Connect with us

Filling The Void

Filling The Void: “Matteau!”

The New York Rangers battle the New Jersey Devils in a winner take all Game 7 of the 1994 NHL Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden

A detail shot from the Prince of Wales Trophy. by Richard Bartlaga is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Filling The Void: “Matteau!”

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

We’re several weeks into our worldwide attempt to “flatten the curve” and have been offering daily escapes into the sporting events of yesteryear through our “Filling The Void” series. We’ve looked back on the inspiring, mind-boggling and remarkable events as well as the ordinary, daily games we’ve been missing in our lives. We here at The Turf Sports sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and being safe through these trying days. We’d also like to take a moment to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of those front-line folks keeping society going – from the medical community to those stocking grocery store shelves, delivering supplies around the country or helping us all fight this virus together in some other essential, invaluable way. You are all heroes.

I grew up on Long Island (“in” Long Island?), NY. As a youngster, my parents, despite having a LOT on their plate, did their best to make sure my brothers, sister and I were exposed to as much as possible when it came to culture and sports. Though I ultimately adopted soccer as my first love, I’m still a pretty big fan of most other sports. While hockey is probably 4th on my personal depth chart, I still follow along pretty avidly. I also think that two of the most exciting words in sports are: playoff hockey. And for the REAL adrenaline junkie, I give you – OVERTIME playoff hockey.

Now – having been a Long Island kid, you’d naturally assume that I would have become a fan of the NY Islanders. After all, they played at the Nassau Coliseum only a 10-15 minute drive from my house. Couple that with the teams of the early 80s – when they won 4 consecutive Stanley Cups. Guys like Mike Bossey, Bryan Trottier, Billy Smith, Denis Potvin, and Pat LaFontaine were legends in my own back yard. Well, guess what – your assumption would be wrong.

Retired numbers hanging at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum by DanTD is in the Public Domain

I was barely 10 years old when the Islanders dynasty reached its peak. As I made my way into my teenage years it was the Rangers who caught my eye and won my heart. I blame my grandmother for turning me on to New York’s other team. The blueshirts had been pretty competitive through those years as well, but instead of the names I listed above, it was the teams of the late 1980s, guys like John Vanbiesbrouck, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur and Tony Granato that I started following. Of course, the biggest name was grandma’s favorite – Brian Leetch.

By the time the 1993-94 season rolled around, the frustration had been building for the Rangers. They were regulars in the playoffs but had also regularly failed to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Their last Finals visit ended in defeat to Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins in the 1972 season. That following season also happened to be when the New York Islanders were born. Watching their dynasty happen only made it more painful. Thankfully, the Rangers turnaround happened quickly. Not only did they make it back to the playoffs – they did it with the best record in the league. They were the only squad to win more than 50 games. After sweeping the rival Islanders and pretty handily disposing of the Washington Capitals, they took the ice against the 2nd best team in the NHL that season – the New Jersey Devils – in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Today: NY Rangers vs. NJ Devils -Game 7 – Eastern Conference Finals

There’s a phrase we all hear growing up that we only learn to appreciate more as we get older. It starts…. “back in the day”. For those younger folks out there, this game is a prime example of what hockey was like “back in the day”. This was before the “trapezoid” was a thing. A time when there was only one referee on the ice. A time when Craig McTavish was still allowed to play without wearing a helmet (the last one to do so). It was a beautiful thing to watch. Did I mention that this game had two goaltenders play out of their minds? Mike Richter – who had finally landed the starting job for the Rangers, and Martin Brodeur – who was a rookie (he’d made one brief appearance in the playoffs a couple of years earlier).

Here are a few significant numbers related to this particular game – little tidbits I found interesting as I was re-watching the ESPN Broadcast in the link above:

  • 1940 – the last year the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. It became a taunt of opposing crowds to remind the Rangers of their drought – and there’s also quite a superstitious history tied to it that I wasn’t aware of until now.
  • 7.7 – The number of seconds left in regulation before the Devils tied it all up, sending it to OT for the third time in the series
  • 2 – The number of penalties called throughout the entire game. The ref really let the guys play, which was awesome. It’s also the number of Rangers bloodied during the game. Lastly – it’s Brian Leetch’s number (thanks Grandma).

Lastly – I mentioned earlier how exciting playoff hockey is. If you still had any doubt, I give you the call of New York’s own, Howie Rose, from the radio broadcast on WFAN 660AM that night:

See You Tomorrow. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Wash Your Hands.

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Editor’s Picks

Latest Articles