Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Time To Honour N.Y.'s Hockey Heroes
During the Saturday game/debacle against the Bruins, MSG played a clip of Harry Howell talking about Brian Leetch and something struck me - the Rangers really haven't respected and remembered many of the legends who have worn the iconic jersey.
Yes, we know Rod Gilbert was good, and he is everywhere for the Rangers as an ambassador. Eddie Giacomin isn't around much but still is remembered for being the one player that made the Garden outright root for another team (great feature on him here). Mark Messier and Mike Richter, well, everyone remembers them and loves them. But let's face it folks, the team has been around for more than 80 years and just four players were any good? Just four players - five as of Thursday - are worth a piece of New York immortality? And three of the five played in the last 15 years ... there is just something wrong with that.
The Rangers are quick to remind people of the honour, respect and tradition that goes with the jersey, and yet do virtually nothing for the players who made the Blueshirt something so special.
What needs to be done is something like the Toronto Maple Leafs did with Honoured Numbers (more here) or even what Binghamton did when I was there: create a Hockey Hall of Fame for the franchise. The upstate New York town inducts a few players each year (list here). For them, its kinds sad as they are running out of worthwhile players because their history extends back to just 1973 ... the Rangers, 1926 - and the team has won four championships to boot.
Maybe New York will eventually do something as part of the centennial in 2026 but it should come long before then, that way the Blueshirts can get some of these guys up in the rafters before they pass away. And, should the season continue as it has, it would be good PR next fall to get fans back in the stands after the team misses the playoffs - but that is a rant for another time.
So here are my recommendations for the first three classes, limited to four players per year. Every one of the legends are worth remembering in the pantheon of New York sports (and well-worth clicking on to read about, if you don't know who they are):
1st year: Bill Cook, Andy Bathgate, Harry Howell and Adam Graves.
2nd year: Frank Boucher, Camille Henry, Nick Fotiu and Vic Hadfield
3rd year: Ching Johnson, Phil Esposito, John Davidson and John Vanbiesbrouck
While I don't think the Rangers will actually do anything like this - no money in it for them - that doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing. And on Thursday, as Leetch's #2 gets raised and grown men cry, just remember that he was just another hero in the history of one of the greatest franchises in professional sports.