When Sunday Nights Meant Rangers HockeyPosted: February 22, 2009
Back in the day, Sunday nights were reserved for New York Rangers hockey.
At least in my attic growing up. In the 60s, the Rangers played the vast majority of their home games on Sunday and Wednesday nights. There was no such thing as cable TV in those days, and home games were blacked out.
So my brother Jimbo and I would listen in on the radio as Marv Albert (Kick save…AND A BEAUTY…by Giacomin) did the play by play, accompanied by the Big Whistle, former NHL referee Bill Chadwick.
The Rangers weren’t very good in those days, but they were getting better. Led by Harry Howell, Ed Giacomin, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert, they made the playoffs in 1967 for the first time in five years, The Rangers went on to nine successive playoff appearances, highlighted by the 1972 team that lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.
Watching those games on the radio brings back great memories, like Reggie Fleming’s late goal against the Canadiens, shutouts by Giacommin, and Red Berenson hitting the post in overtime against the Habs in 1967. Can still hear that ping.
The Original Six
And remember, Before the 1967-68 campaign, there were only six teams in the league, the Original Six — New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto. Familiarity bred contempt.
You got to know the players, both Rangers and opponents. You got to know the teams. And you got to appreciate Marv, one of the all-time great hockey play-by-play radio announcers.
I went to my first Rangers game in December 1967 against the Bruins. My Dad took me, my brother, and my friend Mike, now a winemaker, to the old Madison Square Garden. The Rangers lost, 4-0. (1)
Tonight, the Rangers will honor two members of the team from the 50s and 60s — Hall of Famers Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell — by retiring their jersey numbers.
Bathgate and Howell joined the team, a pair of 19-year-old rookies, in the same season, 1952. I remember Howell at the late stages of his career, but by the time I started paying attention to hockey Bathgate had been traded.
Bathgate Traded to Toronto
On Feb. 22, 1964, Bathgate, along with Don McKenney, was traded to the Maple Leafs for Dick Duff, Bob Nevin, Arnie Brown, Bill Collins and Rod Seiling, Bathgate scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for Toronto later that season as the Leafs knocked out Detroit in seven games.
A right winger, Bathgate played 11 seasons and part of a 12th with the Rangers before being traded.
Bathgate scored 349 goals and added 624 assists during his career. During his time with the Rangers, he won the Hart Trophy in 1959 when he scored 40 goals and 48 assists. Bathgate twice led the league in assists during that span, and tied Chicago’s Bobby Hull for the scoring title with 84 points in 1962 (Hull won the Art Ross Trophy on a tiebreaker by scoring 50 goals; Bathgate led the league with 58 assists that season). (2)
Howell started his career with the Rangers in 1952, the same year as Bathgate, and played 17 full seasons with the Blueshirts before being traded to the Oakland Seals for cash following the 1969 season. He played more games in a Ranger uniform — 1160 — than any other player.
Howell Wins Norris Trophy
Howell’s best year was 1967, when he won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL. Howell scored a career-high 12 goals that year and added 28 assists for 40 points.
Boston’s magnificent Bobby Orr would start a run of eight successive Norris awards the following season.
Both Howell and Bathgate finished their careers in the WHA, Howell with the Calgary Cowboys in 1976 and Bathgate with the Vancouver Blazers a year earlier, coming out of a three-year retirement for one last shot.
Both Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell took their best shot in New York.
(1) I got my revenge two years later. In my first Rangers game at the new Madison Square Garden I saw the Rangers rout the Bruins, 9-0.
(2) The Rangers last scoring leader with Bryan Hextall, who recorded 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 1942.