Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. What’s that old quote from Robert Burns? Oh yeah – “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
I bring up Mr. Burns and his famous quote here, because I started writing this blog on Monday afternoon, where at 8PM, I took a nice three hour break to watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. I assumed (you’d think I’d learn by now not to assume anything out of the hockey world) that come 10:45PM or so, that the 2021 NHL season would be complete. Instead, the Montreal Canadiens staved off elimination, behind a 3-2 overtime victory. In turn, the Tampa Bay Lightning will now look to close out the series, and the NHL season, on home ice, come Wednesday night. (Diane E. would call me a “comma whore” for that previous sentence! A well deserved observation!)
To go even further here, I was so sure that Tampa would sweep Montreal on Monday night, that it was my belief that a large percentage of NHL reporters and scribes already had their “Tampa Bay Back-to-Back” stories finalized. All these writers needed to do was plug in who scored the goals and how many saves Andrei Vasilevskiy made. With Montreal’s victory, these writers that may have had plans of vacations, are now on a flight to Tampa, where really, there are not too many cities in America better to hang out in than Tampa.
That all said, Tampa in 5!
Tonight’s blog will be different than usual, as at the present moment, there’s not anything really going on in Rangerstown, USA. Between the Fourth of July holiday and waiting for the Stanley Cup Final to be complete, the Rangers seem to be in a holding pattern. Sure, the Rangers could re-sign Pavel Buchnevich and his road-trip buddy, in Igor “I CALL SHOTGUN” Shestyorkin, but there’s no word on that yet.
Everything else in Rangerstown, USA is basically a waiting game. Once the Stanley Cup Final is over, the Rangers can cut bait on Tony DeAngelo if they want, (I’d at least expose TDA in the Seattle expansion draft prior to buying him out, which seems to be the game-plan) sign free agents, make trades and prepare for two separate drafts. In addition, Gerard Gallant also needs to fill out his coaching staff, but that situation will sort itself out with ease and without controversy.
The main event of tonight’s manifesto is a free sample chapter of my upcoming “New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden” book. Below, I have a huge update on the status of this project and my chapter on Bill Cook. Thankfully, this bucket-list dream will soon become a reality and I can’t wait to share this book with you guys.
Outside of some talk on the Stanley Cup Final and Ryan McDonagh, there’s some bad news to cover too. By now, you have probably heard the news regarding the passing of Matiss Kivlenieks. It’s just a tragedy, but perhaps a tragedy that could’ve been avoided. More on this horrible story below.
And before getting into the PLUGS segment, we do have this news to talk about:
Hey, like I said when Adam Fox won the Norris Trophy last week – you celebrate your wins when you can get them! Unfortunately, “19-67” doesn’t roll off the tongue easy, nor is it as aesthetically pleasing or as sounding as “19-40”. We’ll have to work on that!
Here are my last few blogs in case you missed them:
BCBS For 6/30: The Fox Says NORRIS TROPHY WINNER! Adam Fox Makes Rangers & NHL History; Wins Norris Trophy In Second Season, Fox Moving Forward (Give Him the $ & “C”!), Brian Leetch = Best Spoiler Ever, NHL Year-End Awards, K’Andre Miller Beats Out Igor & Lafreniere, NYR’s New ECHL Affiliate, The Never-Ending Jack Eichel Rumors, Dan Girardi, Kakko Loses His Ruutu; Big Year 3 Ahead, Tony DeAngelo Update & Impact on the Norris, Successfully Riling Up & Infuriating Islander Fans, The Fascinating Place Known as Twitter & More
BCBS For 6/27: The Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens “David vs Goliath” 2021 Stanley Cup Preview; Gambling Odds, Winner & Conn Smythe Prediction, The Complete Decimation & Destruction of the Trashy New York Islanders & Their Fake Fans, A Goalie Trend Ends, Rangers Make Front Office Changes, The $500,000 New York Rangers Puck, Fox Finds Out His Fate, NHL Stanley Cup Semifinal Round Recaps & More
BCBS For 6/23: The Peculiar Gerard Gallant & Chris Drury Zoom Press Conference; Complete Recap and the Eyebrow Raising Quotes, The Next Captain of NYR Discussion, A Detailed Look at The Top Five and Worst Five Coaches in all of New York Rangers Franchise History, The Stanley Cup Playoffs, Foo Fighters & The Tampa Bay 8-0 Spanking of the Mickey Mouse New York Islanders! (Bolts in Six!)
This is the part of the blog where I thought I’d be talking about the Bolts sweeping the Stanley Cup Final, becoming the first team to do since 1998, when the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals. Instead, rather than talking about a sweep, I guess we can talk about the Montreal Canadiens attempting to become the second team in all of NHL history to “reverse sweep” a Stanley Cup Final. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have come back from an 0-3 hole to win a Stanley Cup, when they did so in 1942 against the Detroit Red Wings. In other words, Montreal is trying to do something that hasn’t been done in nearly 70 years. (Or to be exact, 69 years. Heh-Heh-Heh Beavis, you said 69.)
That said – I’m not going to waste my time talking about Montreal winning four games straight against Tampa, that is, unless they win three in a row! And hey, who knows, these have been strange times for the hockey world!
As you may know by now, I predicted Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup in seven games. After seeing the first two games of the series, and especially after seeing the third game of the series, I thought this series had sweep written all over it. To Montreal’s credit, after a poor start in the first period of game four, they took the lead, blew two leads and then found a way to win in overtime – and that was after killing a four-minute Tampa power-play at the end of the third period and a power-play that extended into the bonus frame.
If there’s anything good about Montreal winning, outside of more hockey, it’s this – you can now kill all of these “THIS IS THE MOST BORING SERIES EVA!!!!!!!!!” takes and opinions.
I get it, after Game 2, where Montreal did everything but win, it looked like lights out. Game 3 instilled no confidence either. However, if you want to talk about snooze-fests, go back to the days when you had the Stanley Cup being decided under a total-goals series format. You lose one game big and you have no chance of winning the series at all.
Plus, if you want to talk about the modern-day history of the Stanley Cup Finals, look no further to those New Jersey Devils championship teams, who just played a boring, albeit successful, brand of hockey. Like anything else, I think this 2021 series is being judged with a recency bias. And yes, Montreal having more fans in the streets than inside of their arena hurts the perception of this series as well. There’s no way I can deny that.
After Montreal’s Game 4 victory, I heard many Tampa fans say – “it’s better to win on home ice and they probably want to win on home ice too.” To me, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. As anyone knows, winning the clinching game of the series is usually the hardest game to win. These players will take a Cup anyway they can get it, including winning in Edmonton in front of no one – just like Tampa did last year.
In addition, and in a wink-wink nudge-nudge type of deal here too – I think players rather win on the road than at home. After all, by winning on the road, there are no wives or kids to worry about. Let the debauchery begin!
Of course, for die-hard fans of the Lightning, it will work out if the Lightning can close out at home, especially after all the crap from last year with the pandemic. That said, it won’t be easy, as Montreal won’t go down without a fight.
As far as the series itself, Tampa’s trouncing of Montreal, 5-1, in Game 1, wasn’t that inspiring for Montreal. However, Montreal played much better in Game 2, but Tampa, who can beat you in any way possible, found a way to win and won the game by a final of 3-1. (That Blake Coleman goal with two seconds left in the second period was the dagger of all daggers.)
In what felt like a do-or-die game for Montreal, Tampa just crushed Montreal during Game 3, doubling up Montreal by a final of 6-3. With history and the odds not on Montreal’s side, this series felt all but complete.
To Montreal’s credit, they did protect home ice during Game 4, squeaking by with a 3-2 OT win. However to me, this felt like Montreal’s last big punch, and as stated, I expect Tampa to lay down the hammer this coming Wednesday night.
If there’s one thing I want to add here, something that’s Rangers related, it’s a tweet of mine from July 3rd:
#NYR didn’t want to invest years or $ into their captain. In that time, Ryan McDonagh signed a “set-for-life” contract with no state income tax, was part of the best regular season team of modern history and is about to win his second #StanleyCup. Not shabby for Mac! #gobolts
— BlueCollarBlueShirts (@NYCTheMiC) July 3, 2021
Not for nothing, but unless Nils Lundkvist comes over and wins three Cups with the Rangers, Tampa won this trade in a landslide. Yes, McDonagh filled Tampa’s needs greater than whatever the Rangers got back and found himself in a great position, but at the end of the day McDonagh delivered. Was McDonagh the missing piece for Tampa? Probably not, but McDonagh has also excelled in his role, a role where he’s changed his game and it’s been beneficial for both he and the Lightning.
I get the following too, so save me the comments – I understand why the Rangers had to move on from McDonagh and did what they did. That said, I don’t think the Rangers got back great value for McDonagh, just like how I don’t think the Rangers got back great value for Mats Zuccarello either. It’s not like either of these trades comes close to sniffing the great Rick Nash to Boston trade, one of Jeff Gorton’s best.
And yes, we all know that I’m a Ryan McDonagh fan-boy, but this had to be said. I’m happy for the guy.
From gladness to sadness, let’s get into our next story.
Some terrible news to talk about here.
On the evening of July 4th, Matiss Kivlenieks passed away in Novi, Michigan while celebrating the Fourth of July. Kivlenieks was born on August 26th, 1996, as this tragic incident took place weeks before his 25th birthday.
For Ranger fans, you may be familiar with the name of Matiss Kivlenieks, as Kivlenieks made his NHL debut against the Rangers on January 19th, 2020. As you’d expect with any third string or debuting goalie against the Rangers, Kivlenieks beat the Rangers on MSG ice, as the Blue Jackets skated to a 2-1 victory.
A native of Riga, Latvia, Kivlenieks was third on the Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender’s depth chart, where Kivlenieks played behind Jonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.
According to media reports and the police from Novi, Michigan, where the accident occurred; Kivlenieks was killed after an errant fireworks mortar blast hit him in the chest. In what is somewhat a shocker, the autopsy report has already been completed. Usually, an autopsy takes a few days, especially during a holiday weekend.
Prior to the autopsy report, the Columbus Blue Jackets released a statement, saying that Kivlenieks ran out of a hot tub and slipped and hit his head on the concrete. However, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office is reporting that it was a chest injury, and not a head injury, that led to the passing of Kivlenieks. In addition, the Blue Jackets never used the word “fireworks” in any of their statements or press releases.
NHL.com has a full story on the career of Kivlenieks, which you can read here: https://www.nhl.com/news/matiss-kivlenieks-dies/c-325568646
From a Rangers end of things, Alexandar Georgiev paid tribute to his fallen friend:
As you’d expect, this is just a horrible story full of misfortune and tragedy. There’s no silver lining here.
I don’t want to go on my soap box or try to turn this story into something that it isn’t, but on social media, prior to this story breaking, I talked about how I never understood the attraction that people have with fireworks. I can understand watching a professional fireworks show, but whether it’s knowing people with missing fingers or being “pyro’d out”, as I always see fireworks at major sporting events – lighting off fireworks has never been for me.
Of course, the topic of fireworks is a “to each their own” type of deal. If you like them, good for you. After all, people who like fireworks may not enjoy my love of “Joker Poker” machines, although I’ve never lost a digit while raising points on a pair of jacks. A mortgage payment or two? Maybe. (And yes, I’m trying to infuse humor here during a tough time.)
Sadly, this Kivlenieks accident isn’t the first death related to fireworks and it won’t be the last. As a New Yorker, and as a fan of the New York Giants, despite former Giants linebacker Jason Pierre Paul blowing off his fingers six years ago, that hasn’t stopped anyone in my town from lighting up the sky, as if we were living in Afghanistan. Even as I write these words, I’m hearing explosions that rival a stick of dynamite, coupled in with a few whistlers.
When this story broke, outside of people sharing their condolences, I saw some people wondering if alcohol or drugs were involved. Whether substances were used or not, (and not just by Kivlenieks, but with the people he was with too) it doesn’t matter. Fireworks are dangerous even if you’re the most sober person in a party full of teetotalers.
From what’s reported, it wasn’t Kivlenieks lighting off fireworks, as according to reports, he was running away from fireworks that his friends were lighting. All it takes is one person not knowing what they are doing. Unfortunately for Kivlenieks, he was around such a person.
Of course, I have sympathy for the friends and family of Kivlenieks. I see the entire hockey community sharing their condolences on behalf of Kivlenieks too. I just hope that moving forward, people will think twice about blowing off fireworks and leave it to the pros. Sadly, I don’t think that will be the case.
RIP Matiss Kivlenieks, a career and life ended way too early.
I know the timing of what I’m about to say next is poor, but as the old expression goes – “the show must go on”.
Just two quick things from a hockey perspective here, as a result of this untimely and accidental death.
What a weird time for John Davidson. He gets fired by the Rangers two months ago and now has this on his plate. While I’m not saying JD is a victim here or anything like that, it does have to be tough for him right now. After turning his Rangers firing from a negative into a positive, JD now has to deal with the aftermath of this dark tragedy.
In addition, how does this effect Columbus during the Seattle expansion draft? Perhaps the NHL can make an exception here, although I will say, the hockey community and these general managers are very tight knit, so I can see Seattle avoiding choosing a goalie from Columbus. I’m not 100% sure of who Columbus planned to expose to Seattle, but I really can’t see Ron Francis, a respected hockey man and the general manager of the Kraken, trying to add to this tragedy.
In any event, just a terrible story. If anything “good” can come out of this, perhaps inexperienced people will second-guess themselves when it comes to lighting off fireworks, fireworks which can be fatal. Again, RIP Matiss Kivleneiks.
In our last piece of Rangers news before getting into the book update, if you’re looking for some Adam Fox Norris Trophy winning swag, Fanatics has you covered with an abundance of shit, including Norris Trophy t-shirts, plaques, ties, socks, condoms and My Shiney Hiney’s!
I only bring this up, because I wanted to revel again in the fact that Adam Fox won the Norris! Plus, I wanted something positive to talk about after that last story. Moving along!
In the biggest Rangers news of the week, (at least for me) I’m proud to report that after hyping up my upcoming book project for nearly a year on this site, that the book is almost complete. After using the working title of “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor”, I have settled on a final title of “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden.” I added the “Rafters of Madison Square Garden” stuff to the title, because nearly 100 pages of the book are dedicated to Ranger legends that I think should be in the rafters of MSG. In short, I wanted to let readers know that the book is more than just talking about fan favorites, which the “Rink of Honor” stuff is.
I am counting on the loyal readers of this site to be the first to purchase the book, so I want to share with you as much as possible about the book here, especially with the finish line now in distance.
As talked about previously on this site, and perhaps this is my own ego or because of how easy it is for me to pump out these 10,000 word blogs on a daily basis; I thought I could get this manuscript/rough draft done pretty quick. Far from it. Between researching, getting quotes, checking and double-checking dates & stats – this book became a massive undertaking. Plus, as I started to get into it, I thought I would cover 50 players, with historical facts and anecdotes included. As it stands right now, the final product covers 101 different people associated with the Rangers – over twice than expected!
Once the pandemic first started and my life was contained to my house, I started this book project. Admittedly, when the 2021 NHL season began, I took a pause from the book and used my free time to enjoy this hobby – writing blogs on this site. With the NHL season winding down, over the last few weeks I’ve been working on the book and finally got to the final word. Now comes the hard part – getting the book ready for publication!
And let me reiterate this – writing the book was fun. I loved it. I loved all the rabbit holes I explored when researching Rangers history. Even with a manuscript that dwarfed the Magna Carta, it never felt like work. Conversely, with the manuscript complete, everything now feels like a never-ending root canal multiplied by a prostate exam conducted by a doctor with sausage fingers. Just like this site, the writing end of things comes natural and easy to me. Everything else is a Father Finker.
I know I mentioned this before, but this remains true – anyone who writes anything is their own worst editor. Whether it’s someone texting, someone writing a social media post, someone writing a blog or someone writing a book – as humans, we are our own worst editors. We read in our own voice and sometimes our brain moves faster than our eyes do, so it’s very hard for us to catch our own mistakes. After all, I usually reread these blogs twice before posting them and I’m sure there are still a few typos and grammar mistakes in all of them.
Currently, I’m in my own third proof-read of this book, where I’m still catching little errors, such as typos or grammatical mistakes. (And this proof-read phase is a Father Finker, especially with 400 pages to scour through.)
Once I think the book is perfect (which it won’t be) the book will be going to a professional editor, where that person will be on clean-up and mop-up duty. Once I get the editor’s final revisions, I’m going to allow someone I know to proof read the final product, where that person will also check for errors.
Long story short, I don’t want to release anything that’s substandard. I can tell you from my own personal experience, that I read a ton of books, where some of those books are self-published/independent. 9/10 times with those books, I catch silly grammatical errors and/or typos. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see these errors, it takes me out of the book a bit. I don’t want anyone reading my book and saying, “he messed up their/there” or “he wrote the word “the” twice in a row.” With this book most likely being 400 pages, it’s very easy to make errors like that, so like Alain Vigneault used to say – “it’s a pro-cess”.
And yes, spoiler alert, as it stands right now, this book will clock in at around the 400 page mark or more. (It originally hit 687 pages and needless to say, I had to do a lot of trimming down!) Financially, it’s better to go under 400 pages, for printing cost reasons. However, if it costs me a few pennies more, I’m fine with it, as I don’t want to short change this project at all.
Aside from the foreword, intro, conclusion and an “overtime” segment, an OT segment which includes a comedic look at the “New York Rangers Stink of Dishonor”; the book features and profiles 92 men for “Rink of Honor” inclusion. After the “Rink of Honor” section, I have eight profiles on people who I think should be honored in the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Last but not least, profile number 101 is Henrik Lundqvist, a Henrik Lundqvist who is pretty much an asterisk for the time being.
What I mean by regarding Lundqvist as an asterisk, is that Lundqvist is above the people in the “Rink of Honor”. I don’t think I’m saying anything that anyone doesn’t know already, but one day, Lundqvist’s #30 will be retired. Lundqvist will join the “Core 4 of ’94”, the GAG line, Giacomin, Howell and Bathgate in the rafters of MSG one day. In the book, during the “Rafters of MSG” section, I’m giving readers my thoughts, opinions and facts about people who I think that the Rangers should honor. With it being a given that Lundqvist’s last name will hang from the rafters of MSG one day, there’s no point in making an argument or case for him. It’s going to happen. That said, I felt the book would be incomplete if I didn’t at least mention and profile this.
What I really enjoyed, and what really popped out when writing this book, is how much of Rangers history is soaked in irony. To provide some levity in what’s mostly a serious book, a book that covers every piece of Rangers history ever; I even threw in a “drinking game” segment, whenever I bring up something ironic. While the tone of the book is pretty serious, I didn’t want it to come off as “dry” either. I wanted readers of the book to get a laugh while learning stuff at the same time.
With 101 men, every year and every era covered, I was also able to include exclusive quotes and stories into the book, stuff which was given to me by both the alumni and families of the deceased alumni. The families of Frank Boucher, Chuck Rayner, Dave Kerr and others contributed to the book. I was also able to dive through newspaper archives for quotes that aren’t commonplace to Ranger fans of today. In addition, I was able to pull fascinating stories, as told by the players themselves in their own autobiographies, where for example, Phil Esposito’s autobiography, entitled “Thunder and Lightning”, spoke for itself – especially when Esposito describes how he could’ve landed Wayne Gretzky to the Rangers before the LA Kings did.
When it comes to the stuff outside the pages, there’s a lot. Outside of editing, there’s also the whole formatting process, getting permission to use pictures, finding a cover artist (my crappy photoshops/MS Paint jobs won’t suffice!) and deciding the publishing route to go down.
I talked to a few publishers about this book, where none of them are big. After all, unless you’re a big time celebrity, no publisher is investing time and/or money into a first time author, and most certainly not for a niche project like this. I had a few “vanity presses” interested, where at the end of the day, you pay them a shitload of money and they do all the legwork for you. Even then, from doing research, they skip steps and it’s just a cash grab for them.
I had one small publisher interested, where they would do most of the work, but wanted a 70-30 split, in their favor. While I know this isn’t a “get rich quick” type of a thing and I doubt I’ll make big money off of this; to give someone else 70% of what the book does – well that sounds ludicrous to me.
I also had another small publisher, who told me that I was better off chopping the book into two separate books, thus increasing profits. That was a road that I didn’t want to go down. It’s my goal to release the biggest and best book ever, in regards to covering Rangers history. Plus, this book is a bucket-list thing for me, and I’m really not concerned about what it makes. After all, even if I sell 100,000 books (not going to happen) at the end of the day, I’m still making .02 cents an hour, with all the work that went into it. This is a passion project, nothing more, nothing less.
From my talks with other independent authors and from doing research online, I think the best way to publish this book is through Amazon, where to this day, 90% of all books are sold on Amazon. By going through Amazon, not only can you publish an e-Book for free, you can also get paperbacks printed. Based on what you guys have told me, I have received a 50/50 split of feedback, where half of you would rather a book on your Kindle and the other half of you are like me – you like having a physical copy of a book in your hands. To this day, I’ve never been able to read a book online. It’s always better for me to flip through the pages and enjoy a book the “old school” way.
Of course self-publishing on Amazon is more tedious as opposed to having a publisher do it for you, but based on my talks and research, it seems fairly simple. I’m sure I can figure it out, even if the computer I’m using was built in 2002! (No joke, all the blogs you read on this site (and the book) are all typed up on my dinosaur computer, a computer that takes 30 minutes to boot up on some nights!)
As I wrap up here, the light is glaring at the end of the tunnel. I’m almost done with my final proof-read and once the editor is done and once I have someone else to proof-read, it will be ready to go. Some of you have asked me for a date of a release, but I can’t give you anything definitive yet. I can tell you, it’s my goal to get this book released either prior to or at the start of the 2021-2022 season, as that is when hockey books sell the best. However as stated, I’m more about putting the best product out there possible, rather than making a few extra bucks with a timed release. Hell, for all I know, I could get everything done and boom, the next day it will be available for purchase.
Lastly, before sharing with you a sample chapter of the book here, which will be the Bill Cook chapter; is the topic of pricing. I’ve gotten so many different opinions on what the price-point of this book should be. Some have told me to price it as low as possible, suggesting anywhere from $4.99-$9.99. Others have said to go as high as $29.99, stating that if you price your book too cheap, that’s the perception you will give potential buyers about it.
I don’t have a firm final price-point yet, but I’m leaning towards selling the book at $19.26 and I have several reasons for doing so. For starters, there isn’t a book like this out there, as it’s one of a kind. I’ve also seen many hockey books range from $20-$40 and I think that by selling it for just under $20, you’ll get more value than some of the other books that are out there for more money.
If I sell the book for too cheap, due to the amount of pages for paperback buyers, I’d risk nearing a loss with each copy sold. And again, from my research, there are a lot of cheap books on Amazon, where when you see the price tag and get what you get, you can see why those books are priced that way. I can 100% tell you with confidence that my book will be better than those books.
And this isn’t a shot at anyone else, but I have purchased many Ranger and hockey books off of Amazon written by independent authors, where the books were priced cheap. What did I get in return? Books that were either mailed in, copied and pasted and/or the size of a pamphlet. My book is NONE of that. (Although I did copy and paste some quotes, where I credited these quotes from wherever I got them from. That said, this isn’t a book of quotes and I only used quotes from a deceased player when trying to get that player to illustrate his life.)
As far as why $19.26 rather than $19.99? 1926 is the year when the Rangers were first founded, so the price will go hand-in-hand with what the book is all about!
With that out of the way, let me give you a quick summary of what you’re about to read below, should you choose to do so!
The book pretty much profiles 101 men (non-players included too, like Steven McDonald, Christopher Reeve, Marv Albert, Bill Chadwick, Jim Gordon, John Amirante, Sam Rosen, etc) and gives you stories, quotes and stats about each player. What I’m about to share with you now is the Bill Cook profile/chapter.
Of note, this Bill Cook profile has NOT been edited by my editor. What you see below is my second proof-read of the rough draft. In other words, you may find some spelling and/or grammar mistakes, but keep in mind, this isn’t the finished product. This just gives you an idea of what to expect.
As far as the complete listing of the 101 people profiled in the book, I will share that once I get the book art complete, as I’ll list everyone that’s covered on the back cover of the book. Like Bill Murray said in “What About Bob?” – BABY STEPS! However, I’m expecting to run to the presses soon!
Finally, like the book itself, I’m not going to insert pictures below, in an attempt to break up long sections of text. While the book will include pictures in some places; unlike these blogs, you don’t get a picture every few paragraphs or so. We’re here to read baby! This isn’t “Where’s Waldo?”!
At this time, may I now present to you, the Bill Cook chapter/profile, from the upcoming number 675675676785634 best seller on Amazon, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden”. Enjoy!
— #5 Bill Cook (Player: 1926-1937) (Head Coach: 1951-1953)
Bill Cook, born as William Osser Xavier Cook on October 8, 1895 in Brantford, Ontario, is arguably the greatest Ranger of all-time. While I would contest that Frank Boucher was the greatest Ranger of all-time, Boucher himself considered Cook to be the greatest player that he ever saw, even up to the time of Boucher’s passing in 1977.
However you feel about Bill Cook’s place in Rangers history, the following can’t be disputed – it’s a disgrace that the Rangers don’t have a banner for #5 in their rafters. If anything, Cook’s name should’ve been the first name to adorn the rafters of Madison Square Garden.
Bill Cook’s legacy with the Rangers is like no other. Not only was Bill Cook the first team captain in franchise history, Bill Cook was also the first player ever signed by the New York Rangers. In turn, Cook would captain the team to two Stanley Cup victories and to three other Stanley Cup Final appearances. In addition, Cook was the team’s most prolific goal scorer during Cook’s run on Broadway.
What really makes Bill Cook’s career with the Rangers stand out, is the fact that Cook didn’t make his NHL debut until the age of 31, an age where most players of Cook’s era were already retired. Cook was a rarity in his day, as he’d play until the age of 42, which really was unheard of during this era.
At an early age, Cook’s family moved from Brantford to Kingston, Ontario, where Bill Cook started making his name in the hockey world. In 1913, now approaching the age of 18, Cook joined the Kingston Frontenacs team of the Ontario Hockey Association. At the end of the season, Cook joined Canada’s war efforts during World War I. As a result, Cook would put his hockey career on hold, as he volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Cook would then be placed with the Canadian Field Artillery, where he spent two years in France and another year in Belgium.
Cook’s time serving his country wouldn’t end until 1919, where he fought in Siberia, during the allied intervention of the Russian Civil War. After four years of being overseas, and with World War I (then the “Great War”) now over, Cook returned to Ontario, where he rejoined the Frontenacs.
Cook, after one season back with Frontenacs, and now at the age of 25, would join the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association. Cook would spend four seasons with the club.
Cook, arguably at the peak of his career at this time, would get offers from all over the continent to join teams, including NHL offers. Rather than going pro in the NHL, Cook relocated to Saskatchewan, where he was granted land, due to his previous military service. While working on his new found land (as opposed to Newfoundland!) Cook joined the Saskatoon Crescents of the Western Canadian Hockey League.
Cook would spend four seasons with the Crescents, including the 1925-1926 season, when the team rebranded themselves as the Sheiks.
After the 1925-1926 season, the Sheiks and the Western Canadian Hockey League folded. The Montreal Maroons, then of the NHL, jumped at this opportunity, looking to sign both Bill and his brother Fred “Bun” Cook for the 1926-1927 NHL season. And not for nothing, if it weren’t for Conn Smythe, the Cook brothers may have become Maroons.
While the Montreal Maroons awaited the arrival of the Cook brothers, who were traveling from western Canada by train to Montreal; Conn Smythe, the general manager of the Rangers at the time, intercepted the Cook brothers in Winnipeg. At a train stop in Winnipeg, Conn Smythe convinced the Cook brothers to join the Rangers, offering the brothers $12,000 each to come to New York. The rest as they say, is history. The Cook brothers were Rangers. Immediately after signing with the Rangers, Bill Cook convinced Conn Smythe to sign Frank Boucher and the greatest line in New York Rangers history, “The Bread Line”, was soon put together.
In a July 5th, 1984 interview with Daniel Mahoney, a Mahoney who reprinted the interview in his 2020 book “The Most Wonderful Times: Memories of the New York Rangers Alumni”, Cook recounted his signing and influence on the Original Rangers roster:
“I got word from Conn Smythe to meet him in Winnipeg. I went down to Winnipeg and they gave me a contract which I didn’t take at the time, but it was better than what I was getting in Saskatoon. But it wasn’t as much as I thought should have come, in regards to New York [NHL] hockey. So we stood off, and he [Smythe] said he’d give me two or three or four days until he got back in touch. So he did, and I got what I asked for. It wasn’t a terrible amount in comparison to what they’re getting today, but a little better than what I was already getting.”
“He [Smythe] then inquired about other players. He was interested in Bunny [Fred Cook]. Then I told him about Ching Johnson. I had played against Johnson when I was with the Soo team in Canada. He had played with Eveleth [Minnesota] and was helluva good player.
Then Taffy Abel was brought into it, an oversized defenseman from Soo, Michigan. And then everything seemed to go right, until the question of who was going to handle the team that was going to represent the New York Rangers.
Then there were several questions asked and one was ‘Who would you like for a center?’ We didn’t have a centerman yet. And that’s when the big issue came up, because Frank Boucher was my pick. I picked him and suggested that they should get him. He [Boucher] had already been sold from the West to Boston. Eventually, Frank came to us, and that’s the guy who made the line of Bun and Bill and Bouch. I knew about his [Boucher’s] expert passing and playmaking. I knew with that kind of a final touch, you would improve with him.”
In the same interview, Bill Cook would talk about Frank Boucher’s favorite bar, as previously mentioned during the Boucher profile, named “Hogan’s Irish House”. Cook laughed about the mention of the bar, and exclaimed, “The Green Door!!!”
In Frank Boucher’s “When the Rangers Were Young” book, Boucher in 1974, said of Cook:
“He’s my choice for the best right winger hockey ever knew. He was better than The Rocket [Maurice Richard] and, in my estimation, better than Gordie Howe as well.”
With Frank Boucher as an elite centerman in this era, Bill Cook, who was already 31 years old by the time the Rangers played their first game in franchise history; Cook would continue his dominance of the hockey world. Not only would Cook score the lone Rangers goal in the franchise’s debut on November 16th, 1926 against the Montreal Maroons, (ironically the same team that Cook passed on during the previous summer) but Cook would also go on to lead the league for most goals during three separate seasons.
In Cook’s “rookie” season in the NHL and with the Rangers, Cook would lead the team in goals (33) and points (37). In addition, these numbers were tops in all of the league. Not bad for a player playing on an “expansion” team! However, Herb Gardiner, of the Montreal Canadiens, would win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP that season. At the time, the New York media (and some Canadian scribes too) felt that Cook was snubbed out of the award, as the result of the vote having a Montreal and Canadian team bias.
In Cook’s second season with the Rangers, Frank Boucher would lead the team in both the regular season and playoffs in scoring. However, it was Bill Cook’s leadership that led the Rangers into winning the Stanley Cup in 1928. As would be the case throughout the duration of the “Bread Line Era”, the Cook brothers and Frank Boucher would finish 1-2-3 in goals, assists and points on the team. In addition, captain Bill Cook’s Bread Line would score every goal of the 1928 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the 1928-1929 season, Bill Cook would once again be one of the top goal scorers of the league, with his 15 goals being tops on the Rangers. However, the Rangers, now with John Ross Roach replacing the previously traded away Lorne Chabot in net, weren’t able to repeat, as the Rangers would be swept by the Bruins in the 1929 Stanley Cup Final. However, for a new team in the league, the Rangers had now made it twice to the Stanley Cup Final in their first three years. Again I ask – “Vegas Golden Knights who?”
In Cook’s same interview with Daniel Mahoney, Cook, on the trade of Chabot, the Stanley Cup winning goaltender of the 1927-1928 championship season, would say, “I don’t know, I never had any mind into that.”
However, Cook would comment on Andy Aitkenhead, the goaltender who helped the Rangers win the 1933 Stanley Cup Final, when comparing Aitkenhead to Chabot:
“Andy wasn’t nearly as good as Chabot. I can see Andy yet with the guy from Toronto, the big guy who played right wing with the heavy shot. [Charlie Conacher]. Andy says, ‘Gee, I don’t like to face that guy!'”
In the 1929-1930 season, Bill Cook would once again lead the team in goals, with 29 goals in 44 games, numbers which were rarely heard of at the time.
A season later, the 1930-1931 season, the perennial All-Star Bill Cook would fall one goal shy of the league leader, in the previously aforementioned Charlie Conacher. Conacher would finish with 31 goals that season, as opposed to Cook’s 30 goals, tops on the Rangers.
In the 1931-1932 season, the Rangers, behind Bill Cook’s team best 33 goals and 47 points, would make it all the way to the 1932 Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers, once again, were victims of Madison Square management, as the team were forced to play one of their home games on the road, (Boston) as a result of the circus being in town. Ultimately, the Leafs would sweep the Rangers, three games to none, to win the 1932 Stanley Cup Final. However, a year later, Bill Cook and the Rangers would have their revenge.
In the 1932-1933 season, Cook, as usual, led the team in goals (28) and points (50). Of course, come April, the circus reared its ugly head into the Rangers playoff hopes. However, this time, the Rangers overcame it.
In Game 4 of the Rangers 3-1 Stanley Cup Final series victory over the Leafs, Bill Cook scored a goal in overtime, thus giving Cook and his Rangers their second ever Stanley Cup win in all of franchise history. Cook was now a two-time Stanley Cup champion. However, it was at this time, where Cook, now at the age of 38, was starting to regress. In fact, the new kid in town, in Cecil Dillon, would lead all Rangers in scoring during the 1933 Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the Rangers quest to repeat during the 1933-1934 season, Dillon remained hot and Dillon would lead the team in goals for the first time, with 25 goals as opposed to Cook’s 21 goals, 21 goals which were good for second place on the team. However, in the 1934 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Rangers would fall in the semifinal to the Montreal Maroons.
While the Rangers remained year-in and year-out Stanley Cup contenders under Cook, the two Stanley Cup wins would be it. In an injury-plagued final season for Cook, the 1936-1937 season, and now at the age of 42, Cook would finish with 1 goal and 4 assists in 21 games played.
Unfortunately for Cook, the Rangers would make it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1937. However, the Rangers, who had a 2-1 series lead during this Stanley Cup Final against Detroit, would lose the fifth and final game of the series. Had Cook been able to play, perhaps both Cook and the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1937. (And had the final four games of the series not been played in Detroit, due to the circus, perhaps the Rangers win without Cook too.)
Cook would attempt a comeback in the AHL during the 1937-1938 season, but after five games played and now approaching the age of 43, Cook put a bow on what turned out to be a Hall of Fame career.
Upon retirement, Cook, like many great players from his era, would enter the coaching ranks. Cook would spend time as both a head coach and general manager in the AHL, USHL and the PHCL.
As the calendar flipped to a new decade, which was the 1950’s, Cook was coaching the Saskatoon Quakers of the Pacific Coast Hockey League. It was there where Cook received a call from his friend Frank Boucher, a Frank Boucher who was then the general manager of the Rangers.
Cook, the legendary and fan favorite Ranger, would ironically, as his sweater number may suggest, become the fifth ever Rangers coach in all of franchise history. Cook’s debut as an NHL head coach took place with 47 games remaining during the 1951-1952 season. Despite the Rangers Stanley Cup Final run in 1950, the team had taken a turn for the worse. In Cook’s abbreviated first season as head coach, the team would go 17-22-8.
In Cook’s first full season as head coach of the club, the 1952-1953 season, the Rangers would go 17-37-16, good for sixth and last place in the league. Soon thereafter, Cook was relieved of his duties.
In Cook’s 1984 interview with Daniel Mahoney, Cook said the following about his coaching stint with the Rangers:
“That was a bad move. I wasn’t quite ready for that. I don’t think I was of age. Something had to be done. I started my coaching career and we didn’t have any team that final year.
We had Allan Stanley, who they got rid of, and he was a star. And there were a few other moves like that.
Bones Raleigh got hurt – he broke his wrist or something like that. We couldn’t get anybody who seemed to want to play the game a little bit tough.
That’s why I’m saying if I was going to have it again and take it over, I’d say that I’m the guy who wants to pick out my players. I want to see him play, how he reacts to a statement of mine and so forth.”
After his run as head coach of the Rangers, Cook retired from hockey, where he returned to Kingston, Ontario, where he had a farm.
Now this is where it gets crazy and confusing a bit, in regards to the Rangers currently ignoring Cook from their rafters today.
In 1968, with Emile Francis now running the team, Francis invited Bill Cook to New York during the closing of Madison Square Garden III and the opening of the new Madison Square Garden IV. Cook would graciously accept the invitation.
During an opening ceremony at MSGIV, which is the current MSG of today and located on 33rd Street and 7th Avenue; Cook was invited to score the first “ceremonial” goal on the Rangers new ice. As you can tell, even if it was just Emile Francis who made this happen – on this night, the Rangers were honoring a legendary Ranger, during a time where the franchise weren’t retiring jersey numbers. That said, what Francis did for Cook and Ranger fans was the ultimate sign of respect.
Years later, on January 10th, 1986, Bill Cook received an award from the Rangers alumni, which pretty much honored Cook for all of his efforts and contributions. Despite the Rangers having already retired Rod Gilbert’s #7, a jersey retirement ceremony wasn’t forthcoming for Cook. What a blown opportunity.
Instead of honoring the 90 year old Bill Cook by retiring his #5, and despite Bill Cook having more success with the Rangers than Rod Gilbert could ever dream of, then Rangers captain, Barry Beck, who was injured at the time, presented Bill Cook with a framed #5 jersey. In addition, Cook, who again, WAS 90 YEARS OLD AND TRAVELED ALL THE WAY FROM CANADA TO NEW YORK, was given a life-sized oil painting, as if he could enjoy that painting for any significant amount of time.
I mean really? What lasts forever? An oil pointing or your jersey number hanging from the rafters of Madison Square Garden?
Despite the Rangers not retiring Cook’s #5 as they should have, after the ceremony Cook told the New York Times that “this all makes you feel like you were somebody.”
Bill Cook wasn’t a “somebody”. He’s arguably the greatest Ranger of all-time, and despite the Rangers bringing him back to Madison Square Garden on two separate occasions, the Rangers dropped the ball by not retiring his #5 while he was alive.
Cook, a life-long Ranger who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1952, would pass away at the age of 90, on May 5th, 1986 in his home of Kingston, Ontario, after a battle with cancer. Cook didn’t even get four months with his oil painting.
Cook’s legacy with the Rangers is easy to figure out. He’s one of the greatest Rangers of all-time. While Mark Messier may be considered the greatest captain in all of team sports, one could make the case that Cook was the greatest captain in franchise history. People who saw Cook play would tell you as much.
When you sum up Cook’s career, this much is known – his #5 should be retired by the Rangers. To this day, it’s a major mistake that it isn’t.
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Up next: back to proof-reading this book! I may pop in Wednesday night after the Stanley Cup Final, where really, there’s probably not much more for me to add. Tampa is a mini-dynasty right now and perhaps on the best run since the Detroit Red Wing teams from the turn of the century.
Stay FABULOUS my friends.
As always here, thanks for reading and…
LET’S GO RANGERS!
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