While it has been barely over 24 hours since the Pittsburgh Penguins secured their third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history and first since 1992, very disheartened and envious New York Rangers fans can at least hang their hat on what happened exactly 15 years ago today.
The moment was June 14, 1994 at 10:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time. The site was Madison Square Garden in New York City. The final second had ticked off the game clock after Craig MacTavish had warded off Pavel Bure in the last faceoff to set off a massive celebration of ultimate victory.
The Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals in one of the most watched hockey games on television in the modern broadcasting era. Whether you saw it locally on MSG Network or nationally on ESPN or CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, it would be the team's crowning moment of a long six-month journey. The quest was complete. The 54-year curse was no more. Mark Messier as captain led the charge in slaying that dragon which haunted the franchise for more than a half century.
The four members of that championship team who have their numbers retired were the four most important reasons why the mission was a success. In addition to Messier, Adam Graves scored a then team record-breaking 52 goals during the regular season, Mike Richter made a penalty shot save against Bure in Game 4 and Brian Leetch was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable playoff player, the first American to receive the honor. Their teammates also played vital roles in an historic trimuph where its memory will live forever.
As the Rangers players each hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads, there was a sign a fan held up that night. It stood out among the capacity crowd of 18,200 fans (and God knows how many more actually in the building) which read "now I can die in peace". Enough said.
The sweep of the hated archrival New York Islanders began their playoff campaign. Next, it was the Washington Capitals. Then, the epic series in which their other hated archrival in the New Jersey Devils took them to the absolute limit before Stephane Matteau would score one of the greatest goals in franchise history just to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. And finally, foiling the Canucks' Cinderella run and denying them the chance to make this night the complete opposite of what it was. Had Vancouver won instead, it would've been one of the darkest days ever.
Thankfully, the night the Rangers won it all, it would go down as one of the greatest in New York City sports history. Fifteen years have passed since then, but at least it is always worth looking back and remembering the very best of times, something seldom seen with this franchise.
Rangers fans can tune into MSG Network tonight at 7:00 PM Eastern Time for a special edition of Hockey Night Live! for a special look back at the 1994 season. They can also read this article from the official team web site called "Stanley Cup Finals Flashback: June 14, 1994".
Here are two video clips to enjoy. First, the MSG SportsDesk pregame segment. Remember Bob Page and his commentating style?
video courtesy: MSG Network
And of course, THE moment...
video courtesy: NHL Productions