On February 8 in NYR history: The rebuild officially begins

Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton of the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton of the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

What happened on February 8 in the history of the New York Rangers

This date in 2018 will always be known as the day of “The Letter.”  It’s when the New York Rangers did something that is unheard of in professional sports, publicly announcing to their fans that they were throwing in the towel, giving up on attempting to make the playoffs and would embark on a rebuild.

The letter from Team President Glen Sather and General Manager Jeff Gorton was meant to soften the blow that would come at the trade deadline when the team would trade away some of the most popular players on the roster including Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller.

The missive was posted on the Rangers website and addressed to all “Blueshirt Faithful,” but was really intended for the season ticket holders who shell out thousands of dollars to attend the games.

The message was clear and pulled no punches.

"“As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character. This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, it’s never easy. Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we are building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.”"

Not surprisingly, the reaction to the letter was understanding.   Long suffering Ranger fans were encouraged that the team was willing to face reality and commit to rebuilding for the future.  Four years later the team is sitting near the top of the NHL, signaling that the rebuild is pretty much over.

Honoring the champions

On this date in 2019, the Rangers honored the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Stanley Cup championship, assembling nearly all of the members of the team that ended the curse of 1940 and brought glory to New York City and Madison Square Garden.

The ceremony was classic.  They replayed John Amirante’s 1994 version of the the national anthem on the big screen and introduced each of the members of the team one by one with Mark Messier last and to the biggest cheers.

The end to a winning streak

In 2019, on the same night that the 1994 team was honored, the Carolina Hurricanes won their first game at Madison Square Garden in eight years, shutting out the Blueshirts 3-0.   Petr Mrazek was in net  as the Canes won for the first time in New York since January 5, 2011, a span of 16 games during which thy had a 0-13-3 record.

A first at Nassau Coliseum

It took 25 years, but on this date in 1997, Mark Messier got the first hat trick by a Ranger at the Nassau Coliseum. The Rangers won 5-2 behind Messier’s three goals.  Alexander Karpovtsev and Pat Flatley also scored for the Blueshirts.

In 25 years of playing the Islanders, the Rangers had eight hat tricks, all at Madison Square Garden, but it took Messier to finally break the ice on Long Island.   Since 1997, the Rangers have tallied four more hat tricks on Long Island, the last coming from Marian Gaborik in 2010.

It was also the 23rd and last last hat trick in Mark Messier’s career and also his first against the Islanders.  Messier’s 19 regular season hat tricks ranks 17th all time and he added four hat tricks in the playoffs.

Today’s birthdays

24 NHL players have been born on February 8 with one current and one recent Blueshirt among them.

Patrik Nemeth was born on this date in 1992 in Stockholm, Sweden. A second round pick of the Dallas Stars, he was a  veteran of seven NHL seasons before signing as a free agent before this season.  The Swede is a stay-at-home defenseman who signed a three-year contract with the Blueshirts.

Brendan Smith was born on this date in 1989 in Mimico, Ontario.   A first round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft the defenseman was traded to the Rangers by Detroit at the deadline in 2017 for a second and third round draft pick.   After an impressive playoff performance in 2017, he was signed to a four year $17.4 million contract that has made him the brunt of much scorn from fans.  He was a versatile player the last two years for the Rangers, playing forward and defense and he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes before this season.

The numbers

The Rangers have played 36 games on February 8 and they have had some success on the date, losing only 12 games in regulation.

Games: 36
Regulation wins: 16
Regulation losses: 12
Ties: 7
Overtime losses: 1
Points percentage: .556

Related Story. The best coach in the NHL?. light