Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13, 1940: One Team, 75 Years, One More Cup


April 13, 1940, 75 years ago today: The New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup.

Stop laughing. You remember the "NINE-teen-FOR-ty!" chant that used to be used before June 14, 1994? Well, this is what it was about.

The Rangers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 games, taking Game 6 and the Cup 3-2 in overtime at Maple Leaf Gardens, on an overtime goal by Bryan Hextall.

Hail the Champions:

General Manager Lester Patrick (Hall of Fame)
Head Coach Frank Boucher (HOF, Captain of the Rangers' 1928 & '33 Cup-winers)
1 Dave Kerr, goaltender
2 Art Coulter, defenseman and Captain (HOF)
3 Erhardt "Ott" Heller, defenseman
4 Alex Shibicky, left wing
5 Mac Colville, right wing
6 Neil Colville, center (HOF, also played as a defenseman, Mac's brother)
7 Phil Watson, center
8 Walter "Babe" Pratt, defenseman (HOF)
9 Lynn Patrick, left wing (HOF, Lester's son)
10 Clint Smith, center (The last survivor of this team, living until 2009)
12 Bryan Hextall, right wing (HOF)
14 Kilby MacDonald, left wing
15 Murray "Muzz" Patrick, defenseman (Lester's other son)
16 Alf Pike, center
17 Stan Smith, center

In the photo above, Kerr is flanked by Patrick and Boucher.

In those days, the Rangers were, with some justification, known as "the Classiest Team in Hockey." And their fans were hailed as classy, and knowledgeable. And no one said that the Rangers sucked. Or stunk.

That was a long, long time ago. Sometimes, it seems like a galaxy far, far away.

*

That was 75 years ago. In that time:

The United States of America has gone from 48 to 50 States. Canada went from 9 Provinces to 10, taking on what was then the British colony of Newfoundland. Germany, then 1 single "Reich," was broken up into what is now 5 countries. The Soviet Union went from 1 country to 18. Yugoslavia went from 1 country to 7. India went from being 1 British colony to 5 separate independent nations. Every single European colony in Africa gained its independence, and so did many in Asia. Korea and Vietnam went from 1 country to 2, and Vietnam went back to being 1. Siam became Thailand. The Belgian Congo became Zaire, and then the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Belgium and the Netherlands essentially ceased to be empires.

There have been 13 Presidents of the United States, 12 Prime Ministers of Canada, and 7 Popes -- but only 2 British monarchs.

Television went from a curiosity to a dominant feature of American life, to something that the Internet has, essentially, superseded.

Computers, desktop computers, laptop computers, the Internet and smartphones were invented.

Rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul music, surf rock, folk rock, psychedelia, heavy metal, glam rock, disco, punk rock, rap, grunge rock and autotune have all been invented. All 4 Beatles were born, grew up, met, became famous, broke up, had solo careers, got married, and had children; 2 of them have died. Tony Bennett went from recording the songs of Frank Sinatra and Hank Williams to doing duets with Lady Gaga.

My father was born, grew up, earned 2 science degrees from Newark College of Engineering, watched it be absorbed into the New Jersey Institute of Technology, served in a war, got married, had 2 children, had 2 grandchildren, worked 30 years for the State of New Jersey, grew old, and died.

Science fiction went from Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon to the previously not-yet-existing Captain Video, to Star Trek, to 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Star Wars, to much of what had previously been considered science fiction becoming science fact. Men have gone into space for the first time, and have gone to the Moon -- and decided that going back to the Moon was no longer worth it.

Superman and Batman went from new characters to worldwide phenomena; while Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, the Flash, the Green Lantern, the Green Arrow and the Atom were created; Marvel Comics and the entire Marvel Universe were created; the entire Watchmen saga took place; and comic books went from 10-cent kids' stuff to 5-buck graphic novels. James Bond, Dirty Harry, Jack Ryan, Alex Cross and Harry Potter were all created.

The National Hockey League went from 7 teams to 30, East Coast to West Coast, Canada to the Sun Belt. Major League Baseball went from 16 teams in 10 cities, all in the Northeast and the Midwest, to 30 teams in 26 metropolitan areas, East Coast to West Coast, Canada to Florida. The National Football League went from, essentially, a minor league with 10 teams to a behemoth with 32 teams, East Coast to West Coast, North to South. The Canadian Football League was outright founded. The National Basketball Association was founded.

The Olympics, both Summer and Winter, have been held in American 5 times, Italy 3 times, Canada 3 times, Britain twice, Norway twice, Australia twice, Japan twice, Austria twice, France twice, Russia twice, Switzerland, Finland, Mexico, Germany, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Greece and China. The World Cup has been held in Brazil twice, Mexico twice, Germany twice, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, Italy, America, France, Japan, Korea and South Africa; and has been won by Brazil 5 times, Germany 4 times, Argentina twice, Italy twice, Uruguay, England, France and Spain.

Shea Stadium in New York, and Giants Stadium just outside it; Foxboro Stadium outside Boston; the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium; Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum in Philadelphia; the Coliseum outside Cleveland; Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati; the Charlotte Coliseum; Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and the Omni; the Reunion Arena in Dallas, and Arlington Stadium and Texas Stadium outside it; Robertson Stadium in Houston; the Hoosier Dome and Market Square Arena in Indianapolis; Milwaukee County Stadium; the Metrodome in Minneapolis; Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center outside it; Mile High Stadium and the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver; and Candlestick Park in San Francisco were all built, used, and demolished. And "the new Madison Square Garden" surpassed the demolished old Garden, home of the 1940 Rangers, in age. And Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles did the same for Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

North American major league sports have been racially integrated, and gone international. Free agency has come to all 4 sports. Artificial turf, electric scoreboards, electronic scoreboards, fireworks-shooting "exploding scoreboards," DiamondVision TV screens, domed stadiums, retractable-roof stadiums, sports-talk radio, network TV, cable TV, all-sports cable TV stations, and arenas capable of going from basketball court to hockey rink, or vice versa, in mere hours, making the playing of both sports on the same day, have all been invented.

Lester Patrick grew old, retired, died, and became the namesake of both one of the NHL's divisions (a distinction that lasted from 1974 to 1992) and a trophy that stands as a lifetime achievement award for service to American hockey (though he, himself, was Canadian, from Drummondville, Quebec).

Bryan Hextall, hero of the clinching game, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, became the father of Bryan Hextall Jr. and Dennis Hextall, became the grandfather of Ron Hextall, and lived long enough to see all 3 of them become NHL All-Stars.

The entire careers of Maurice Richard, Henri Richard, Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Marty Howe, Jean Beliveau, Terry Sawchuck, Glenn Hall, Bobby Hull, Dennis Hull, Brett Hull, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Phil Esposito, Tony Esposito, Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Dave Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Bobby Clarke, Denis Potvin, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Patrick Roy, Mario Lemieux, Scott Stevens, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Niedermayer, Rob Niedermayer, and all 6 Sutter brothers have been played in full.

The Stanley Cup itself went from a cigar shape to the barrel shape we know today. (That redesign took place in 1948.)

And in all those 75 years, here are the Stanley Cups won, with the "Original Six" teams in bold:

Montreal Canadiens 20
Toronto Maple Leafs 10
Detroit Red Wings 9
Edmonton Oilers 5
Boston Bruins 4
New Jersey Devils 3
Chicago Blackhawks 3
Pittsburgh Penguins 3
Colorado Avalanche 2
Los Angeles Kings 2
Philadelphia Flyers 2
Calgary Flames 1
Dallas Stars 1
Tampa Bay Lightning 1
Carolina Hurricanes 1
Anaheim Ducks 1
New York Rangers 1

That's right: In three-quarters of a century, the New York Rangers have won just 1 Stanley Cup. The Islanders have only been around since 1972, and the Devils since 1982, and have won 7 Cups between them; the Rangers, in that time, just 1.

Compared to the other "Original Six" teams, all of whom had significant Cup droughts, the Rangers' record of even reaching the Stanley Cup Finals is pathetic. In 75 years:

Montreal 26
Detroit 21
Boston 15
Toronto 12
Chicago 9
New York 5

Just 5 trips to the Finals in 75 years? An average of 1 trip to the Finals every 15 years?

And in 75 years, 1 Stanley Cup.

And their fans think Devils fans are jealous of their history?

1-for-75. You know what that means?

It means that Sam Rosen was right about that 1994 Stanley Cup: This one already has lasted a lifetime!

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