On March 20 in NYR history: Brian Leetch breaks ankle in disastrous season

Brian Leetch #2 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Brian Leetch #2 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

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

The 1992-93 season for the New York Rangers was a mess.  Coach Roger Neilson had been fired when he ran afoul of Mark Messier and the team was teetering on the brink of missing the playoffs just one year after the team had won the President’s Trophy with the best record in the NHL.  On this date in 1993, the team suffered the final blow in a disastrous season.

Brian Leetch broke his ankle in a freak accident and was lost for the rest of the season.  Believe it or not, Leetch had slipped on the ice getting out of a taxi in Manhattan coming home from a late night celebration of a win over the San Jose Sharks.  He had been out with Mark Messier and Tony Amonte and while he admitted he had a few beers, he maintained that alcohol didn’t  contribute to the accident.

To make matters worse, Leetch didn’t do anything after the fall and actually went to practice the next day and told the training staff that he was in pain.  That’s when they took X-rays and determined he had fractured his fibula.

It was the second broken ankle for Leetch as he had suffered a more serious fracture three years earlier.  In this season he had already missed a number of games with nerve damage in his shoulder after he crashed in the the boards.  The ankle injury just made a bad season even worse.

The previous season, Leetch had won the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL.  The Rangers missed the 1993 playoffs as they finished the season under interim coach Ron Smith. That led to the hiring of Mike Keenan and we all know what happened in 1994.

A record for Mike Rogers

On this date in 1982, center Mike Rogers scored a point in his 16th straight game, setting a franchise record.  Rogers started his streak on February 14 and scored a point in every game for over a month.  Rod Gilbert had held the team record of 14 straight games, set in 1972.

While Rogers’ record was nice for the Blueshirts, another player set the NHL record the same season by scoring  a point in 30 straight games.  You know who that was, right?  Wayne Gretzky who would later break his own record set the NHL mark of 51 straight games with a point.

Brian Leetch would go on to score a point in 17 straight games in 1991, to establish the franchise mark that still stands.

A 0-0 tie in the playoffs????

On this date in 1934, the Rangers and the Montreal Maroons played a 0-0 tie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The NHL allowed ties in the early rounds of the playoffs until 1937, but this was not the last 0-0 tie in the postseason. In 1935, the Maroons played a 0-0 tie in the first round against the Chicago Black Hawks.

Since the Maroons went on to win the second game of the series 2-1, they won the series with a record of 1-0-1.   In those days, the playoff format was a convoluted mess of best-of-three series playing for first place, and two-games total goals for other teams.

The Rangers did play in the last overtime tie in Stanley Cup Playoff history, on March 30, 1935, It was a 3-3 tie with again, the Maroons who won the Semi-Final series 1-0-1 because they had beaten the Rangers 2-1 in the first game.

Today’s birthdays

19 players who have suited up in the NHL have been born on March 20 including two former Rangers.

Paul Healey was a left winger born on this date in 1975 in Edmonton, Alberta.  He played four games for the Rangers in 2003-04 after they signed him as a free agent.  He spent most of the seaosn in Hartford and was traded to Florida.

Hal Winkler was born on this date in 1892 in Gretna, Manitoba. He was a goalie who played eight games in the Rangers inaugural season of 1926-27. He was the backup to Lorne Chabot and he had a record of 3-4-1.  Halfway through the season he was sold to the Bruins for $5k and he played one full season in Boston.

The numbers

The Rangers have been pretty successful on March 20 with 17 wins in 30 games.  Curiously, they have gone to overtime only once on this date.

Games: 30
Regulation wins: 17
Regulation losses: 12
Ties: 1
Points percentage: .583

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