What happened on March 15 in the history of the New York Rangers
On this date in 1989, the New York Rangers retired Ed Giacomin’s number one, as he joined Rod Gilbert as the only Rangers to have their numbers hanging from the Garden’s rafters. It took 11 years from when he retired and over 13 years from when he played his last game as a New York Ranger.
Giacomin was the heart and soul of the Rangers for over ten years and his return to Madison Square Garden as a Detroit Red Wing after being waived by the Blueshirts was one of the most memorablle moments in Rangers history.
He won the Vezina Trophy in 1971 and was a first or second team All-Star five times. At the time he was honored he was the franchise leader in wins and shutouts, club records that he no longer holds. Retiring his number was a no-brainer for the Blueshirts, the only question was why it took so long. It came two years after he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
First time the best
On this date in 1942, the Rangers clinched the title as best team in the NHL during the regular season, winning the Prince of Wales Trophy with a 5-1 win over the Chicago Black Hawks at Chicago Stadium. From 1938 to 1967, the Wales Trophy was the equivalent of the current President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular season record.
The Rangers clinched the distinction in the last game of the season, finishing with 60 points, three ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The regular season was 48 games long in those days. Unfortunately, when it came to the playoffs, the Leafs eliminated the Blueshirts in six games in the Semi-finals.
The Rangers would not finish with the best regular season record again for 50 years, until 1991-92.
Espo’s big night
Phil Esposito scored four goals on this date in 1979, doing it against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden. It was the 31st hat trick of Esposito’s career and it was sweet to do it in the arena he had played in for nine years. It was the sixth time in his career that he scored four goals in a game and the only time he did it as a Ranger.
Two quick goals
Here’s one from the obscure hockey records department. On this date in 1989, the Rangers lost to Winnipeg 6-3 at Madison Square Garden. What made this game unusual was that Michel Petit scored 14 seconds into the first period and Carey Wilson scored eight seconds into the third period,
It gave the two Rangers a record as the fastest two goals scored in one game from the start of any period. Like we said, who keeps these records?
There have been 29 players born on the Ides of March. Two former Rangers are on that list.
Brendan Lemieux was born on this date in 1996 in Denver, Colorado. The son of NHLer Claude Lemieux, the left winger was born in Colorado while his father played for the Avalanche and he is really a Quebec native. Brendan Lemieux came to the Rangers in the 2019 trade of Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg. A physical player with a propensity for taking bad penalties, he led the Rangers in penalty minutes (111) in his one full season with the team. Lemieux was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a draft pick.
Hy Buller was a defenseman born on March 15 in 1926 in Montreal, Quebec. He played 188 games in the NHL, 179 of them as a Ranger. He was a Second Team All-Star in 1952 when he scored 12 goals and 35 points in 68 games as a rookie for the Rangers. He finished second in Calder Trophy voting to Bernie Geoffrion.
Buller is best known as one of two Jewish players in the NHL in the 1940s and 1950s. His religion was exploited by the Rangers as they hung a large blue Star of David at the Garden. He made it to New York at age 25 after starring in the AHL for seven years. Traded to Montreal after the 1954 season, he refused to report and retired.
When it comes to March 15, it is one of the worst days for the Rangers in the calendar year with only 11 wins in 42 games and a .345 points percentage.
Regulation wins: 10
Regulation losses: 24
Overtime wins: 1
Points percentage: .345