I won't write a long diatribe about how wonderful June 14th, 1994 was. You know how awesome it was. It is regarded as the pinnacle of hockey's popularity and for good reason. It had two teams playing at the best of their ability in a seven game series that went right down to the wire with the specter of a 54 year curse looming over the World's Most Famous Arena. If you are a Ranger fan, and were old enough to remember watching it and young enough not to have seen 1940, then this was the greatest moment, most satisfying, redeeming, amazing, outstanding evening of your fandom.
It was also alarming, frustrating and nail biting as the guys on the other side of the ice were nothing to sneeze at. Something I know I lost in the moment and the glow of Stanley was the incredible performance by Kirk McLean. Trevor Linden gets well-deserved credit for his goals and leadership but McLean played the game of his life. The last of the stand-up netminders, he held his ground against a red, white and blue tidal wave to give the Canucks a chance at victory.
Chris Osgood received plenty of laurels for his performance in Game 7 Friday but that game simply does not compare to 1994. The Red Wings were out of gas and played on fumes for two periods. They found an extra gallon for the third period but the Pens played the entire game at the peak of their ability. Both Vancouver and New York did that back in 1994 and the game was much more physical. Say what you want about the infractions that were allowed between Detroit and Pittsburgh, most everything outside of manslaughter got through in the Garden. And each team still got their chances with the man advantage.
Gary Bettman and the NHL's marketing folks may have gotten what they hoped for with Crosby and the Cup this season, but it doesn't compare to Messier and the Blueshirts. Just as the current Rangers can't hold a candle to their predecessors.
Watching MSG's replay of the historic game, something I've seen dozens of times by now (it's on my iPod), I texted my buddy Eric and said how I felt bad for Linden. Ever the realist/pessimist, Eric said "feel bad for us." My initial reaction was to laugh but re-reading it again, I do feel a distinct twinge of sadness and self-pity. The 1994 Rangers never stopped. Not for a shift, not for a second. And the 2009 Rangers seemed to stand still for most of the season. There will never be (had better not be) another great team like '94, one that had to knock off the yoke of a 54 year curse to raise the greatest trophy in sport. But that shouldn't be the reason to accept anything less than excellence.
The Garden brass needs to see that. They need to understand that the bottom line shouldn't be the finish line. There is hope, but that won't get us anywhere. Action will, and that action has to happen as soon as possible because while Sam said "this one will last a lifetime," our patience won't.