March 1 in NYR history: The worst break in Blueshirts history

Jean Ratelle of the New York Rangers(Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)
Jean Ratelle of the New York Rangers(Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images) /

What happened on March 1 in the history of the New York Rangers

It happened 40 years ago, but the memory of what happened on this date in 1972 brings a sick feeling to any Ranger fan who followed the team that season.  Early in the second period of the Rangers 4-1 win over the California Golden Seals at Madison Square Garden, Jean Ratelle broke a bone in his foot, ending what was going to the greatest season for a New York Ranger in franchise history.

To make matter worse, he broke the bone when he was hit by a shot by his teammate, defenseman Dale Rolfe. Ratelle had skated in front of the California net hoping for a deflection, but the puck hit the inside of his ankle .

At the time, Ratelle was one point behind Phil Esposito in the league scoring race.  The injury stopped his streak of 13 straight games with a point, set by Rod Gilbert in 1968 and stopped when Gilbert also suffered a broken ankle.

When Ratelle’s season ended after 63 games, he had scored 46 goals and had 109 points and was headed to franchise records in both categories.  His1.73  points per game average is the best in club history and his goals per game average of 0.73 is he best of the post expansion era.

Even more than ending Ratelle’s spectacular season, it also was a blow to the Rangers’ hopes for a Stanley Cup. The Rangers took the Bruins to six games in the Final before losing and we can only wonder what a healthy Ratelle would have meant.

The injury cost the Rangers a shot at first place and home ice advantage.  Ratelle returned to action and played all six games in the Final, but he was a shell of himself, with only one assist. The 1994 Stanley Cup erased many bitter memories for the Rangers and their fans and this one was at the top of most lists.

The King’s last game at MSG

On this date in 2020, Henrik Lundqvist made the last regular season start of his Rangers career and last start ever as a Ranger at Madison Square Garden.    He did make one relief appearance  at the Garden after this game.

The Flyers scored three power play goals and a shorthanded goal and took a 4-0 lead in the second period. The Rangers scored two third period goals to make it closer, but he game was never in doubt as the red hot Flyers won their sixth in a row.

Lundqvist would make two starts in the Stanley Cup Qualifier in Toronto in August, the final starts of his Ranger career.

A scoring record for Esposito

A record was set at the Rangers expense on this night in 1969.  Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins notched a goal and an assist in a 8-5 Bruins win over the Rangers in Boston.  With those two points, it gave him a total of 99 points and with that, he became the top scorer in NHL history.  Stan Mikita of the Black Hawks had held the record of 97 points, set in the 1968-69 season.

Esposito finished with 126 points on the season, smashing Mikita’s record by 29 points and becoming the first player in NHL history to top 100 points in a season.   Since that 1969 season, the 100 point mark has been reached 282 times including once by Gordie Howe who reached the milestone four weeks after Esposito.

Goal scorers for the Rangers that night included rookie Brad Park who got his second NHL goal and Jean Ratelle who would become the first Blueshirt to top 100 points.

A trade for Yandle

On this date in 2015, the Rangers swung a deal with Arizona that they thought would guarantee them the Stanley Cup.  They traded top prospect Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore along with a first and second round draft pick for Yandle,  minor league defenseman Chris Summers and a fourth round draft pick.

Glen Sather was pleased with the deal because Yandle had another year left on his contract and because he had the Coyotes pick up half of Yandle’s salary.

How did it work out?  Yandle was a productive offensive blueliner for the Rangers, but they lost in the Conference Finals to Tampa.  After getting bounced by the Pittsburgh Penguins the next season, Yandle departed via free agency.

Arizona didn’t end up with much from the deal as Duclair was a bust, Moore departed after the season as a free agent and the draft picks were complete washouts.

The Rangers got one full season out of Yandle before trading his rights to Florida for a draft pick.  We won’t know about the final resolution to the trade as the two draft picks acquired by the Rangers were used to pick goalie Tyler Wall and defenseman Tarmo Reunanen.  If both Wall and Reuanen end up as productive NHL players in New York, this could be one of the better deals of the Glen Sather regime.

Today’s birthdays

37 NHL players have been born on March 1 including two Hall of Famers who played for the Rangers, a former coach and a future Blueshirt.

Tarmo Reunanen was born on this date in1998 in Aanekoski, Finland.  A fourth round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Reunanen is now playing in Hartford and made his NHL debut last season, playing four games with one assist.  Ironically, the Rangers acquired the 2016 pick on this very date in the trade for Keith Yandle.

Allan Stanley was a defenseman, born on this date in 1926 in Timmins, Ontario.  He was a regular on the Rangers blue line for five years before being demoted to the WHL for most of the 1953-54 season.  He was traded to Chicago the next year and had stints with the Black Hawks and Bruins before finding a home in Toronto. He played ten years, until he was 42, with the Maple Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups and being named a Second Team All-Star three times.

Stanley was a good example of the Rangers (along with the Black Hawks and Bruins) giving  up on a future star.  The good news is they traded him for Bill Gadsby who himself was an All-Star for the Rangers and a future Hall of Famer.   Allan Stanley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.

Max Bentley was born on this date in 1920 in Delisle, Saskatchewan.  He was a center who played his final NHL season with the Rangers in 1953-54.   He had won the Hart Trophy in 1946 and the Lady Byng Trophy in 1943 with the Chicago Black Hawks.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Tom Renney was born on this date in 1955 in Cranbrook, British Columbia. He never played in the NHL, but has had a long career as coach and hockey executive.  He served as the Director of Player Personnel for the Rangers before becoming head coach in 2004, succeeding Glen Sather.  His first year was delayed by the lockout of 2004-05, but when hockey resumed, he led the Rangers to the playoffs for three straight seasons before being replaced by John Tortorella.  He is sixth on the win list for Ranger coaches with 164 career victories.

Jocelyn Guevremont was a defenseman born on this date in 1961 in Montreal, Quebec. The third overall pick in the 1971 Amateur Draft by Vancouver, he played nine years for Vancouver and Buffalo before being traded to the Rangers where he played the 1979-80 season. After spending much of that season in the AHL, he retired.

The numbers

The Rangers have played 34 games on the first day of March and are just under .500 for the day.

Games: 34
Regulation wins: 13
Regulation losses: 14
Ties: 6
Shootout losses: 1
Points percentage: .485

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