes away the possible joy that a current fifth-grader would receive from watching Marty St. Louis perform the same leadership heroics as Mark Messier did; Henrik Lundqvist perform the same goaltending wizardry Mike Richter did; Rick Nash coming through with clutch sniping like Adam Graves did; Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes coming up as big as youngsters Alexei Kovalev or Sergei Zubov did; or Ryan McDonagh going on an epic Conn Smyth trophy run like Brian Leetch did.

    It wouldn’t be fair that the hockey gods steal that possible joy from the Rangers or their young fans right now.

    So, for all generations of Rangers fans out there, there’s only one thing left to say: “We Want The Cup!”

    Next: Derek Stepan Player Profile

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