The 1993-94 New York Rangers were reunited at Madison Square Garden on Friday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stanley Cup championship that ended 54 years of waiting.
There was plenty of reflection about how they collectively rose above the pressure of ending the drought.
"We were galvanized with the belief of what was possible," Mark Messier, the captain of the 1993-94 team, said during the ceremony, fighting back tears. "We embraced the challenge. I said to the team earlier today that I would never refer to these guys behind me as a group. We weren't a group, we weren't even a team. We were a family.
"We're very proud of what we were able to accomplish. What made us special was the way we connected with the Rangers fans and the city."
Seated in unison behind them were the 2018-19 Rangers, watching in wonder and listening to Sam Rosen and John Davidson, the New York television broadcast team during that season, wax poetic about an unforgettable run.
Davidson, now president of hockey operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets, ended his remarks by referencing a famous sign shown on television moments after the Rangers won the Cup for the first time since 1940. It said, "Now I can die in peace."
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One by one they were introduced, starting with general manager Neil Smith. Each walked a red carpet between two lines of Rangers season ticket holders from that season.
The Garden paid tribute to the late Alexander Karpovtsev, whose wife and daughter were in attendance, and members of the '94 family who also died, including Smith's son Viktor.
Esa Tikkanen and Eddie Olczyk responded to loud ovations with the "heave-ho" signal; the phrase was a rallying cry throughout the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Players were introduced in ascending numerical order, including No. 35, goalie Mike Richter, who was honored by current New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a custom mask worn during the game later Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, before alternate captains Kevin Lowe, Adam Graves, Steve Larmer and 1994 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brian Leetch were introduced.
Messier was the last player to walk out, turning the cheers up a few decibels.
Messier mentioned coach David Quinn and the current Rangers, who met with the '94 champions before the ceremony. Quinn's intent was to make sure his players understood what it will take to win the Cup and how meaningful it would be to do it in New York.
"We turn our attention to the team now," Messier said. "I said to the team before, 'We're watching you, we love your careers, we love your direction, we want to share the Stanley Cup with you.'"