This Sunday, Oct. 27, Madison Square Garden will be the site of a historic hockey doubleheader, featuring the Rangers and the Bruins of the past and the present. The afternoon kicks off with the Rangers Alumni Classic, featuring legends of the two Original Six rivals, including the Rangers' Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Brad Richards, and Boston's Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, any many more. In the nightcap, the current Rangers and Bruins face off in their first meeting of their 93rd season as NHL rivals.
Tickets for the Rangers Alumni Classic begin at $20, and proceeds support the NY Rangers Assist Program, dedicated to growing Youth Hockey, and access to it for everyone, in the Tri-State Area. For tickets and for more information, please visit newyorkrangers.com/alumniclassic
Dave Maloney broke into the NHL at 18 years old, younger by a few months even than Kaapo Kakko. Called up from the minors in Providence to a Rangers team decimated by injury, he had his NHL debut on Dec. 18, 1974, in a rout of the North Stars at Madison Square Garden. But it wasn't until one night later that Maloney feels he got his true introduction into the NHL.
"When I got called up my first game was against Minnesota, but my second game was against the Bruins in Boston Garden," Maloney said in an interview with NYRangers.com. "And maybe this is just the way memory works over the years, but I'll tell you what I can still picture: I remember Bobby picking up the puck in his end" - that would be Bobby Orr - "it was the first period, and he came through that tiny little neutral zone in Boston. Everybody was picked up, right? So it was just me and Bobby, 1-on-1. I was 18 years old. And he put a move on me - bam, he was by me, but whatever move he put on it made his mates offside. Thank God."
Orr, about eight years Maloney's senior, knew the kid from back in Ontario, where Maloney would work at Orr's hockey camps. "He came back after the whistle and gave me a little tap on the rear end. That was my welcome into the National Hockey League, that distinct moment there," Maloney said. "That was Bobby Orr saying, 'Okay, you're here now. You've got a lot to learn.'"
Maloney said during the interview that "I am not the most nostalgic guy," and yet the memories came flooding back all the same as the former Ranger captain gets set to take part in the Rangers Alumni Classic, part of a one-of-a-kind Sunday of hockey heritage in New York that begins with a Rangers-Bruins Alumni game in the afternoon, and continues later in the evening with the 650th regular-season meeting between the Blueshirts and the B's.
Fans coming out to the Garden to see the New York and Boston alums square off will support the New York Rangers Assist program, and help grow opportunities and access to Youth Hockey in the Tri-State Area.
For Maloney, seeing those Rangers and Bruins take the ice on Sunday afternoon will offer a walk down memory lane, as well as a glimpse down the road not taken. Maloney grew up in Kitchener, Ontario; he rooted for the Bruins as a kid because growing up he would go watch Orr play as a junior in Oshawa. When it came time for Maloney to enter the Draft, the Bruins reached out to him, and by the time May 1974 rolled around, Maloney thought for all the world that he would be on his way to Boston.
"The Bruins called a day or two before the Amateur Draft in '74. They wanted to know, if I was drafted would I turn pro," Maloney said. "That seemed like how it would turn out. And so, but for fate, I may very well have ended up as a Bruin. It's just that the Rangers suddenly jumped in and took me before they could."
The Rangers snagged Maloney with the 14th pick in that Draft; waiting at No. 18, the Bruins settled for Don Larway, who went to play in the World Hockey Association instead. Maloney, of course, played 605 games in a Blueshirt, and in 1978 became the youngest captain in Rangers history. He was playing in Providence in the AHL along with Joe Zanussi when Zanussi was "the fifth player" in the epic Park and Ratelle for Esposito and Vadnais trade between the Rangers and Bruins. He was the captain of the Rangers during the infamous Christmas Eve-Eve game in '79 when Bruins players scaled the glass at the Garden to brawl with fans.
And he helped bring the team within three wins of that elusive Stanley Cup during the magical spring run in 1979 - which almost was, many would say should have been, another seminal moment in the Rangers-Bruins rivalry, but which today stands for Maloney as another what-if moment, another road not taken.
After the Rangers had knocked off the Islanders in six games in the unforgettable '79 semifinal, Maloney recalls sitting in a restaurant in Old Greenwich, Conn., watching a TV feed of Game 7 of the other semifinal, between the Bruins and Canadiens. ("There was no cable or anything back then, I don't know who the heck was showing it," he said.) The winner of that seventh game would host the Rangers for the opener of the '79 Cup Final, and once again, Maloney thought for all the world that a trip to Beantown was imminent.
"I was watching and thinking, 'Well, okay, we're going to Boston,'" he said.
But after leading 3-1 after two periods, then 4-3 with time winding down, the Bruins committed their notorious bench minor for too many men with 2:34 remaining. The rest of the story is bitterly remembered in Boston: Guy Lafleur tied it with 1:14 left to play, Yvon Lambert won it at 9:33 of overtime.
"Sure enough, it become Montreal," Maloney said. "But you know when that happened, I remember thinking that's okay, because we beat Montreal in the regular season three out of four times that year. At that time we're thinking, We don't have to play the Big Bad Bruins, we've got a chance against the Canadiens because we felt we had handled them well that year, and could handle them.
"But then after the fact, unbeknownst to us at the time, in talking to Phil (Esposito) after, I guess Boston was all banged-up. Park was hurt, Ratelle was hurt. It's like they were all playing hurt. And they had just been through that seven-game series. When it became Montreal, the matchup seemed to be better. But then you kind of get the inside skinny, because Phil was aware of how banged-up the Bruins were.
"So, yeah, you can't help but think of, maybe our hockey life would have had a different stamp on it had Don Cherry not taken the too many men on the ice call."
Maloney continues to put his stamp on Rangers Hockey as a member of the Rangers Alumni Board, and of course with his work as the team's radio analyst. On Sunday he will serve as a Rangers coach in the Alumni Classic, alongside his ex-teammates Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle and Brad Park. He wants the event to be a success for NY Rangers Assist and for NY-area Youth Hockey, and is looking forward to seeing old mates and rivals and Ranger legends back on the rink. And unlike a typical Rangers-Bruins game during his career, he wants both sides to have a good time in this one.
Still, the ex-captain of the Blueshirts said, "I want us to win."