The Thirty Year Itch?

I first became a rabid Rangers fan the same year that their fellow Madison Square Garden tenants, the Knicks, won their first-ever NBA title.  I learned of the team’s mighty struggles to maintain even a modest presence of respectability during the very lean 1960s, and there was a sense of relative gratitude that they were even making the playoffs at all, only to be turned away in the first round by far better teams.  In 1970, while the Knicks won it all, the Rangers finished fourth in the NHL’s Eastern division and were quickly ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

And I learned then that that made it an even 30 years since they had last won a Stanley Cup, a fact that became more prominent and the essence of a derisive chant from Islanders fans as their baby team added to the Rangers’ futility in the ensuing years, ultimately resulting in four Stanley Cups being awarded to a team with New York in its name before the Rangers finally broke the curse of “NINETEEN FORTY!!” in the glorious and nerve-wracking run of the summer of 1994.

An even thirty years ago.

So it’s not without more than a smattering of anticipation and giddiness that the team’s success of this season is making its fan base salivate at the possibilties of ending yet another drought, one that we’ve actually endured in THIS lifetime.  And last night at MSG, before a national TV audience against the team that they rallied to knock off en route to their last title, their hated rivals from New Jersey, they took another step toward chasing that goal in a leadership position, both with their record and their actions.

As the ASSOCIATED PRESS’ Allan Kreda reported:

Chris Kreider scored a power-play goal late in the third period and the New York Rangers rallied to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Wednesday night in a game that started with a 10-player brawl.

Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere each had a goal and an assist, and Kaapo Kakko also scored for the NHL-leading Rangers. Igor Shesterkin finished with 17 saves as New York won for the sixth time in seven games and 11th in its last 14.

The game got off to a physical start as all 10 skaters on the ice got into brawls right off the opening faceoff. Eight players were ejected after receiving game misconducts 2 seconds into the game, forcing both teams to play with four fewer skaters the rest of the way.

The win allowed the Rangers to remain not only on top of their division, but clinging to a one-point lead for tops in the entire league over the surging Western Conference leader Dallas Stars, who scored an impressive home ice win of their own in the nightcap of the TNT national doubleheader.  With six games left in the regular season, the Rangers’ 106 points also puts them three points ahead of the Bruins for conference honors.

Not that winning the regular season guarantees a Cup.  The Bruins know that better than anyone, having set an all-time NHL record with 135 points (and 65 victories) last year only to be upended by the #8 seed Florida Panthers with a first-round elimination last year.  And at the other end of the conference standings, making a spirited late season rush of their own for the final playoff berth against a struggling Detroit Red Wings club and a Washington Capitals squad finally seeing the kind of play from Alex Ovechkin that they missed for most of the year, are their tormenters of the past, those pesky New York Islanders.

Then again, thirty years ago, en route to their last Cup, the Rangers swept the Islanders in the first round.  So maybe there is some potential serendipity

And as the buoyant crowd at MSG reminded the country last night, when spring comes to Rangers fans, they can be vocal and impactful.  Especially when they’ve famished for success.  Thirty years is a long time.  It’s a lifetime (more?) for some.

Glad you boys were there to see this.  Hope I can join y’all down the road.

Courage…

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