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New book details Rangers-Devils 1994 series

by Mike Battaglino

Everyone knows that New York Rangers captain Mark Messier made "The Guarantee." Few might know how Messier felt right afterward.

A new book, "Battle on the Hudson," sheds some light on that.

"He looked at me, and there was a bit of concern on his face," Kevin Lowe says in the book, written by Associated Press executive hockey editor Tim Sullivan.

"It was one of those rare Messier moments. He turned to me and said, 'Well, I think I may have just created a bit of a stir for tomorrow.'

"And I didn't know what he was talking about. Like I said, there was a look on his face that I didn't often see. So, I responded, 'What did you say?'

Mark Messier guaranteed a Game 6 win against the New Jersey Devils during the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.

"And he told me, 'Well, I kind of guaranteed that we'd win.' And we looked at each other for a second, one of those silent pauses … and then we both just chuckled."

The book is subtitled "The Devils, The Rangers and the NHL's Greatest Series Ever." Messier's proclamation ("We'll win") -- made the day prior to Game 6 with his Rangers facing elimination against the New Jersey Devils -- and follow-through hat trick helped push that 1994 Eastern Conference Finals into hockey immortality.

But there was so much more to the seven-game series, which played more like nine games due to all of the overtime periods. The book establishes the cross-river rivalry, ignited by a contentious 1992 first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series won by the Rangers, through a game-by-game examination of the 1994 rematch.

Strategy, important moments and off-ice controversies are placed amid the New York media circus that accompanied the Rangers' attempt to win their first championship since "19-40!"

All of the key figures provide recollections -- Messier, Stephane Matteau (who wrote the foreword), Mike Keenan, Neil Smith, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter from the Rangers; Lou Lamoriello, Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur, Ken Daneyko and Bernie Nicholls from the Devils.

The media who covered the series across two memorable weeks in May also are well represented -- Mike Emrick, Gary Thorne, Barry Melrose, Bill Clement and Howie Rose.

Leetch, in particular, is thoughtful, insightful, and in some cases, funny.

Asked about his reaction to Matteau's Game 7-winning goal in double overtime, Leetch admits at first he wasn't sure the puck actually went in.

"I looked over at Esa [Tikkanen] who was at the front of the net, and I saw him jump up. But he was a goofy guy, too, and you just never knew with him what he was doing, so I didn't trust that," Leetch says.

"But then, finally, to hear the roar of the crowd, you knew it."

Sullivan, speaking at a gathering of hockey fans in Fair Haven, N.J., to benefit Hockey Fights Cancer, said some of the Rangers, despite winning, were a bit reluctant to revisit that series, while the Devils, who suffered the heartbreaking loss, were more than eager.

"But I would say, once we got going … their memories about all of it were razor sharp," Sullivan said. "At its core, both sides will never forget it, and they know what it meant to both sets of fans.

"The 'Greatest Series Ever' that's in the title, that came from them."

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