Besides my wedding day and the birth of my three beautiful children (my wife reads this blog), one of the greatest times of my life was the spring of 1994.
I was a senior in high school, where my only cares in the world were getting drunk, getting laid and the Rangers ending their 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
Being a kid who grew up on Long Island as a Rangers fan in the midst of the Islanders “Drive for Five,” I became accustomed to my classmates ridiculing me with the chants of “1940.”
Unfortunately, that god forsaken date followed me from elementary school, through middle school and ultimately to the final months of high school.
Yes, I had to endure the embarrassment of a historic Stanley Cup void at Madison Square Garden for virtually my entire adolescence. It was brutal.
The 1993-94 season gave me hope as the Rangers finished the regular season as the President Trophy winners. However, I had seen this script before. Just two years earlier the Rangers were also atop the NHL at the end of the regular season, but flamed out in epic proportion after Adam Graves’ slash heard round the world on Mario Lemieux catapulted the Penguins to their second straight Stanley Cup.
Ironically, the first round of the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs gave myself and the handful of other Rangers fans in my high school, whose fathers bled blue and refused to allow their sons to get caught up in the intoxication of the Islanders dynasty, the opportunity to gain some revenge for all those years of being mocked.
For each game of that glorious blood bath of a series, the rivalry was not only on the ice at MSG and Nassau Coliseum, but also in the living rooms and dens of my friends’ parents’ house. It was a different location every night, with each goal igniting a drunken battle royal that led to more than one bloody nose.
While my Islander fan friends had been quieted for the time being, 1940 still remained an anchor around my neck.
After another quick & painless series against the Capitals, one in which I barely remember, the only thing that stood in the way of the Rangers and a chance to play for the Stanley Cup was the Devils and their rookie goaltender Martin Brodeur.
With this being the final spring of my high school career you could imagine the amount of parties going on at that time. And while my classmates indulged in the usual juvenile debauchery you’d expect, my band of Blueshirt brothers searched out a television set amidst the drunken revelers to watch the Rangers attempt to earn the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Don’t worry, when the games were over, we full ensconced ourselves in the festivities.
When six games and a Messier guarantee forced a Game 7, a small group of us got together at my future best man’s house. We all counted down the final minute of what seemed to be a Stanley Cup Final clinching 1-0 Rangers victory. That was until Valeri Zelepukin gave us a punch to the gut with 7.7 remaining. We were stunned. We stood there in silence for a couple of minutes. The curse had done it again. Or not. The suffering of that moment only made the pile-on that ensued in my friend’s living room after Stephane Matteau slipped one past Brodeur that much more legendary.
The Rangers had one more hill to climb.
That win transformed all my Islander fan friends into Pavel Bure fanatics overnight. The Rangers couldn’t win. 1940 was all they had.
The next two weeks were an amazing time. The first two Stanley Cup games I’d ever witnessed involving the Rangers were with my father, who had halted my inevitable path to becoming an Islanders fan all those years ago. And then when the series switched to Vancouver, my friends and I took the LIRR into Manhattan to watch at the viewing parties the Rangers had set-up in Madison Square Garden on the Jumbotron. It’s where I watched Mike Richter’s career defining save against Bure.
But, as is always the case with this team, a Game 7 was needed. I again found myself at the home of my future best man. However, instead of just a small group of Rangers fans, a large contingent of Islanders fans were in attendance begging for 1940 to live on.
With the Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead in the final minute and the icing happy linesman prolonging our suffering, we all anticipated another Zelepukin knife to the heart. But Craig MacTavish won the final faceoff and the raucous celebration in my friend’s living room erupted. When we finally looked up, my friend’s house was empty. Every Islanders fan had quietly walked out with their heads down.
In the euphoria of the win, I stripped down naked and chased after all the dejected Fishstick fans screaming “1940″ at the top of my lungs as they retreated to their cars . It was a liberating feeling.
That was June 14, 1994. The very next morning was the final day of my senior year. It took 12 years of ridicule and shame, but for the first time I was able to walk into school at any level and say the Rangers were Stanley Cup Champions. Even if it was for only one day.
I would love to hear your experiences from that magical spring back in 1994 in the comments section.