It’s hard to believe, but 16 years ago this evening, a 54 year old “curse” was lifted. My beloved New York Rangers became Stanley Cup Champions. Where were you when it happened?
I was living in Northern California and was coming home from work at 5pm. I had videotaped the game and was hoping to watch it later that evening. But the local sports radio station (KNBR in San Francisco) took the unusual step of airing the game live.
I listened intently on the bus going home to hear Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch score the first goal of game seven to give the blue shirts a 1-0 lead. Another goal by Adam Graves gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead at the end of the 1st period.
Canucks captain Trevor Linden, however, silenced the home crowd with a short-handed goal early in the second period to make it 2-1.
I got home and immediately turned on the television and watched the rest of the second period. There was no way I was going to miss this one. I had waited all my life for this moment and I wanted to see history being made.
It’s a good thing because Mark Messier restored order with a third Ranger goal to make it 3-1.
But early in the third, Trevor Linden would make it close again with a goal to make it 3-2. It would become the longest 15 minutes of my life. Rangers goaltender Mike Richter fended off shot after shot after shot, keeping the one goal deficit.
One play by Vancouver Canucks, forward Nathan LaFayette frightened all Manhattan, wobbling a loose puck off the post with five minutes left. Another by the Canucks Martin Gelnas just barely squeaked by Richter, but didn’t have enough muster to get past the goal line.
It was nerve racking. But the Rangers hung on for dear life. Finally, after decades of heartbreak, after so many years of failure, the waiting was over!
As the Garden erupted in tears and cheers, the site of Lord Stanley’s appearance was like a long lost son or daughter coming home from war. Perhaps the sign held by a fan at Madison Square Garden that night, which read “Now I Can Die in Peace”, best explained how fans, like myself, felt when 54 years of heartbreak melted away into one glorious moment.
Thank you, Mark Messier and the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers for making it happen!