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In Their Words: 1994 Stanley Cup Heroes Reflect on Championship Run

by Jess Isner

On Friday, Feb. 8, the Rangers will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion team, presented by Chase. Prior to the evening's events, members of the coaching staff and team gathered for a panel in which they discussed their memories of that incredible championship run and the legacy they have left in New York and beyond. 

Below, see some of the highlights from Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mike Richter, Mike Keenan and Neil Smith.  

"You can only win if nothing's left on the table from everybody. It just requires that much attention and it's that difficult, so when you see the kind of focus and discipline and buy-in for the sheer betterment of the team from every player - the only thing they care about is winning the game, and they're going to sacrifice everything - that's hard to forget. And it's gratifying. You're grateful that they were able to do that, and we were able to do that together, for each other. Those kinds of experiences are what really bond teams that do go on and play more, and it's what bonds their relationships when you've seen someone give everything they have for the team. To me, it was everything. This team, this family, these brothers, we did that for each other. In my estimation, that's one of the key reasons we were able to overcome some of the hurdles that we had during the regular season and in the playoffs and being down to the Devils, is that we we really had that really undeniable belief in each other that we could get it done when the chips were against us. Sure enough, that's what happened. Twenty-five years later, looking at these guys and remembering what they sacrificed - it's amazing, actually." - 1994 Rangers Captain Mark Messier on what it feels like to look back at the championship run through the lens of 25 years

"I think even for me, I'm like, 'How the heck did we do that?' Because when you think about it and all this time has passed, to me, it seems like people are more and more appreciative and respectful of what a great job these guys did. It's the impossible dream, and it was back then, too, but I think it's grown and it's just great to have that memory to live with." - 1994 Rangers GM Neil Smith, reflecting on winning the Stanley Cup 

"I think it became very clear that our goal was to win a Stanley Cup, and nothing short of it was going to be enough. I think it kind of really in a way started to galvanize our team with a singular purpose and the motivation to do it." - Messier on the season-long goal of the 1993-94 Rangers team 

"I was in my ninth year of coaching, and when Mark [Messier] came across the ice to celebrate the Stanley Cup victory and hand it to me and I lifted it over my head, the first thing that came to my mind was, 'I can't believe how difficult this trophy is to win.' And I think now as time passes - 25 years later - that endorsement of how difficult it is still stands in my mind, even more so." - 1994 Rangers Head Coach Mike Keenan on how difficult it is, and was, to win the Stanley Cup 

"Mike Keenan just said, 'This is up to you. We're not going to make you do this. This is up to the guys in the room to figure out how to do it.' I think it was a really motivating thing. You have that in your mind. You don't know quite what it's going to feel like… We always talked about it as young guys - what would it be like to win here? And it's amazing because that's exactly where we ended up at the end of the year, was in the Canyon of Heroes. As crazy as that looked in the film, it was even more wild in real life." - 1994 Goaltender Mike Richter on the message heading into the 1993-94 season 

"For us, we all grew up playing hockey because we loved it. We got a chance to play here, and we got a chance to win for an organization that hadn't won. We get a lot of thank you's, and that's kind of a reminder all the time of what it meant to a lot of people." - 1994 Defenseman Brian Leetch, reflecting on winning the Stanley Cup 

"The fact that we're going to be on the ice together again - that's the special part. Having a weekend like this, and because we all have family here, and some family with kids that didn't experience it but have heard about it - for them to experience, in a way, something that was such a special privilege for all of us, and to have them all together as extended families here, it's a special treat." - 1994 Winger Adam Graves' expectations for the '94 Night pregame ceremony

"The overriding thing that maybe changed for me is how fortunate we were to be in an organization and a place and a time and with a group of guys that was capable of doing it, in the manner that we did it. And I just feel like there's a lot of great players that go through their careers and don't have that opportunity to taste that amazing moment. I think as you get further away from it, you go, 'Wow.' It's just a feeling of being fortunate." - Richter on how difficult it is to win the Stanley Cup

"It never gets old. Incredible memories, and never get tired of speaking to people on the street, on the subway, the trains, taxi drivers that recognize the guys or myself and thank us for the Cup. I don't think it ever gets old. Maybe it is growing even bigger now because it was such an amazing accomplishment - not only because it was an amazing accomplishment, but the way we won and the kind of character guys that we won [it with] and the kind of relationship that we had with our fan base and the city… All that combined, and then the 54-year drought, I think the fans were really proud of our team, and I think there was a good relationship there, which made it that much more [special]. So they could really celebrate it with us." - Messier on the 1994 Stanley Cup's impact on New York fans

"These guys haven't changed. They're amazing people and great friends. … We haven't been in the same room, I think, ever, since our parade, all at once. The character of the guys and the friendships - unbelievable. That's just something that's never changed and only grows with time. It's a tremendously special group of guys. I just feel fortunate. You have three days to hang out with them. It's been an amazing thing, and to share it with the fans tonight - it's a big deal." - Richter on sharing the memories of the 1994 run with his teammates and fans 

"Unbelievable. It's a humbling thing. What a great statement by him. He didn't have to do it and it's very classy, so I was kind of shocked. A friend sent it to me and I thought, wow, that's really, really nice. And coming from him - look at the career the man's put together. He's been nothing but consistent from the day he arrived. He's had just a remarkable career, so it means a lot coming from him. It was just a very classy thing to do and a very humbling thing to see." - Richter on Henrik Lundqvist's '94 Night custom mask, which was inspired by Richter's own iconic 1993-94 mask 

"We were trying to teach this young player that the quality of ice time could be enhanced by the intensity and the vigorness of a shorter shift. [Laughter] As he came over and as time elapsed, the bench started to laugh. I said, 'He's going to try to climb in the box - don't let him climb in.' First, he tried to get in through the door and they wouldn't open the door. Then he tried to climb in and they said, 'Nyet. You're back out.' The joke was on us, though - he scored a goal during that shift. So at the end of the period, I said to Mark, 'Just look after it for me, will you?'" - Keenan on the infamous decision to leave Alexei Kovalev in a game for 7 1/2 consecutive minutes 

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