Sunday, April 24, 2016

How Long It's Been: The Rangers Won the Stanley Cup


(Oh yes they do, oh yes they do.)

The New York Rangers were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday, 6-3, and ending their run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

I realize that my New Jersey Devils didn't make the Playoffs at all. The Rangers' failure is the greater. Why? Because the Devils and their fans knew that making the Playoffs this season was a longshot, while Ranger fans always think their team is going to win the Cup.

This time is different, though: On Twitter, I saw a lot of Ranger Scummers ripping their team, saying that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist deserves better than this, that the team gave up on him, that they hung him out to dry.

Sounds like "King Henrik" is the hockey version of Don Mattingly: The "legend" New York loves but can't get a title for.

A king wears a crown. The only way Lundqvist will ever win a Cup is as somebody else's backup. Maybe Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles: That team may well have a 3rd cheated-to Cup in them, and, in a way, Lundqvist would be a "King."

God, I hope the Mattingly pattern doesn't hold up completely, with the Rangers dumping Lundqvist and then winning the Cup the next season.

The last time they won the Stanley Cup was -- come on, we all know the date -- June 14, 1994. The last time before that, April 13, 1940. #76Years1Cup

"The waiting is over!" Howie Rose said of the 54-year drought. "The New York Rangers have won the Stanley Cup! And this one will last a lifetime!"

It will have to. Indeed, if you're age 76 or younger, it already has.

Since then, the Devils have won 3. The Detroit Red Wings 4, the Chicago Blackhawks 3, the Colorado Avalanche 2, the Los Angeles Kings 2, and the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins 1 each.

22 years down. 32 years to go?

*

June 14, 1994. How long has that been?

The Knicks were also in the NBA Finals. And came closer to winning it than they have at any time since 1973. But they lost in Game 7 to the Houston Rockets. No shame in losing to such a good team... but the way they lost, with John Starks sending up brick after brick after brick... and the fact that the Knicks of Patrick Ewing never did win a title... That was shameful.

The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Nets, Liberty, Islanders, Devils and Red Bulls have all built and/or moved into new facilities. (The Liberty and Red Bulls didn't even exist yet.) Even the new Rutgers Stadium, now renamed High Point Solutions Stadium, wasn't quite finished, and would open in September. The 2 Garden teams are the only area teams that have not since replaced their venues, although the Garden recently underwent a supposedly major renovation.

Who had the Rangers replaced as Stanley Cup Champions? The Montreal Canadiens. No Canadian team has won the Cup since. After 23 years, can that possibly be as a result of chance? Or has Commissioner Gary Bettman fixed it as such?

The defending World Champions in the other sports were the Toronto Blue Jays, the Chicago Bulls and the Dallas Cowboys. At this point in the 1994 season, the Yankees had the best record in the American League, but the best record in Major League Baseball belonged to the Montreal Expos. They have since moved.

So have the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Raiders, Cleveland Browns (a franchise since restored) and Houston Oilers. The Rams have even moved back.

The NBA’s Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats began play, but the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, and the Bobcats replaced the Charlotte Hornets, who moved to New Orleans, and became the Pelicans, allowing the Bobcats to reclaim the Charlote Hornets name. The Seattle SuperSonics moved to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the New Jersey Nets became the Brooklyn Nets.

In the NHL, the Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, the old Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes. The Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets began play, but the Thrashers became the new Winnipeg Jets.

Most Clevelanders hadn’t yet realized what a jackass Art Modell is, nor had most of them heard of LeBron James. They were also under the impression that Bill Belichick, while one of the most accomplished defensive coordinators in NFL history, was a lousy head coach. Maybe they were right: It was only in New England that he began to cheat.

The Atlanta Braves, the Florida Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the team currently known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have since won their 1st World Series. In other sports, winning their 1st World Championship since then have been the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks, and, as stated earlier, the Devils, Avs, Stars, Bolts, 'Canes, Ducks and Kings.

On June 14, 1994, hockey legends Maurice Richard, Sid Abel, Syl Apps, and Frankie Brimsek were still alive. So were 9 members of the Rangers' last Stanley Cup-winning team, of 1940: Mac Colville, Art Coulter, Dutch Hiller, Murray "Muzz" Patrick (brother of teammate Lynn Patrick and son of team GM Lester Patrick, both already dead by 1994), Alf Pike, John Polich, Alex Shibicky, Clint Smith and Stan Smith.

Clint Smith, a lefty-shooting center who played for the Rangers from 1937 to 1943, was the last survivor of the 1940 Rangers, living past 1994, all the way to 2009. There was even 1 member of the 1928 and 1933 Stanley Cup-winning Rangers still alive: Murray Murdoch, who died in 2001, making him also the last survivor of the original 1926-27 Rangers.

Of the defining players of my youth, only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and, ugh, the hero of the '94 Rangers, ol' Lex Luthor himself, Mark Messier were still active. And remember: He wasn't just the Hair Club Team Captain, he was also a client.

Martin Brodeur had just completed his rookie season. Patrik Elias was still in the minor leagues. Zdeno Chara and Henrik Zetterberg were then in whatever their countries call high school. Lundqvist, Andy Greene, Rick Nash and Marc-Andre Fleury were in junior high. Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Quick were 8 years old; Evgeni Malkin was 7; Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, Claude Giroux and onathan Towes were 6; Patrick Kane and Ryan McDonagh were 5, Steven Stamkos was 4, John Tavares was 3, and Connor McDavid wasn't born yet.

On June 14, 1994, the Canadiens were still playing at the Montreal Forum, Toronto was still playing at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Bruins at the Boston Garden, the Sabres at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, and the Blackhawks had just closed Chicago Stadium. Indeed, with the Edmonton Oilers having just left Rexall Place (then known as the Northlands Coliseum), only 5 teams are playing in the same arena in which they played the 1993-94 season: The Rangers, the Red Wings, the Ducks, the Calgary Flames and the San Jose Sharks -- and the Wings are building a new arena.

The World Cup was about to get underway in the U.S., won by Brazil, beating Italy on penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation and extra time. Since leaving the U.S., the World Cup has been held in France, Japan, Korea, Germany and South Africa.

The Champions League soccer tournament has been won by Real Madrid and Barcelona 4 times each, AC Milan 3 times, Manchester United and Bayern Munich twice each, and once each by Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Liverpool, Internazionale Milano and Chelsea.

The Olympic Games have been held in America (twice), Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain and Russia, and are about to be held in Brazil. The World Cup has been held in France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil -- and had never previously been held in Asia and Africa, or in a joint venture (2002 in Japan and Korea).

Current Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was an assistant with the Ottawa Senators. Jack Capuano of the Islanders was coaching in the minor leagues. John Hynes of the Devils was playing at Boston University. Joe Girardi of the Yankees was playing for the Colorado Rockies. Terry Collins of the Mets was managing the Houston Astros. Kurt Rambis of the Knicks was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Todd Bowles of the Jets was playing for the Washington Redskins. Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was playing in Spain's basketball league. And Ben McAdoo of the Giants was in high school.

Bill Clinton was in his 1st term as President. Hillary Clinton was First Lady. George W. Bush was running for Governor of Texas. George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and their wives, and Lady Bird Johnson were all still alive. (Mrs. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Ford and Mr. and Mrs. Reagan have since died.) Richard Nixon had just died. Barack Obama was teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and Donald Trump was... doing something douchey.

The Governor of New York was Mario Cuomo, about to lose a bid for a 4th term to George Pataki. The Mayor of New York City was Rudy Giuliani, and the Governor of New Jersey was Christine Todd Whitman.

Nelson Mandela was about to be elected President of South Africa in that nation's 1st-ever all-races-are-eligible elections, succeeding Fredrik W. de Klerk. They were the current holders of the Nobel Peace Prize, and enabled their country to be readmitted to the British Commonwealth. The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chretien, and of Britain John Major. Queen Elizabeth II was the monarch -- that hasn't changed. Manchester United had just won "The Double": The Premier League and the FA Cup.

Novels of 1994 that became major motion pictures included Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, Disclosure by Michael Crichton, The Ice Storm by Rick Moody and The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Elizabeth Wurtzel published the year's leading non-fiction book, Prozac Nation. None of the Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire books had yet been published.

Major films of the late spring and early summer of 1994 included The Crow, Speed, The Lion King, Forrest Gump, and 2 baseball-themed movies, Little Big League and a remake of the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield. Michael Douglas was about to turn 50 and was wrapping up filming the movie version of Disclosure with Demi Moore; he was still married to Diandra Douglas, she to Bruce Willis. Catherine Zeta-Jones was then 23 and starring in a film version of Thomas Hardy's novel Return of the Native. Pierce Brosnan was filming his 1st James Bond movie, Joel Schumacher was about to temporarily ruin Batman, and the Star Trek film franchise was about to be handed off to The Next Generation (whose TV show was wrapping up).

Other television shows that were about to air their final first-run episodes were In Living Color, L.A. Law, the cartoon Rugrats and The Arsenio Hall Show. Soon to debut were Inside the Actors Studio, My So Called Life, New York Undercover, the cartoon version of The Tick, Party of Five, All American Girl, the medical shows Chicago Hope and ER, Touched by an Angel, Friends, The Secret World of Alex Mack, and NBC's Entertainment Tonight clone Extra! The WB Network and UPN were preparing to debut.

The day the Rangers won the Cup, the Number 1 song in America was “I Swear” by All-4-One, and Aaliyah released an album with the retroactively creepy title Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. In the preceding few days, Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley. The Eagles launched their 1st tour since breaking up 14 years earlier. Weezer released their self-titled debut album. Tupac Shakur spent 15 days in jail for assaulting film director Allen Hughes. And Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, in retaliation for being beaten, burned down boyfriend Andre Rison's house.

Few Americans had ever heard of Osama bin Laden or Monica Lewinsky. Shakira, Kanye West, Stana Katic, Katie Holmes, Heath Ledger, Kourtney Kardashian and Pink were in high school. Kim Kardashian, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Chris Evans, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Kate Middleton and Hayley Atwell were in junior high school. Prince William, Matt Smith and Anne Hathaway were 11 years old; Khloe Kardashian was about to turn 10; Lady Gaga was 8; Drake, Emilia Clarke and Rob Kardashian were 7; Kevin Jonas and Rihanna were 6; Daniel Radcliffe, Joe Jonas and Emma Watson were 4; Louis Tomlinson was 2; Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj were 1 1/2; Zayn Malik was 1; Ariana Grande was about to turn 1; Liam Payne and Niall Horan were 9 months old; Harry Styles was 4 months; and Justin Bieber was 3 months.

That's right: The last time the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup, Justin Bieber wasn't a "Boyfriend," he was a "Baby." Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Maisie Williams, and, except for Sarah Hyland (who was 3), all of the kids on Modern Family hadn't yet been born.

The Internet was still new to most of us. Aerosmith became the 1st musical act to premiere a song on it. Most of us had never heard of Microsoft or Netscape or America Online. There was no Wikipedia, no Skype, no MySpace, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Tumblr, no Pinterest, no Instagram and no Vine. VHS videotapes were still the dominant way of recording and playing back movies and TV shows. There were no tablet computers, iPods or iPads. No iPhones, either: Mobile phones were still roughly the size of the communicators on the original Star Trek series. 

The day after the Rangers won the Cup, Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic relations. Two days before, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered; three days afterward, Al Cowlings drove O.J. Simpson through greater Los Angeles. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was executed the month before.

In the spring of 1994, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Ralph Ellison, and, on the very day the Rangers won the Cup, Henry Mancini, died. Saorsie Ronan, and Olympic diving champion Tom Daley, and Olympic gymnastics champion Aly Raisman were born.

June 14, 1994: "The waiting is over! The New York Rangers have won the Stanley Cup! And this one will last a lifetime!"

If Howie Rose and Ranger fans only knew: As of April 24, 2016 -- indeed, as of the 2017 Stanley Cup clincher, even if the Rangers do pull it off -- 1 Cup in at least 77 years? That 1994 Stanley Cup already has lasted a lifetime.

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