Let's admit it Rangers fans, it's been a very strange few months. I never thought I'd see the day Blueshirt Nation turned on Ryan Callahan. He was the heart and soul of the team. The one guy we could count on to bring his lunch pail every night and leave it all out on the ice. When the Rangers needed a boost he threw a big hit. When they needed a clutch goal, he obliged. And oh those blocked shots. He was the master.
I still remember when he exploded onto the scene in just his fourth NHL game in 2007 with a two goal, one fight performance against the Bruins on St. Patrick's Day wearing #43 and playing on a line with Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery.
He wasn't a big guy, but you could tell he had a big heart. After that successful first call-up with the Rangers which ended in the Conference Semifinals against the Sabres (Drury!), big things were expected from Callahan the next season. But as is the case with most young players, he struggled mightily and was sent to Hartford to rediscover his game as well as his confidence. This is when I first knew the Rangers had something special, because instead of sulking, he used it as motivation, worked on his game and was recalled back to the big club after scoring 15 points (7g, 8a) in just 11 games. And he never looked back.
Throughout the years, he earned Rangers fans' respect with his hard-nosed play…
And he earned our accolades with his skill…
Injuries were always a concern with the former captain, but he never used it as an excuse and it sure as hell didn't stop him from captaining the Rangers to within two victories of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.
He connected with the MSG Faithful in a way I haven't seen since Mark Messier was running things on Broadway. A home grown player who elevated himself to the captaincy based on blood, sweat and tears. You can't ask for anything more as a fan.
While we all might be feeling some anger and mixed emotions towards Callahan with the way things ended, you can be assured that he'll be missed. If you think it's bad when Rangers fans bemoan the loss of Brandon Prust's toughness at the first sign of struggles, just wait till you experience the fan hatred towards Glen Sather for trading away our beloved captain after the Rangers lose two in a row. Intangibles folks, intangibles.
So, from all of us here at The New York Rangers Blog, I just wanted to thank our former captain for eight amazing seasons and a ton of memories.
This video from the incomparable AJ Castiglia encapsulates what Callahan meant to the Rangers and their fans…