During the course of this blog’s existence, I have throughout the years talked about the Rangers lack of appreciation for their All-Time Greats. What really found me troublesome was during my frequent road trips to Original 6 cities, I saw every single Original 6 team, sans the Rangers, honor every legend they’ve ever had under their employ. Furthermore, every Original 6 city, sans the Rangers again, honors their elite with statues.
When it comes to the New York Rangers, if you took a look at the retired numbers, hanging from the rafters of M$G, you would think the Rangers started with Rod Gilbert, 1994 happened and then Lundqvist took over. The Rangers, a franchise that has been operating now for over 90 years, ignore the individual efforts of Ranger greats for the first 30% of the club’s history. Outside of their Stanley Cup Banners from 1928, 1933 and 1940, you would’ve never known the Rangers have a rich history, featuring a multitude of Hockey Hall of Famers.
By now, if you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you know of the effort I have put into getting the Rangers to honor Frank Boucher. If you’re not familiar, mosey over to this link: http://doinow.com/retire-frank-bouchers-7/. However, it’s not just Frank Boucher the Rangers ignore, it’s many other Hockey Hall of Famers, many of them life-long New York Rangers.
The most recent number the Rangers retired was Jean Ratelle’s number 19. I attended that ceremony and for the full report, you can check out http://doinow.com/22618/. As stated at that time on my twitter page and on the blog about that day, the biggest problem with Ratelle’s ceremony was that it happened way too late. You had people like me and younger, in the crowd, who never saw Ratelle play. We know the name, but if this ceremony was held 20 years earlier, the Garden would’ve been more appreciative. That said, Ratelle deserved the honor and working under the premise that “it’s better late than never”, I believe the Rangers should apply that thinking to other former Rangers.
One might read this blog and wonder, “what’s the big deal?” To me, retiring numbers and honoring players from the past, is important for the fanbase. Plus, it also opens up merchandising ideas, which is something the Rangers are never afraid to be involved with. You want generations of fans asking their elders, “Who was that?” and “What did he do?” You want your fans to be educated and appreciative of the greats who sacrificed and made the jersey proud. Retiring jerseys (and my Rink of Honor idea, check the main menu for that blog) also gives character to the venue and emits an aura of greatness.
When you walk into the Bell Centre in Montreal, you will see a museum of busts & plaques, similar to Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. A glance to the ceiling, and you will find 15 different retired jerseys. When you win 24 Stanley Cups, there’s going to be a lot of greatness to honor. The Maple Leafs, with less Cups than the Habs, but with a rich history, have 18 different men honored.
Sure, some may think some of the retired jersey/banners in the rafters are an overkill, but it’s a way to appreciate history. Furthermore, all of these players sacrifice time from their families, with the constant travel to play in the NHL. For the families and future kin of these players alike, by honoring these men, it’s a great way for the franchise to respect someone who gave it their all for them.
Currently, the Rangers & MSG honor 9 different players, with Vic Hadfield to be the tenth this season. The men honored and jerseys retired are:
— Eddie Giacomin, number 1
— Brian Leetch, number 2
— Harry Howell, number 3
— Rod Gilbert, number 7
— Andy Bathgate, number 9
— Adam Graves, number 9
— Mark Messier, number 11
— Jean Ratelle, number 19
— Mike Richter, number 35
After Hadfield’s retirement, who wore number 11, thus making the Rangers honor another number twice, the next Ranger that will most likely get this jersey retirement ceremony will be Henrik Lundqvist and his number 30. To me, once Lundqvist retires, I don’t see the Rangers wasting much time in retiring his number. If Lundqvist remains with the Rangers until his final game, I could see them retiring his jersey in that same game or holding the ceremony the season immediately after.
However, before Lundqvist gets his day in the sun, there should be other names for Lundqvist to join in the rafters of M$G. Those people, in no particular order, to me, are Frank Boucher, Bill Cook, Bun Cook, Ron Greschner, Lester Patrick and Emile Francis.
In order of their jersey numbers, let’s take a look at the men I am suggesting for this prestigious honor.
RON GRESCHNER: Out of everyone that I will be listing here, Greschner would garner the biggest fan reaction for a jersey retirement ceremony, because he’s the most recent Ranger, thus a portion of the fan base saw him play.
Greschner played in 982 career NHL games, all with the Rangers, scoring 179 goals and 431 assists for 610 points. He also compiled 1,226 penalty minutes, which leads the franchise for most PIM. With his 610 points, Greschner is only second to Leetch for most points as a defenseman. His goal and assist totals, are also good for the second most amount of goals & assists, for a Rangers defenseman. Of course, Greschner’s totals are only second to Brian Leetch.
Like Leetch, Greschner wore the C for the Blueshirts. Furthermore, when you look at the “Most All Time” lists in NYR history, such as goals, points, PPG, PPA, GP, etc, Greschner’s name can be found in the Top 10 in any category.
To this day, Greschner continues to have an affiliation with the organization, as an ambassador and as someone who does charity work for the team. It is a no-brainer that Greschner deserves this honor.
BILL COOK: up until his death in 1986, Bill Cook was considered one of the greatest Rangers of all time. When comparing Cook’s stats to other Rangers, one must keep in mind that Cook’s era was much different, as the seasons weren’t as long, forward passing in the offensive zone came later in his career and as one would expect, the games were more defensive oriented than the games of other eras.
In 1973, Frank Boucher, perhaps the greatest man to ever work for the Rangers, said that he thought Cook was the greatest winger in hockey history, even better than Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe.
Cook was the first captain in Rangers history, won two Cups with the team and also scored the first goal, a game winning goal, in the first ever Rangers game back in November of 1926. Cook would also coach for the team.
Even with seasons getting longer, the quality of competition eroding and the games being less offensive based, Cook is still tenth all time for Goals Scored, with 229 goals. He’s even third all time for GWG, with 43. (Rod Gilbert is first, with 52.) In the 1926-1927 season, the Rangers first season, Cook scored 33 goals in the 44 game season. To put that into perspective, Cook is first all time, for goals per game, in a complete single season, in Rangers history.
If anyone deserved to have their number retired first, in the history of the Rangers, it was Bill Cook. It’s mind boggling how the Rangers ignore this Hockey Hall of Famer.
FRED “BUN” COOK: The Bread Line, made up Bill Cook (#5), Frank Boucher (#7) and Fred “Bun” Cook (#6) is arguably the greatest line in the history of the Rangers. All three men would go on to become Hall of Famers, something the GAG line can’t say, as Hadfield never made it.
Bun Cook, while not as talented as his older brother, was still one of the greatest players in the history of the New York Rangers. Like brother Bill, Bun Cook was instrumental in the 1928 and 1933 Stanley Cup victories. Again, like his brother, when you look at Bun’s numbers, he’s a victim of his era, when compared to the modern Rangers of this era.
Bun was part of the Rangers first ten seasons and with Frank Boucher, was the innovator of the drop pass.
In the current day, the Rangers are all about honoring the GAG Line and trying to spin a narrative that the GAG line was the best line in Rangers history. It is a slap in the face to the Cooks & Boucher that they aren’t part of the conversation.
FRANK BOUCHER: I’ve talked about Frank Boucher to death on this blog. Just check out http://doinow.com/retire-frank-bouchers-7/
In short, Boucher, as the center of the Bread Line, won 2 Cups with the Rangers as a player. He was also the Coach of the 1940 Stanley Cup winning team. In addition, Boucher was the GM during the Rangers Stanley Cup run of 1950. Boucher, who had a 29 year affiliation with the team, to me, is the greatest Ranger of all time.
In my eyes, if you don’t induct the Bread Line all at once, as I think that would be the wise thing to do, as you don’t need three separate quiet ceremonies, Frank Boucher deserves his own wing in the rafters.
Oh, and did I mention – Frank Boucher is a Hockey Hall of Famer, a HHOFer because of his 29 year run with the Rangers?
If there is any major wrong that needs to be righted by the Rangers, it is the omission of Frank Boucher atop of the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
LESTER PATRICK: Lester Patrick coached the Rangers to two Stanley Cup wins and was the GM of the 1940 Cup winning team. A first ballot HHOFer, many are aware of Patrick stepping up for the team during the 1928 SCF, when goaltender Lorne Chabot was injured.
Patrick was one of the greatest builders the Rangers ever had. While Conn Smythe did architect the original Rangers, many forget about the roster overhaul from the 1928 SCF winning team to the 1933 SCF winning team. Patrick, a dual GM/Coach, stepped down as coach in 1939, and with the roster he built, Frank Boucher coached the team to the Cup.
Patrick, honored by the NHL repeatedly, even having a division named after him at one point, is someone who should have his name in the rafters. It’s a disgrace that a crappy hippie band like Phish has a banner in MSG, while the Rangers turn their head at Patrick.
EMILE “THE CAT” FRANCIS: Last, but not least, Emile Francis deserves to be enshrined at MSG. While Francis had a short playing career with the Rangers, playing the back-up goalie role, Francis made his mark as the coach and GM of the Rangers.
During his 10 year run as head coach of the Rangers, Francis made the playoffs every season & led the team to the 1972 SCF, where they lost. Akin to the era that just passed us by, Francis did everything with the Rangers besides win. Speaking of “We Did Everything But Win”, you can read my Francis book review at http://doinow.com/91117/
Francis, another HHOF, is in the Top 3 for many Ranger coaching records, such as Wins, Playoff Games Won and Games Coached.
Francis, who is still able at nearly 92 years old (He was at the Ratelle ceremony) should have his day in the sun sooner than later. This is another wrong that the Rangers need to rectify ASAP.
So there you have it. Four different players and two “builders”/coaches who deserve the highest of recognition that one team could give to a man.
As I write these words, I have been told, from people within the organization, that the Rangers, as a franchise, are embarrassed that they haven’t retired/honored the Bread Line, Patrick & Francis. They feel that if they did it now, it would only bring to light the mistake of previous regimes. However, why not rectify these mistakes? Give the fans, the families of these men and the men themselves the highest accolade possible. It’s time to get the Cooks, Boucher, Patrick, Francis and Greschner next to other Ranger greats, like Messier, Leetch, Richter, etc.
Thanks for reading and feel free to sound off on who you think should be honored! Also, check out my “RINK OF HONOR” blog, which is on the main menu of this site, where I talk about great Rangers, who while busted their ass, just weren’t at the level of these men.
For that Rangers “Rink of Honor” blog, you can visit the following link directly:
The New York Rangers “Rink of Honor”: Looking At 90+ Different Men Who Represented The Rangers with Pride & Valor
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