What happened on February 22 in the history of the New York Rangers
On this date in 2009, the New York Rangers made a move that was long overdue. They honored two Rangers legends by lifting their uniform numbers to the rafters of Madison Square Garden. No one will ever wear Harry Howell‘s number three and Andy Bathgate‘s number nine joined Adam Graves, retired two week earlier.
Harry Howell played defense for the New York Rangers for 17 years, winning the Norris Trophy in 1967. While never a prolific scorer, he was a rock solid defenseman. He played more games as a Ranger (1,160) than any other player and is third all time in penalty minutes. Until Brian Leetch came along, there was no doubt that Howell was the greatest blueliner in franchise history.
Andy Bathgate played 12 years for the Rangers, winning the Hart Trophy in 1959. A four time First or Second Team All-Star, Bathgate’s tragedy was that he was never able to win a Stanley Cup with the Blueshirts, though he did win in 1964 as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
He is fourth all-time in goals, assists and points for the franchise and he is one of six Rangers to average over a point per game in his career. That list includes Artemi Panarin who is averaging 1.33 points per game.
Ironically, this is also the anniversary of the day he was traded in a blockbuster deal in 1964. It was the second seven-player deal in team history and going to Toronto were Bathgate and Don McKenney for Bob Nevin, Dick Duff, Arnie Brown, Rod Seiling and Bill Collins. While it was a blow to trade the 31-year-old Bathgate, the players the Rangers got became the foundation or were traded for pieces of the great Rangers teams of the late 1960’s and early 1970s.
Both Howell (1979) and Bathgate (1978) are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
U.S.A. versus U.S.A.
On this date in 1981, two U.S. born coaches opposed each other in the same game for the first time in NHL history. Craig Patrick of the Rangers took on Larry Pleau of the Hartford Whalers, with the Whalers winning 6-5.
In 1931 on this date, the Rangers played the Philadelphia Quakers for the last time. The Rangers won 6-1. The Quakers had been founded as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925 and played in the Steel City until the 1930-31 season when they moved to Philadelphia.
After one season in the City of Brotherly Love, they folded and Philadelphia didn’t have a team until the NHL expanded in 1967. One legacy of the Quakers is that they originated the orange and black colors worn to this date by the Flyers. Why orange and black? The Quakers took their uniforms from the colors of the University of Texas Longhorns.
A miracle on ice
It didn’t involve the Rangers directly, but on this date in 1980, the U.S. National hockey team beat the Russians at the Winter Olympics in the Miracle on Ice game. Coach Herb Brooks, Assistant Coach Craig Patrick and players Mark Pavelich, Steve Baker, Rob McClanahan and Dave Silk all played for the Rangers after turning pro.
32 NHL players have been born on February 22, but only two have worn a Rangers uniform.
Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine was born on this date in 1965 in St. Louis, Missouri. He is one of the few players to play for all three New York State teams, playing his entire career with the Islanders, Sabres and Rangers.
The third overall pick in the 1983 draft by the Islanders, LaFontaine found his way to the Rangers in the 1997-98 season when the Sabres traded him to New York after the Sabres medical staff refused to clear him to play, due to multiple concussions. The center lasted only 67 games, scoring 23 goals, before he suffered at least his sixth concussion and was forced to retire.
When he retired he had scored 468 goals. He is sixth all time in goals scored by a U.S. born player. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Jozef Balej was born on this date in 1982 in Myjava, Czechoslovakia. He was one of the players acquired by the Rangers in the great trade deadline purge of 2004. He was a Montreal Canadiens prospect who had scored 25 goals in the AHL after a productive WHL career. The Rangers traded Alex Kovalev to Montreal for the right winger along with a second round draft pick. It was another deal that didn’t work out as the draft pick (Bruce Graham) never made it to the NHL and Balej played 13 gmes for the Rangers, scoring only one goal. The Rangers traded him to Vancouver for the wrong Fedorov (Fedor, not Sergei) and he finished his career in the Czech Republic.
41 games played for the Rangers on February 22 and they have gotten exactly half of the points they could have earned, for a .500 record.
Regulation wins: 16
Regulation losses: 18
Overtime losses: 3
Shootout wins: 2
Shootout losses: 1
Points percentage: .500