On February 20 in NYR history: Phil Esposito, birthday boy

Phil Esposito of the New York Rangers watches the play during NHL game (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
Phil Esposito of the New York Rangers watches the play during NHL game (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) /

What happened on February 20 in the history of the New York Rangers

February 20 is an unusual date in the history of the New York Rangers.  No records have been set, no heroic feats achieved.  What is notable about this date is it is the birthdate of a hockey immortal who played for the Rangers and then ran the team.  It’s Phil Esposito’s birthday.

Phil Esposito had an impact on and off the ice in the history of the Rangers.  Traded to New York in a blockbuster deal in 1975, he never reached the scoring heights he had achieved as a Boston Bruin, but he did lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979.   After scoring 76, 66, 55, 68 and 61 goals in consecutive seasons for the Bruins, he never reached those heights again, scoring 35, 34, 38, 42 and 34 goals in five seasons in New York. While many bemoan the fact that the Rangers gave up Brad Park and Jean Ratelle to get Espo and defenseman Carol Vadnais, they never were able to win the Cup in Boston.

One impact of the trade for Esposito was when felt when John Ferguson traded Rick Middleton to Boston to get Ken Hodge to be Esposito’s linemate.  That will go down as possibly the worst trade in Rangers franchise history.

He led the league in goals five times and won the Hart Trophy twice, in 1968 and 1974. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.

After retiring, Esposito served as the color commentator on Rangers telecasts. He left he broadcast booth to become General Manager where he became known as Trader Phil.  How did he get the name?  In three years he pulled off 43 trades involving 99 players and 30 draft picks.  That included trading for coach Michele Bergeron who Esposito later fired and replaced behind the bench, decisions that cost him his job.

Esposito never raised the Stanley Cup in New York, but he did as one of the founders of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Esposito was on born on February 20, 1942 in  Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Today’s birthdays

27 NHL players have been born on February 20.  One current Rangers and three New York Rangers other than Phil Esposito, were born on this date.

Jarred Tinordi was born on February 20, 1992 in Burnsville, Minnesota.  The son of former Ranger and North Star Mark Tinordi, he was signed as a free agent by New York prior to the 2021-22 season. A first round pick by Montreal in 2010, the defenseman has had tours of duty with Montreal, Arizona, Nashville and Boston before the Rangers.

Goalie Glen Hanlon was born on this date in 1957 in Brandon, Manitoba.  Hanlon was traded to the Rangers in 1983 and he played in New York for four years before he was traded to Detroit in 1986  (in one of Esposito’s first deals) . With the Rangers he split goaltending duties with Ed Mio and took over as the first string goalie under Herb Brooks.

Norm Burns was a center who was born on this date in 1918 in Youngstown, Alberta.  He played 11 games in the 1941-42 season, his only games in the NHL.  He had a long career with various minor league teams until the late 1940s.

Gord Haworth was a center, born on February 20, 1932 in Drummondville, Quebec.   He played only two games in the NHL, both with the Rangers in the 1952-53 season.  He had a long career as a pro, from 1949 to 1970. .

The numbers

Only 30 games in the history of the New York Rangers have been played on February 20 and they are exactly at .500.

Games: 30
Regulation wins: 14
Regulation losses: 12
Ties: 4
Points percentage: .500

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