The Rangers won the Stanley Cup over the long-defunct Montreal Maroons in only their second year in business, but it was not without some desperation: coach Patrick had to be their goaltender for two periods of game two of the finals after regular goalie Lorne Chabot was injured.
After a finals loss in 1929 and a few mediocre seasons in the early 1930s, the Rangers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs to win their second Stanley Cup in 1933, led by brothers Bill and Bun Cook on the wings, and Frank Boucher in centre. The Rangers would spend the rest of the 1930s playing mainly .500 hockey until they won the Cup again in 1940 (over the Maple Leafs), when Patrick stepped down and handed the reins to Frank Boucher.
The Rangers would collapse by the mid-1940s, losing games by as much as 15-0 and having one goaltender with a 6.20 goals-against average. They would miss the playoffs for five consecutive seasons before squeaking into the fourth and final playoff spot in 1948. They lost the first round, would miss the playoffs again in 1949, but made the 1950 finals before losing to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Rangers remained a mark of futility in the NHL for the next 20 years, before rejuvenation in the late 1960s, symbolized by moving into a newly-rebuilt Madison Square Garden in 1967. They made the playoffs for the first time in five years on the strength of rookie goaltender Eddie Giacomin.
By 1972, the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup finals despite losing high-scoring center Jean Ratelle to injury during the stretch drive of the regular season. The strength of people like Brad Park, Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert would still carry them through the playoffs. They would defeat the defending champion Montreal Canadiens in the first round and the Chicago Blackhawks in the second, but lost to the Boston Bruins in the finals.
After some off years in the mid-to-late 1970s, they picked up Phil Esposito from the Bruins in 1976. Swedish Anders Hedberg would defect to the Rangers from the maverick World Hockey Association and would lead the team in scoring his first season. In 1979, they would return to the finals again before bowing out to the Canadiens.
The Rangers stayed the course through the 1980s and early 1990s, making the playoffs each year except for one but never going very far. Ranger fans were convinced the team was cursed.
1994 was a magical year for Rangers fans. Two years previous, they picked up center Mark Messier, an integral part of the Edmonton Oilers' Cup-winning teams in the 1980s. Adam Graves also defected from the Oilers to the Rangers. Brian Leetch and rookie Sergei Zubov were solid on defense. The Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils in seven games to go to their first Cup final in 15 years, and went the full seven games with the Vancouver Canucks. Finally, when they hung on to avoid a late Canuck charge in the third period of game 7, the curse was over.
The Rangers continued to be Cup favorites in the mid-to-late 1990s, even landing an aging Wayne Gretzky, but they would fizzle out. Their 1994 stars were aging and many retired or dropped off in performance, and by 1998 they missed the playoffs.
By 2001, the Rangers had landed a lot of star power. Theo Fluery joined the Rangers after spending most of his career with the Calgary Flames. Eric Lindros reluctantly joined the Rangers from the Philadelphia Flyers. They got Pavel Bure late in the 2001-2002 season from the Florida Panthers. However, the Rangers still finished out of the playoffs despite having the league's highest payroll. Ranger fans are now beginning to think they might have to wait 54 years for another Stanley Cup.
Players of Note
Hall of Famers:
Not to be forgotten:
New York Rangers official web site