It's hard to beat playing professional hockey in a Canadian market. The fans are so passionate about the game of hockey that makes so easy to get up for each game. If there is one city that matches the experience of playing up North it is the city of New York. " The Big Apple" is home to the world's most famous arena in Madison Square Garden. Opposing teams love getting a chance to play in the historic arena, but being able to play there all season long is truly a special treat.
While playing in New York City has a ton of benefits, as there is always something to see and do, the spotlight shines brighter in the Big City. While some players love and even thrive playing in the high-pressure city, other players just aren't cut out for playing in New York. In some rare cases, players careers were tarnished after their time spent with the Rangers. At the same time, players became legends of the game after playing for the Blueshirts.
Here are eight players that absolutely loved being a Ranger and seven players that hated being a Ranger.
15 Loved: Rod Gilbert
Rod Gilbert did about all he could in his 18 seasons with the Rangers but win a Stanley Cup. Gilbert's NHL career was almost over before it even started as he suffered a serious back injury in the juniors. Although Gilbert would battle complications from the injury for the rest of his career, he fought through the pain. By the 1962-63 season, he was a full-time member of the Rangers.
Gilbert was a member of the famous G-A-G Line (Goal-A-Game) with Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield. In 1971-72, the trio became the first ever line to each score 40 goals in the same season. Gibert would retire from the game in 1978 while holding a bunch of New York Rangers scoring records. Many Rangers fans believe he is that greatest player in team history. Gilbert may be a native of Montreal, but New York has become his new home where he is involved with many charities in the community.
14 Hated: Bobby Holik
Bobby Holik had a solid ten seasons with New Jersey, where he was one of the better two-way forwards in the league. During his time with the Devils, he helped them capture two Stanley Cups in 1995 and 2000. The Rangers thought Holik would be the player they needed in order for them to bring home another Stanley Cup, so they paid him a pretty penny. Holik was given a five-year contract worth a whopping $45 million dollars. The Rangers knew they were overpaying him, but they couldn't care less due to the fact that there was no salary cap.
It was almost impossible for Holik to live up to his $9 million a season contract, as he was doomed from the start. Holik recorded just 35 points in his first season with the Rangers. Holik and his contract became the laughing stock of the league. Holik would play just one more season for the team. With the introduction of the salary cap, the Rangers had no choice but to buy out his terrible contract. Holik would have been smart if he just stayed down the road in New Jersey.
13 Loved: Ron Duguay
Ron Duguay may have grown up in Sudbury, Ontario, but it seemed like New York was a city more suited for him. Duguay was taken with the 13th overall pick by the Rangers in 1he 1977 NHL Amateur Draft. While his first stint with the Rangers only lasted six seasons, he made his mark on the team as a fantastic goal scorer. His best season came in 1981-82, when he led the Rangers with a career-high 40 goals.
While the fans loved him for his goal scoring ability, he might have been even more popular because of his good looks and outgoing personality. The fans absolutely loved him, and he loved them and the city of New York back. Duguay was often seen around town hanging out with his famous friends like John McEnroe and Andy Warhol. Duguay was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1983, and it's safe to say it was a sad day for both him and the City of New York.
12 Hated: Theoren Fleury
Prior to signing with the New York Rangers in 1999, Theo Fleury had played all but 15 of his 806 career NHL games with the Calgary Flames. It was in his time with Flames where he proved despite his small stature, that he was still one of the best scorers in the game. Although Fleury's production had slowed down a bit, he still managed to record a more than respectable 201 points in 224 games with the Rangers.
While there was definitely no problem with Fleury's on-ice performance, it was his off-ice shenanigans that had Fleury regretting that he signed with New York. Theo battled drug problems throughout his hockey career, but it was in New York where things intensified. Instead of getting some rest for the next day's game, Fleury would spend all night wandering the streets of New York while drinking, doing cocaine, and even hanging out with homeless people. In the end, New York was a city that was filled with just too many temptations for Fleury to handle. Fleury himself summed up his years with the Rangers perfectly by calling them a "nightmare."
11 Loved: Mike Richter
Mike Richter was drafted by the Rangers in 1985, but he didn't become a full-time member of the team until the 1991-92 season. After a couple of solid seasons sharing the net with John Vanbiesbrouck, Richter was given the Rangers starting role 1993. After struggling most of the 1992-93 season, Richter knew he had to step up his game if wanted to have a long career in New York, and that is exactly what he did. His 42 wins during the 1993-94 season set a Rangers record that still stands today. Richter took his game to a whole other level during the 1994 playoffs by recording all 16 of the Rangers wins and he posted an impressive four shutouts.
Richter's career was unfortunately cut short in 2003 due to concussion problems. He played all of his 14 NHL seasons with the Rangers, setting many team records along the way. In 2004, Richter's number 35 became just the third number to ever be retired by the Rangers. That goes to show just how much Richter meant to New York, and how much New York meant to Richter.
10 Hated: Wade Redden
When Wade Redden signed a six-year, $39 million contract with the Rangers in 2008, nobody thought it was career suicide, but that is how it sadly turned out for Redden. The defenseman had spent the past decade with the Ottawa Senators where he established himself among the best players to ever play for the franchise. The Rangers were hoping they were getting the same player that only a year earlier had led the Senators all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Redden's time as a Ranger only lasted two full seasons, where he saw his production decline dramatically. By the start of the 2010 season, there was just no room for Redden on the Ranger's blueline. Because of the way the salary cap was set up, New York was able to bury Redden and his salary in the AHL without any repercussions. Although, Redden never publicly had anything bad to say about the Rangers, and he was a good mentor in the minors, there is no way that he doesn't have at least a little bit of regret about his time with the Rangers.
9 Loved: Brian Leetch
When it comes to the best defenseman in New York Rangers history, Brian Leetch is almost a unanimous choice. His career as a Ranger started off with a bang as the defenseman recorded 71 points, winning the NHL's Rookie of the Year Award in the process. Leetch would continue to be one of the league's best offensive defensemen and would win the Norris Trophy in just his fourth year in the league.
Leetch was a fantastic player for every one of his sixteen seasons as a Ranger, but he was particularly special during the 1994 playoffs. He led the entire league with 34 points in the playoffs, helping the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. Leetch was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs most valuable player.
Leetch's time as a Ranger ended in 2004 when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, whenever Leetch made his return to MSG, Rangers fan made sure to let him know that New York would always be home to him.
8 Hated: Pascal Rheaume
Pascal Rheamue is probably more famous for being the brother of Manon Rheaume, the first ever women to play goalie in an NHL exhibition game. However, although he spent most of his career in the minors, he did manage to play 318 NHL games during his career. Seventeen of those games were played with the New York Rangers in the 2003-04 season, and it's safe to say Pascal wasn't too impressed with the Rangers in his short time there.
The Rangers placed Rheamue on waivers that season and he was claimed by the St.Louis Blues. Upon joining the Blues, Rheamue told head coach John Quenville that he would need at least of couple weeks of practice to get into game shape. This was because Rheamue said his practices with New York were so easy, and that nobody was required to put any effort in during practice. He also stated that the team had absolutely no system, and acted more like a country club than a hockey team.
7 Loved: Adam Graves
Adam Graves was an excellent power forward in junior, but during his first few seasons in the NHL he was used mostly in a checking line role. It wasn't until he signed with the New York Rangers in 1991 that Graves was able to become the player he was always meant to be. In his first couple of seasons with the Blueshirts, he scored a combined 62 goals. However, it wasn't until his third season with the team in 1993-94 that Graves had a career defining season. He led the team with 52 goals while still providing toughness and grit to his game.
That same season Graves was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his charitable work in New York. Graves would go on to play another seven more seasons as a Ranger and would continue to do great things in the New York community, even after he retired. Graves says it was a dream and privilege to play in New York, the fact that his career was such a success was just a bonus.
6 Hated: Matt Cullen
The 2005-06 season was a career year for Matt Cullen. In his first season with Carolina Hurricanes, he was thrust into a significant offensive role with a team and he responded with career-high numbers. Cullen recorded 25 goals and 49 points. His production was even greater in the post season as he registered 18 points helping the Hurricanes capture their first ever Stanley Cup.
With a playoff performance like that, Cullen was due for a huge payday. The team that gave him the most enticing offer was the New York Rangers, who gave him a four-year deal. Cullen would end up playing just one season with the Rangers, and it wasn't such a positive one for him. While with the Rangers he was reduced to a checking line role, and thus his production declined.
After the Rangers signed centre's Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, Cullen knew his days in New York were numbered. The Rangers eventually shipped Cullen back to the Hurricanes. He couldn't have been more happier to be out of the hustle and bustle city that is New York and back to a comfortable place in Carolina.
5 Loved: Eddie Giacomin
When it comes to the most beloved goalies in New York Rangers history, the name of Eddie Giacomin is at the top of the list. Eddie's run with the Rangers actually got off to a horrible start in the 1965-66 season. He finished with a sub-par 8-20-6 record and was even booed by the fans on an almost nightly basis. However, he would the lead Rangers to the playoffs in just his second season. Giacomin would go on to play for a decade for the team, turning the mediocre Rangers into a perennial playoff contender.
Giacomin's time with the Rangers would end on a sour note as he was placed on waivers by the team in 1975 and he was claimed by the Detroit Red Wings. It just so happened that his first game with his new team was against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Before the game could even begin, fans at MSG were showing their love to the former Ranger netminder with nonstop chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" Whenever his former teammates scored a goal on him, they made sure they apologized to him. The fans and his former teammates had so much love and respect for Giacomin, and those feeling were mutual.
4 Hated: Dan Boyle
Dan Boyle signed with the Rangers in 2014 hoping he could finish out his NHL career with another Stanley Cup. The Rangers were hoping that Boyle could be another useful weapon on their powerplay. As it turned out in the end, neither Boyle nor the team got what they wanted. In his first season with the team, Boyle definitely showed some signs that his play was in decline. Although he led all Rangers defenseman in goals with 10, he finished with just 20 points while being a defensive liability.
Boyle's second season with the Rangers was even worse as he seen his production decline even further. Boyle even found himself a healthy scratch on numerous occasions. When Boyle was in the Rangers lineup, he was used in a reduced role. Boyle used his lack of playing time as an excuse for his declining play. Besides his lackluster play on the ice, Boyle was also very public about his dislike for the New York media. It goes without saying that Dan Boyle isn't going to have too many fond memories looking back at his time with New York.
3 Loved: Andy Bathgate
Andy Bathgate was one of first true superstars to play for the New York Rangers. Bathgate signed as a free agent with the Rangers in 1949, and would go on to play twelve seasons for the team. Although he was never able to bring a Stanley Cup to New York, he did pretty much everything else. In 1958-59 he became the first ever Ranger to score forty goals in a season. In that same season he was awarded the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.
Bathgate was more than just a great player on the ice, he was a great person off it. An example of just how much the integrity the man had was when he once told a ref that he didn't deserve an assist on a certain goal. He would end up losing the Art Ross Trophy that season by just one point. The Rangers retired his number in 2009 and Bathgate finished his speech with the heartfelt line of “Is there any better place to play hockey in the whole damn world than in New York?”
2 Hated: Stephane Quintal
No player in the history of the New York Rangers was more public about his dislike of his time with the team than Stephane Quintal. The defenseman signed with the Rangers in 1999 after spending the previous four seasons playing for the Montreal Canadiens. The Quebec native was coming off a career season in 1997-98, when he scored a career-high eight goals and 27 points.
His stint with the Rangers ended up just lasting one season. It was a disastrous season for Quintal to say the least. Although he suited up for almost all games for the Rangers, he managed just two goals, and had a plus-minus mark of minus-10. Quintal's play on the ice was bad enough, but it was behavior off of it that defined his time as a Ranger. With just three games left to go in the season, Quintal basically quit on the team. The Rangers had no choice but to suspend him for the remainder of the season.
On his way out, Quintal had some parting shots towards the Rangers organization. He stated that he absolutely couldn't stand John Muckler as a coach. He also bashed Rangers forward Petr Nedved, stating that he wasn't a number one centre. In the end, Quintal may have signed with the Rangers, but his heart remained in Montreal.
1 Loved: Mark Messier
When Mark Messier was traded to the Rangers in 1991, his ultimate goal was to end New York's lengthy Stanley Cup drought. Messier had a tremendous first season with the Rangers, winning the Hart Trophy as the leagues most valuable player. However, the team faltered when it really mattered during the playoffs. It wasn't until the 1993-94 season when Messier truly left his mark on the City of New York. After once again leading the league in points, the Rangers had it pretty easy in the playoffs until they ran into New Jersey in the third round. It was in this series where Messier became a New York Ranger legend.
The Rangers were down 3-2 in the series when Mark Messier made the statement to the media guaranteeing a Rangers win in Game 6. Not only did the Rangers win that game, but Messier scored a natural hat trick. The Rangers would go on to defeat the Devils and the Canucks in the finals to win the team's fourth Stanley Cup.
Messier would play seven more seasons with the Rangers before calling it a career in 2004. He may have had more success with the Edmonton Oilers, but it was in New York where Messier solidified his spot among the all-time greats to ever play the game.
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