Craziest Rangers season ever isn’t what you think

So this just has to be the craziest, most eventful and most traumatic season in Rangers history, correct?

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So this just has to be the craziest, most eventful and most traumatic season in Rangers history, correct?

I mean, the Tony DeAngelo fiasco that was organizationally self-inflicted; the Artemi Panarin matter of Russian intrigue, in which he departed the team for a self-subscribed leave of absence after being targeted with unsubstantiated assault charges against a young woman from a decade earlier leveled in what was believed a political hit piece.

Then the Tom Wilson matter, in which Panarin was rag-dolled and body-slammed to the ice twice in the aftermath of a goalmouth scrum. That was followed the failure of the NHL to suspend Wilson, the Rangers’ statement excoriating the league and George Parros, and the six first-period fights that followed two nights later at the Garden.

And right during the heart of the Wilson Madness came the seemingly out-of-nowhere firing of John Davidson and Jeff Gorton as the club’s two chief executive hockey officers, which prompted cries of betrayal from a fan base that had become hooked on a rebuilding process the franchise might have sold too well.

Anything else? Well, the coaching staff missing six games in the middle of the season was noteworthy, but every team in the league had to endure anomalies created by the pandemic, so that becomes just one of many asterisked footnotes to the season.

So, was this the most eventful and traumatic year in franchise history?

Only if you are not familiar with 1975-76.

Because through the first four months of that season featuring a series of hockey earthquakes followed by unrelenting shockwaves, and the entire Rangers universe spun off its axis.

Goalie Ed Giacomin waves to the Garden fans upon his return after landing with the Red Wings in 1975.
Frank Leonardo

First, Ed Giacomin was waived on Oct. 31. Then, on Nov. 7, the legendary Jean Ratelle and Brad Park were traded to Boston for the despised Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais, and suddenly fans were forced to accept the enemy who had been dropped into their midst.

And you know what, three days before Giacomin was sent away, so was Vezina-winning and Jack-O-Lantern-mask-wearing Gilles Villemure.

Now, Villemure’s exit was foretold by the summer trade for Davidson, and he had not played a game that season, but the deal yielded Chicago defenseman Doug Jarrett, who became one of the first of a flock of faded veterans to join the Rangers and give them an expansion-type feel for a year or two.

Come on. Bill Goldsworthy?

The shockwaves subsided off the ice for a spell, but there was that 7-3 humiliation by the Red Army team at the Garden on Dec. 28 in the first game of the NHL-USSR Super Series ’76, which three nights later featured one of the most celebrated international matches in history, the New Year’s Eve 3-3 draw between the Canadiens and Red Army at the Forum in Montreal.

Of course while that game was being played, the Rangers were being crushed 8-1 at the Garden by the Atlanta Flames.

Less than a week later, Emile Francis, who was the Founding Father of the franchise’s modern era, was fired. He was dismissed on Jan. 6, 1976, along with head coach Ron Stewart, whose team was 15-20-4. The guys The Cat had hired to coach the team between his own gigs behind the bench, seriously, Bernie Geoffrion, Larry Popein and Stewart?

And in came John Ferguson, another mortal enemy off his days as a Canadiens policeman who tormented the Rangers, in the dual role of GM-coach the following day. He continued to torment the team by changing their uniforms and making them the fashion antecedents of the Winnipeg Jets.

So, within 10 weeks: Goodbye to Villemure, Giacomin, Park, Ratelle and Francis. One. Shockwave. After. Another.

And unlike any other season. Even 2020-21.


Lost in the uproar created by the enfeebled Department of Player Safety’s failure to suspend Wilson, along came another example of inexplicable leniency from Parros’ office, which gave teh Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere just a two-game sentence for his cross-check that sent the Penguins’ Mark Friedman into the end boards after the Pittsburgh winger had scored an empty-net goal.

George Parros
Getty Images

The puck was in the net. The play was over. Friedman began to swing away. Gostisbehere, one of two Flyers chasing, then delivered the gratuitous cross-check/shove. Not only was that dangerous, it was a breach of hockey etiquette, if not quite in the same territory as the 1993 Dale Hunter-Pierre Turgeon episode, but nevertheless entirely unacceptable.

Gostisbehere should have gotten 15 games to carry over into next season. Instead, he got two. That apparently was Parros’ statement.

And the NHLPA remains silent.


So you know what was one of the most underrated terrible trades of the Francis era? The one on Nov. 30, 1973 in which the Rangers sent Mike Murphy, Tom Williams and Sheldon Kannegiesser to the Kings for Gilles Marotte and Réal Lemieux.

Marotte, known as Captain Crunch — actually, I’m not sure if that was his nickname or just the nickname by which he was known, and derisively so, in Section 419 — was on the wrong side of three of the most lopsided deals in NHL history.

The defenseman went from Boston to Chicago in the deal for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield that merely enabled the Bruins’ Cups in 1970 and 1972, then from Chicago to Los Angeles in the trade that brought the great Bill White to the Black Hawks. And then this one.

Imagine.


The Tom Williams the Rangers dealt in the Marotte deal is not the Bruins’ Tom Williams of the 1960s, whose name carried the obligatory suffix of “the American boy,” when he was the lone Yank in the NHL.

Maybe that was just a Win Elliot Saturday Night Sports Special thing.

Question: Did you have to sit in Section 419 to know who had the nickname of, “To the boards, Billy, to the boards?”

You know, I remember writing poorly about Nick Beverley’s performance as Kings’ GM, and I am now hoping that it was not because I held it against him for being the player who came to the Rangers in exchange for Vic Hadfield.


Finally, upon reading that the Rangers’ statement generated support for Parros among NHL general managers, I am reminded that was the august body of gentlemen who once gave VP of officiating Stephen Walkom a standing ovation.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Larry Brooks

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