|Adam Graves' leadership in 1994 was a big part of the Rangers' overall success. |
June 14, 1994.
Just the mere mention of that date is sure to brighten the day of any true Rangers fan.
It is also a day that is seared into the memory of Adam Graves, who was one of 20 players wearing the home team’s sweater that night as the Rangers ended 54 years of frustration by raising Lord Stanley’s Cup following a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of an epic Stanley Cup Finals series at Madison Square Garden.
“What I remember first about that night was how packed The Garden was during warmups, and how loud the fans were,” says Graves. “The fans kept chanting ‘We Want the Cup!’ My heart was just racing.”
Graves was in the starting lineup that night for the Rangers. And he will never forget the sheer electricity that filled MSG when he stood next to Mark Messier during the National Anthem.
“You couldn’t hear the anthem at all, that’s how loud the fans were,” recalls Graves. “And then I remember just getting chills when I heard (Frank) Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ right before the opening face off. It was incredible.”
>If Graves thought the crowd was at a fever pitch prior to the first drop of the puck, he certainly witnessed The Garden Faithful in a frenzy 11:08 later when Brian Leetch beat Kirk McLean with a bad-angle shot from left wing to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
And the sound was ratcheted up to incredibly high decibel levels a few minutes later when Graves himself delivered a huge goal to put the Rangers up 2-0. Graves had potted nine goals prior to his Game 7 tally, but none in the previous 10 matches dating back to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils.
But Graves, a big-game player taking part in the biggest game of them all, delivered when the Rangers needed him to the most. Assisted by Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov, Graves scored a power-play goal from the slot at 14:45 of the first, beating McLean to the upper-left corner of the cage, to send the MSG crowd into delirium.
Though the Rangers never lost the lead, the Canucks never quit either. Trevor Linden scored a shorthanded goal early in the second period to cut the Rangers’ advantage in half.
With great scoring chances at both ends of the ice and the tension building by the minute, it was time for one team or the other to create the defining moment of Game 7. And, again, Graves would be right in the middle of that moment once it arrived.
With the Rangers on the power play, Graves again was battling for position in the slot, where he sent a shot on goal that was stopped by McLean. But Messier converted the rebound at 13:29 of the second, with Graves earning the primary assist, for what ultimately would be the Stanley Cup-winning goal.
It wouldn’t be easy -- as Linden’s second goal of the contest early in the third period cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2 -- but Graves and his teammates were not to be denied, and that ever-elusive Cup was finally at home on Broadway.
For Graves it would be his second Stanley Cup Championship -- having also been a part of the 1990 Edmonton Oilers Cup-winning squad -- but there was a unique special quality about this title.
“To help deliver the Cup to these great, passionate fans is something I will never forget,” says Graves. “It was an amazing experience, an amazing time to be a Ranger.”
And it could not have happened without a clutch goal and a huge assist -- along with the incredible leadership -- of Adam Graves.