Gameday at the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden, now demolished. Photo via Outside the Garden
In their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since their victory in 1994, the New York Rangers are battling for their fifth Cup since the inception of the National Hockey League. One of the “Original Six” teams, the Rangers along with the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks were founded during the 1920s as hockey began to garner attention in America. The president of Madison Square Garden, George Lewis Rickard was awarded a franchise in 1926 to compete with the New York Americans who shared the Garden with them until their demise in 1942.
The Madison Square Garden of the time was located at 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, and was in fact the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden. The first two were located at Madison Square Park (hence its name), one with a circus-like architecture due to the influence of P.T. Barnum and the second Moorish-influenced, designed by Stanford White.
Team Photo, 1950-51 season, photo via The National Hockey League
By far more popular compared to the New York Americans, the Rangers were originally run by Hall of Fame manager Conn Smythe until a falling out with Rickard’s liaison Col. John S. Hammond. He was replaced by another legendary hockey figure, Lester Patrick while the Rangers won the American division in their first year.
New York Rangers versus the New York Americans, Madison Square Garden, 1937, photo via Puckstruck
Rangers players were seen as celebrities in the Roaring 20s and earned the nickname the “Broadway Blueshirts,” which sticks to this day. The Rangers were the first American team to win in the NHL era, with Lester Patrick suiting up for goaltender for two periods in game two after starter Lorne Chabot left with an eye injury. Through this time, the Rangers and boxing matches would be the main draw of the Garden.
“The Bread Line” of Bill and Bun Cook and Frank Boucher from the 1920’s, photo via the Hockey Hall of Fame
The Rangers would win the Stanley Cup again in 1933 and 1940 before beginning a long stretch of frustration. The “Curse of 1940” would plague the team for over 50 years and was believed to have begun when management burned the mortgage of Madison Square Garden in the Cup.
Goalie Jack McCartan wearing no mask during the 1960’s, photo via Go Iron Pigs
In 1950, due to a circus at Madison Square Garden, the team was forced to play all seven games in Toronto against the Detroit Red Wings. They would make it to the finals twice in the 1970s, losing to two dynasties in the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.
New York Rangers versus the Toronto Maple Leafs 1948, photo via The Passion of Former Days
Through the 1970s to the 90s, Madison Square Garden (at Penn Station) would host three NHL All Star Games. Finally, helmed by head coach Mike Keenan, the Rangers would reclaim the Stanley Cup in the 1994-94 season through the play of Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov. To this day, the Rangers remain one of the most storied and respected franchises of the National Hockey League.
Rangers great and Hall of Famer Frank Boucher, photo via Greatest Hockey Legends
The location of Madison Square Garden at Penn Station is by no means set in stone either, with MSG limited to a 10 year permit just last year. The Municipal Art Society has called for the relocation of Madison Square Garden to enable Penn Station to grow into a world-class train station instead of being hampered by limitations of the existing usage. Continue to see renderings by architectural firms of what a new Penn Station could look like, from a design challenge last year.
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