On March 16 in NYR history: Pat LaFontaine’s career comes to an end

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27: Former NHL player Pat LaFontaine is introduced during the NHL 100 presented by GEICO Show as part of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Microsoft Theater on January 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27: Former NHL player Pat LaFontaine is introduced during the NHL 100 presented by GEICO Show as part of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Microsoft Theater on January 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

What happened on March 16 in the history of the New York Rangers

On this date in 1998, Pat LaFontaine sustained the last concussion of his NHL career and it ended his time as a New York Ranger and a hockey professional player.  The irony was that he was concussed in a collision with teammate Mike Keane.

It happened late in the first period and both players were looking at the puck when they collided.  Though it didn’t look as if LaFontaine’s head hit the ice he had a cut near his eye.  He was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital and the immediate diagnosis was no concussion, but in the following days it was determined that it was at least his sixth concussion and it ended his playing days.

LaFontaine had played in all 67 games that season, scoring 23 goals and 62 points.  The Rangers had traded for the 32-year-old superstar from the Buffalo Sabres who felt he was putting his health at risk by continuing to play.  He had suffered his fifth concussion his last season in Buffalo and that limited him to only 13 games.

LaFontaine retired with 468 goals in 865 games for the three New York State teams. He is sixth all time in goals scored by a player born in the U.S.A. and his goals per game rate of 0.54 is second best among US born players.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003

A goal explosion

In 1939 on this date, the Rangers scored 11 goals in a game for the first time in a 11-5 win over the New York Americans in a road game at Madison Square Garden.   They reached that total once more, in 1942, before setting a franchise record with 12 goals in 1971.

They set a few more franchise records including the most combined goals (16) and ten combined goals in the first period.  The 16 total goals scored is till a record for a win. The most combined goals is 19 in a 10-9 loss in 1944.

Another scoring record

On this date in 1957, the Toronto Maple Leafs totaled 37 points in a 14-1 win over the Rangers at Maple Leaf Gardens.  The 37 points tied a record already set by the Detroit Red Wings in January 1944 against guess who?  Yup, the New York Rangers.  That shots record is often overlooked as Detroit won 15-0, the worst shellacking in  NHL history.

That record was erased in December 1975 when the Buffalo Sabres totaled 40 points in a  win over the Washington Capitals.

Two final games

On this date in 1941, the Rangers played their last game against the New York Americans, winning 6-3 at Madison Square Garden.   It wasn’t their last game against the Americans as they returned the next season as the Brooklyn Americans, though they still played their home games at MSG.

In 1996, the Rangers said farewell to the Montreal Forum, losing to the Canadiens 4-2.  The Canadiens moved into the Bell Centre the next season.  The Rangers had played 304 games at the Forum with a horrible record of 69-194-41.   When playing at the Forum, the Rangers allowed the most goals and scored the fewest goals of any Original Six opponent.

Today’s birthdays

26 players who played in the NHL have been born on March 16 including four New York Rangers with one born within  walking distance of Madison Square Garden.

Brian Mullen was born on this date in 1962 in New York City.  Growing up with his brother Joe, the Mullen brothers were raised in Hell’s Kitchen and was one of the few players born in the City who became Blueshirts.  Drafted by Winnipeg in the seventh round of the 1980 draft, the Rangers got him from the Jets for draft picks in 1987 and he played four years as a Ranger, scoring 100 goals in 307 games.

Kim Johnsson was born on this date in 1976 in Malmo, Sweden and should have gone down in Rangers history as the best late round pick by the team until they draft Henrik Lundqvist.  Johnsson was the final player selected in the 1994 draft, the 286th player picked.  He made it to the Blueshirts in 1999 and played two full seasons for the Rangers until he was part of the package dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2001 for Eric Lindros.

He went on to play nine more years in the NHL as a top four blueliner for the Flyers and the North Stars.   It was another misguided Rangers trade as Lindros was gone from New York within three years and out of the NHL by 2007, due to concussions.  Johnsson was  a useful NHL player until 2010.

Brandon Prust was feisty left winger born on this date in 1984 in London, Ontario.  He was traded to the Rangers from Calgary at the deadline in 2010 and he played two full seasons in New York, beloved for his willingness to fight, totaling over 150 penalty minutes each year.  He signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 2012 and the former fan favorite became a villain when he threw a high hit into Derek Stepan in the 2014 Conference Finals, breaking his jaw.  Prust was suspended for two games for the hit and became a target of the MSG boo birds the rest of his his career.

Church Russell was born on this date in 1923 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.   He played parts of three seasons with the Rangers with his best season in 1946-47 when the forward scored 20 goals.  He was traded to Cleveland of the AHL in 1948 and finished his pro career in the minor leagues.  The name Church was a shorter version of Churchill.

The numbers

For some reason, the Rangers have a dreadful record in mid-March. March 16 is no better with a lousy 13 wins in 37 games.

Games: 37
Regulation wins: 13
Regulation losses: 20
Ties: 2
Overtime losses: 2
Points percentage: .405

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