February 9 in NYR history: Setting up the greatest upset in hockey history

LAKE PLACID, NY - FEBRUARY 22: Buzz Schneider #25 of the United States skates in front of his bench as time winds down during the Olympic hockey game against the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980 in Lake Placid, New York. The United States won 4-3. (Photo by: Steve Powell/Getty Images)
LAKE PLACID, NY - FEBRUARY 22: Buzz Schneider #25 of the United States skates in front of his bench as time winds down during the Olympic hockey game against the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980 in Lake Placid, New York. The United States won 4-3. (Photo by: Steve Powell/Getty Images) /

What happened on February 9 in the history of the New York Rangers

We are going to depart from our look at New York Rangers history and look back at something that happened on this date at Madison Square Garden.    The year was 1980 and the teams were the United States Olympic hockey team and the Soviet Union national team.  The result? A 10-3 win for Russia.

The Daily News said that Russia “annihilated” Team USA.  The New York Times called it a “rout.”  Those were apt descriptions.  The one-sided victory made what happened just two weeks later even more of a surprise.

A sparse crowd of 11,241 watched the Soviets dismantle the US team, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first period.   Trailing 5-0 in the second period, Mike Eruzione got the USA on the scoreboard, but it was still a one-sided beating.  The visitors were led by Vladimir Krutov who scored three goals.  Goalie Jim Craig allowed four goals before he was replaced by Steve Janaszak.

When the USA pulled within 6-2 in the third period, the USSR got serious and scored three goals in 3:28, led by a short-handed breakaway goal by Alexander Maltsev who scored on a backward spin-o-rama move rarely seen in North American hockey.

USA coach Herb Brooks said that he made a tactical mistake, designing a close checking strategy instead of attacking.  Brooks said “I gave them a bad plan, we should have attacked them.”

This was certainly a learning experience for the young Americans and might have made the Soviets overconfident though Soviet coach Viktor Tikhanov cautioned that “We showed what we can do, and they didn’t.  We have the feeling that they have a lot in reserve.”

Of course, everyone with a pulse knows that in just 13 days the USA upset the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice” game and went on to win a most improbable gold medal.  Knowing Herb Brooks as a master manipulator is it possible that he designed a game plan that he knew would lull the Russians into believing that they couldn’t lose? It’s impossible to say, but one thing is for the sure, the dominance and margin of victory definitely reinforced the Soviet belief that they were unbeatable, especially by the Americans.

A milestone for Mike Gartner

On this date in 1992, Mike Gartner became the third player in NHL history to score 30 goals in 13 consecutive seasons.   He scored his milestone goal in a 5-5 tie with the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden.

Before Gartner, only Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito had accomplished the same feat.  Gartner claimed the record on his own when he notched 45 goals the next season and reached 15 straight years before the streak ended.

He has subsequently been tied by Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin.  Mike Gartner and Jagr can thank the COVID-19 pandemic for them still holding the record.  Ovechkin scored 24 goals last season in 45 games with the season shortened by the pandemic.  In a full 82-game season, there’s no doubt that he would have rewritten the record books.  Instead, he has to share the record with the two former Rangers.

Today’s birthdays

21 NHL players have been born on February 9 with five former New York Rangers in that mix, including two of the tougher players in franchise history and a future Hall of Famer…in Russia.

Chris Nilan was born on this date in 1958 in Boston, Massachusetts.  Known as “Knuckles” he was a fierce fighter and renowned practical joker who played for the Rangers  in the late 1980s.  He led the league in penalty minutes twice with Montreal, but they traded him to New York in 1988. His physical style of play took its toll  on the 29 year old and in two and a third seasons with New York, he played only 63 games.  The Rangers finally traded him to Boston so he could finish his career in the city where he grew up.

Ed Hospodar, known as “Boxcar” was a physical defenseman who was born on this date in 1959 in Bowling Green, Ohio  and he is one of nine players in franchise history to top 200 penalty minutes in one season. That was in 1981 when he totaled 214 penalty minutes in one of his three seasons with the Rangers.  In 1982 he was traded to Hartford and played six more seasons in the NHL.

Nigel Dawes was born on this date in 1985 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  He was a fifth round draft pick in 2003 and played for the Rangers for two years. He showed a knack for scoring with 14 goals in 61 games and 10 goals in 64 games before he was traded to Phoenix at the deadline for Derek Morris.  He has made his name after he left the NHL, playing ten seasons in the KHL for Barys,  Avtomobilist and Ak Bars .  He is the second highest career goal scorer in KHL history with 267 goals. and he is fourth all-time with 505 points. He’s still going strong, playing in Germany.

Ron Attwell was born on this date in 1935 in Humber Summit, Ontario.  He was a right winger who played 4 games for the Rangers in 1967-68 after being acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues.  It was a major trade with Attwell  Ron Stewart coming to New York and Red Berenson and Barclay Plager going to the Blues.  Both Plager and Berenson were mainstays for the Blues for years to come.

Archie Fraser was born on February 9, 1914 in Souris, Manitoba.   He was a center who played three games for the Rangers in 1943-44 at age 29, at the height of the war years.

The numbers

The Rangers have played 41 games on February 9 with only 13 wins in regulation.

Games: 41
Regulation wins: 13
Regulation losses: 18
Ties: 8
Overtime wins: 1
Overtime losses: 1
Points percentage: .451

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