The New York Rangers were founded in 1926 by Tex Rickard as an expansion franchise. They are considered an “Original Six” team along with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks. In 1928 they won their first Stanley Cup, making New York the first NHL franchise in the United States to win it.
They would make the playoffs multiple times, winning the cup again in 1933 and 1940. However, after 1940, the Rangers appeared to slip into the background of the NHL. New York came close to winning the cup two more times. Once in the 1971-72 season, where they lost to the Bruins, and then again in the 1978-79 season, losing to the Canadiens. Then the 1993-94 season came, and it erased 54 years of despair and losing for the Rangers and their fans.
Since 1926, many players have worn the jersey representing New York. However, only a chosen few are the players that fans, young and old, talk about where they were when that player did something remarkable.
Make sure to check out all of our other NHL All-Time Teams.
Bill Cook (1926-1937)
Known as the “Original Ranger”, Cook joined the team in 1926, where he was the first captain of the franchise and quickly became the best right-wing in the League. Cook even scored the first goal for the franchise. Along with his brother Bun Cook and Frank Boucher formed what was known as the “Bread Line”, which quickly became one of the most prolific scoring lines in the NHL. In the 1926-27 season, he led the NHL with 33 goals and 37 points. He also led the League in the 1932-33 season with 50 points, including 20 goals. His career with 228 goals and 138 assists in 475 games and 13 goals 11 assists in 46 playoff games.
Andy Bathgate (1952-1964)
Bathgate was one of the bright spots when the Rangers franchise was in the dark. He was always in one of the top four in scoring for the League during his career. When his career ended in 1971, Bathgate was one of the all-time scoring leaders. In his time with the Rangers, he played 719 games, had 272 goals, and had 457 assists. He won the Hart Trophy in 1958 and was First All-Star Team in 1959 and 1962. Bathgate had five hat tricks in his time as a Ranger, and in the playoffs, though limited to four times as a Ranger, he has nine goals and seven assists in 22 games with 24 shots on goal. His jersey was retired in 2009.
Frank Boucher (1926-1938; 1943-1944)
Boucher joined the newly formed Rangers franchise after the Western Hockey League went out of business. He played 533 regular-season games with the team, scoring 152 goals and getting 262 assists. He was there for two Stanley Cup victories, playing in 54 post-season games with 16 goals and 20 assists. Boucher won the Lady Byng Trophy seven times in eight seasons from 1927-28 to 1934-35. In 1935, he was given the trophy to keep, and a new one was created to present to the annual winner. Boucher was NHL First All-Star Team in 1933, 1934, and 1935. In 1937 he played in the All-Star game. Boucher was a great playmaker, and his comprehension of the game allowed him to be on one of the top units in the NHL.
Phil Esposito (1975-1981)
Traded to New York in 1975 by the Bruins, Esposito spent six years with the organization. Not too long after arriving, he was named captain. Unfortunately, the Rangers were unable to make the playoffs his first two seasons, despite his level of play. During his time as a Ranger, Esposito scored 184 goals and 220 assists in 422 games in the regular season. He was in 30 playoff games with 11 goals and 16 assists. While Esposito wasn’t the most graceful or accomplished skater of his time, there was no doubt about his ability to score the puck. He is currently listed as seventh overall in the NHL for goals with 717.
Rod Gilbert (1960-1978)
He debuted with the Rangers in 1960, becoming an effective scorer in his 18 season career. Gilbert ranks first in the franchise in goals and points, playing in 1,065 regular-season games, scoring 406 goals and 615 assists. He played in 79 games in the post-season, scoring 34 goals and 33 assists. In the 1965-66 season, he had spinal fusion surgery. It could have been the end of his career, but Gilbert was able to come back. The 1971-72 season was his best, playing right wing on the “GAG (goal-a-game) Line” with Vic Hadfield and Jean Ratelle. Gilbert was awarded the Bill Masterson Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey, which could also be seen after his career ended. His number was the first to be retired, and he stayed with the organization as a community representative and became affectionately known as “Mr. Ranger”.
Adam Graves (1991-2001)
After signing with the Rangers, Graves spent ten seasons with the organization. He played 772 regular-season games, scoring 280 goals and 227 assists. He had 68 games played in the post-season with 28 goals and 16 assists. Graves is one of three players to score 50 or more points in a season. He did it in the 1993-94 season, and he held the record until Jaromír Jágr broke it in the 2005-06 season. Graves was beloved by his teammates and the fans and was voted Rangers MVP twice and Players’ Player four times. In addition, he was awarded the King Clancy award for the 1993-94 season, the NHL FoundationPlayer Award in 2000, and the Bill Masterson Trophy in 2001. New York retired No. 9 in honor of him and Bathgate in 2009.
Vic Hadfield (1961-1974)
Hadfield was a Ranger for 13 seasons starting in 1961, and in that time, he had would have seven seasons of 20 or more goals. Hadfield was a part of the “GAG” line, where he thrived on the left wing. He was the first Ranger to score 50 goals in a season and add in 56 assists; it was the best season of his career. In the 1971-72 season, not only was Hadfield a second-team All-Star, it was the same year that the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup finals. His 262 goals are fifth-most in franchise history, and you can find him in the top ten on several other franchise records.
Bryan Hextall (1936-1948)
Hextall was the first of three generations to play in the NHL. He played his entire career with the Rangers. He is best remembered for scoring the overtime goal that won the Stanley Cup in 1940. Hextall again led the NHL in goal scoring in the 1940-41 season and was tied for second in points. Hextall led the League in points in 1941–42 with 56. He missed the 1944-45 season due to issues with the authorities in Canada not allowing him to be able to travel to the United States. Hextall scored at least 20 goals seven times in his career, playing on the team’s top line with Phil Watson and Lynn Patrick. He was named to the First All-Star team for three consecutive seasons and the Second All-Star team once.
Mark Messier (1991-1997; 2000-2004)
In 1991, Messier was traded to the Rangers by the Edmonton Oilers. He put up 35 goals and 107 points to earn his second MVP award in his first season with the team. Three seasons into his tenure, the Rangers finally became champions again. Everyone has a different idea of who he is, but for the Rangers, the most memorable is his guarantee of a win. During the 1993-94 cup run, Messier guaranteed a win against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals in game 6. He delivered. He was a focused, determined player, and it came through in his style of play and the way he held himself on the ice. In his time with the Rangers, he played 698 games, scoring 250 goals and 441 assists.
Jean Ratelle (1960-1975)
Ratelle made his debut in 1961, but he finally was able to stay, starting with the 1964-65 season. He was not only an exceptional player offensively but also an excellent defensive player. Ratelle’s style of play earned him the Lady Byng Trophy and received the Bill Masterson Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award). In addition, he was the first Ranger to get 100 or more points, which happened in the 1971-72 season. He was third overall in the NHL and might have been first or second if he hadn’t have been injured. Ratelle centered the “GAG” line for the Rangers, and for the 1971-72 season, they were the most productive line, totaling 139 goals and 312 points. He is sixth all-time in games played, second in goals, and third in assists and points.
Walt Tkaczuk (1967-1981)
Tkaczuk was the first player born in Germany to appear in an NHL game, playing all 14 seasons of his career with the Rangers. He was a defensive forward and great on faceoffs. He centered what became known as the “Bulldog Line” with Bill Fairbairn and Dave Balon, who Steve Vickers would later replace. Tkaczuk would play a vital role in both runs to the cup in 1972 and 1979. He was able to hold Esposito to no goals in the 1972 finals against the Bruins. Unfortunately, his career was cut short in 1981 when he suffered an eye injury after being hit by a puck. In the short time Tkaczuk had in the NHL, he played 945 games, scoring 227 goals and 451 assists for 678 points. He’s fifth overall for both shorthanded goals and shots on goal.
Mika Zibanejad (2016-Present)
In 2016, Zibanejad was traded by the Ottawa Senators to New York. In 2019 he became the sixth player in NHL history with four-point games in each of the season’s first two games. He was the second player in Rangers history to post eight points through the first two games of a season, with the first being Gilbert. Zibanejad became the third player in Rangers history to score five goals in a game in 2020 against the Washington Capitals. While he may not be currently putting up the numbers he was before the pandemic, he is undoubtedly on his way back. The Rangers locked him up on an eight-year contract extension because they see him as one of their elite centers going forward.
Adam Fox (2019-Present)
The Calgary Flames selected Fox 66th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. However, he decided to instead head to Harvard to play for them. Calgary traded Fox’s NHL rights to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018. Carolina eventually traded them to the New York Rangers in April 2019. Fox made his debut for the Rangers, tieing for second among all NHL rookie defensemen in goals. In addition, he became the fifth rookie defenseman in franchise history to have at least 40 points in a season. At the end of the 2021 season, Fox was awarded the Norris Trophy, becoming only the second defenseman in NHL history to win the award before their third NHL season. The other? Bobby Orr. This season, he became the first Rangers defenseman to reach the 40-point mark in 40 games or fewer since Brian Leetch.
Ron Greschner (1974-1990)
After being drafted by the Rangers in 1974, Greschner spent his entire 16-year NHL career with New York. He would have four seasons with over 20 goals during his career, which is not bad for a defenseman in his era. He held the career points record by a defenseman until Leetch came along and broke it in the early ’90s. During the cup run in the 1978-79 finals, Greschner scored 12 points in 18 playoff games. During his tenure with the team, the Rangers only missed the playoffs twice. When you look at the team stats, Greschner’s fourth in games played at 982, seventh in assists with 731, and is first in penalty minutes with 1,226.
Harry Howell (1952-1969)
Howell spent 17 seasons with the Rangers and holds the team record for most games played at 1,160. He was a reliable stay-at-home defenseman despite not being what Rangers fans were expecting. Howell scored on his first shot in his NHL debut; however, he wasn’t a producer in terms of goals and assists for the team. Howell won the Norris Trophy in the 1966-67 season, and that same season he was named to the very first All-Star game. When you look at his time in New York, you wonder what his stats might have been if he hadn’t played through some tough times in the franchise’s history. Still beloved by the team and its fans, Howell’s number was finally lifted to the rafters in 2009.
Brian Leetch (1987-2003)
He was drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and would spend 17 seasons manning the Rangers’ blue line. Leetch broke the record for most points by a rookie defenseman with 71 points, including 23 goals, earning him the Calder Trophy. During the 1991-92 season, Leetch scored 22 goals and 102 points in 80 games; he was the fifth defenseman to break 100 points in a season. In addition to that, he won the Norris Trophy for his performance that year. For the 1993-94 season, most fans remember him for the post-season run to the Stanley Cup, where he scored 11 goals and 34 points. Leetch was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for Playoff MVP and, to this day, is the only American-born player to win the award.
Brad Park (1968-1975)
The Rangers drafted Park second overall in the first round of the 1966 NHL Amateur Draft. He was such a gifted defenseman that he was one of the top three in the running for the Norris Trophy. However, not winning because of Orr wasn’t necessarily bad. Park was the Rangers’ best defenseman and constantly drew comparisons to Orr. He was an excellent passer, puck-handler, and shooter, helping the “GAG” line by feeding them the puck. In his eight years with the Rangers, he had 95 goals, 283 assists, and 1320 shots on goal.
Sergei Zubov (1992-1995)
Zubov was drafted in the fifth round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers. He was excellent defensively, playing a solid game that was generally under the radar. Unfortunately, Zubov’s time with the team was short-lived, playing only three seasons before he was traded. In his short time with the team, he scored 30 goals and 126 assists. The most points Zubov ever scored was 80 during the 1993-94 cup run. He contributed 19 points during the playoff run and was one among several other Russian players to be the first to have their names engraved on the cup.
Henrik Lundqvist (2005-2020)
He was drafted 205th overall in the seventh round at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. After starting in goal for the Rangers in 2005, his career would span fifteen incredible years. Lundqvist would post 64 shutout victories, a 459-310-96 record, 2.43 Goals Against Average (GAA), and a .918 Save Percentage (SV%). He has a 61-67 record in the playoffs and posted a .921 SV%, 2.30 GAA, and ten shutouts throughout those games. Although he never had the chance to win the cup, he is still regarded as one of the best goalies in the NHL.
Mike Richter (1989-2003)
The Rangers selected Richter 28th overall in the second round of the 1985 NHL Draft. He backstopped the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup. Richter’s 1994-93 season was a career year, going 42-16-6, with five shutouts, a 2.57 GAA, and a .910 SV%. In the playoffs that year, he posted a 16-7 record with a 2.07 GAA, .921 SV%, and had four shutouts. He finished his career 301-258-73, a 2.89 GAA, a .904 save percentage, and 24 shutouts in 666 regular-season games. In the playoffs, Richter was 41-33 with a 2.68 GAA, a .909 save percentage, and nine shutouts in 76 games.
Lester Patrick (1926-1939)
In 1926, Patrick became the head coach and general manager of the newly formed New York team. He helped guide the team to two Stanly Cup wins. Patrick is the winningest coach in New York Rangers franchise history with 281 victories. He might be more well known for taking the ice as a goaltender during the playoffs in 1928. This happened because starting goaltender Lorne Chabot suffered an eye injury after being hit by the puck. The opposing team, Montreal Maroons, wouldn’t allow a player to sub as the goalie. Patrick went ahead and did it himself. He stepped down from coaching but remained the general manager for the Rangers until 1946. The Lester Patrick Trophy, awarded for outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States, is named for him. He was also the namesake of the Patrick Division, which was one of the former divisions of the NHL.
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