Rangers to honor Graves, Bathgate, Howell

For much of the time when I was growing up and watching the New York Rangers play at Madison Square Garden, only one jersey – Rod Gilbert’s No. 7 – hung from the rafters of the World’s Most Famous Sporting Arena.
Others since have gotten their rightful due. In 11 seasons, Eddie Giacomin (1) became the franchise record-holder with 49 shutouts, and his 266 career wins was eventually broken by Mike Richter (35), who along with Brian Leetch (2) and Mark Messier (11) helped end a 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994.

In February, two more numbers will be raised to honor three players. Adam Graves and Andy Bathgate will have the No. 9 honored, soon to be followed by No. 3 for Harry Howell.

There’s litte doubt about the roles Messier, Richter and Leetch played on the Rangers’ last Cup winner. Messier was the no-nonsense talker, guaranteeing a win. Leetch helped man the blue line, and when opposing players did get in, Richter made sure the puck stayed out.

Graves helped to rewrite the club’s record book, and his influence was felt off the ice as well.

The Rangers’ top goal-scorer during their most recent championship season was not Messier or Leetch. Not Larmer. Nyet to Kovalev. It was Graves who broke Vic Hadfield’s long-standing single-season mark by scoring 52 of New York’s 299 goals.

A two-time team MVP, Graves would score his 50th that season against the Edmonton Oilers – the team he left as a free agent to join New York in 1991. In 10 seasons on Broadway, Graves moved into third on the club list with 280 goals and 10th with 507 points.

Graves has also won several Rangers’ awards in recognition of his contribution to the community, including the Steven McDonald Award five times, and the Rangers Fan Club Ceil Saidel Memorial Award three times.

"Adam Graves is one of the most beloved players to ever don a New York Rangers sweater," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "Off the ice, there isn’t a finer person. His effort and production as a hockey player was nothing short of triumphant and, even today, his dedication to the community is incomparable.

“We are proud to have Adam join his fellow 1994 Stanley Cup Champion teammates Mike Richter, Mark Messier and Brian Leetch, as well as legends Rod Gilbert and Eddie Giacomin, as his number is raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden."

Bathgate played 12 seasons with New York from 1952-64, spending the last three as its captain. He was the first player in franchise history with a 40-goal season in 1958-59 en route to winning the Hart Trophy as the league MVP, and is fourth in career goals (272), assists (457) and points (729).

An eight-time All-Star and four-time team MVP, Bathgate also holds the Rangers’ franchise record with a 10-game goal-streak set during the 1962-63 campaign. He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 1964. Bathgate also played with the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins before retiring in 1970.

In 18 seasons, Bathgate appeared in 1,069 games, tallying 349 goals and 624 assists.

Considered one of New York’s most popular players, Howell played for the Rangers from 1952-1969, and was their captain from 1955-57. He still holds the franchise record for games played (1,160), is fifth on the team’s all-time list in assists (263) and points (345) by a defenseman.

A six-time All-Star while with New York, Howell won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman in 1967. He finished his career out West, playing with the Oakland Seals and Los Angeles Kings before retiring after the 1973 season.

“Rangers history is enriched by players like Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell, who laid the foundation for what a Rangers player should be,” Sather said. "They will now take their rightful place in The Garden rafters alongside those players who have carried their tradition throughout the years.”

Who's next then?

Historically, the Rangers have always had great goaltenders - Dunc Wilson, Doug Soetaert and Dave Tataryn notwithstanding. But in only three NHL seasons, Henrik Lundqvist already ranks seventh on the club with 104 wins, and will likely move into fourth in shutouts this season - he has 17 and should leapfrog Lorne Chabot, Gump Worsley, Chuck Rayner and Richter.

What? You think they might raise No. 30 for Gilles Villemure?

1 comment:

The Girl in Black said...

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Please come back. Your fan club will still read you. I'll still auto-save your posts, in case you want to post them later. I still love and need you.