On March 28 in NYR history: Goodbye Neil Smith

Former Rangers' GM Neil Smith. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Former Rangers' GM Neil Smith. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

What happened on March 28 in the history of the New York Rangers

On this date in 2000 there was a wholesale change in the New York Rangers front office as President/General Manager Neil Smith and Coach John Muckler were fired,  They were canned with four games left in the season and the team about to miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

With the firing of Neil Smith, the only remaining pieces of the 1994 Stanley Cup championship team were Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Mike Richter.  They were fired by Dave Checketts, the President of Madison Square Garden after the team had another year of futility even though they sported the league’s highest payroll at $61 million.

It ushered in a new era of Rangers hockey as Glen Sather was named to replace Smith though it took two months for the Garden to make the choice.   John Tortorella was named the interim coach and led the team to a 0-3-1 record and he was let go when Sather hired Ron Low as his first coach.

The longest playoff game

On this date in 1930, the Rangers played in what was the longest playoff game in Stanley Cup history.  It was a quadruple 2-1 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Forum and it ended 8:52 into the fourth overtime when Gus Rivers scored on John Ross Roach.

The Rangers lost the second game of the series and were eliminated while the Canadiens went on to win their first Stanley Cup championship.  They had won the NHL Final three times previously, but the Stanley Cup had become an NHL-only trophy only in 1926.

The record as the longest overtime playoff game held until 1943 when Toronto and Detroit played a quadruple overtime game that lasted 86 seconds longer.

A first for the playoffs

On this date in 1929, the Rangers played the first game of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins and it became the first time the Final was between two U.S. based teams in NHL history.

The Rangers lost 2-0 as Tiny Thomson of Boston Bruins became the 2nd rookie to get a shutout in his Stanley Cup Final debut.  The Bruins won the second game 2-1, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history.

So long to the Scouts

On this date in 1976, the Kansas City Scouts played their last game against the New York Rangers, losing to the Blueshirts 4-2 at Madison Square Garden.  The Scouts played two season in Kansas City after moving there from Denver and beginning with the 1976-77 season they became the New Jersey Devils.

In their two years in the NHL, the Rangers went 8-1-1 against the Scouts with the only win by K.C. on the road in New York.

Today’s birthdays

There have been 34 NHL players born on March 28 with two prominent former Rangers in that group.

Colin Blackwell was born on this date in 1993 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Signed as a free agent in 2020 he played one season for the Rangers, scoring 12 and 22 points as a versatile bottom six forward.  He was taken by Seattle in the expansion draft.  Before the Rangers, he played 33 games for Nashville.

Jeff Beukeboom was born on this date in 1965 in Ajax, Ontario.  After five years in Edmonton, he came to the Rangers in the Mark Messier deal and spent the next eight years as Brian Leetch’s defense partner.  At 6’5″, 230 pounds, he was an imposing presence and the perfect partner for the skilled Leetch.    A three time Stanley Cup winner, Beukeboom was forced into retirement in 1999 at age 33 due to repeated head injuries.

Mike Allison was born on this date in 1961 in Fort Frances, Ontario. A second round pick in the 1980 draft, Allison found his way to New York in 1980 and he set rookie scoring records for assists and points, though they were surpassed the following season by Mark Pavelich. Allison scored on his very first shot in the NHL and was the youngest player to ever score for the Blueshirts at 19 years, 195 days, a record that was surpassed by Lias Andersson in 2018.

After a 26 goal rookie season, he never topped 11 goals over the next five years and was traded to Toronto in 1986 for Walt Poddubny, a deal that worked out well for the Rangers.

The numbers

Another really lousy day for the Blueshirts with an awful .391 points percentage and a losing record in the playoffs.

Games: 23
Regulation wins: 7
Regulation losses: 12
Ties: 2
Overtime losses: 2
Points percentage: .391

Playoffs games: 9
Wins: 3
Losses: 3
Ties: 1
Overtime wins: 1
Overtime losses: 1
Winning percentage: 44%

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