Friday night's season finale of MSG's "Fans' Most Wanted: Rangers" gave Blueshirts faithful a chance to meet the all-time Rangers Dream Team.
|Rod Gilbert, the only Blueshirts player to break 1,000 points in a Rangers uniform, was the top vote-getter among forwards. |
After surveying fans online at MSG.com for weeks, the show unveiled their choice for the greatest starting six out of the roughly 900 players who have skated for the Rangers since 1926. An all-time head coach was also selected, and the choices showed equal reverence for the team's glory years of the 1960s and the 1990s run that included a Stanley Cup championship from 1994.
One position that epitomized this respect for two distinct eras was the goaltending spot. Hall of Famer Ed Giacomin
, the team's No. 1 goalie from 1966 to 1974 was the top vote-getter, followed closely by Cup winner and team career victories leader Mike Richter
. Voting was so close, in fact, that the Dream Team roster was expanded to two include goalies – Giacomin as the starter and Richter as the backup.
Others in the running for top goaltender honors included John Vanbiesbrouck, who placed fifth in the voting, Gump Worsley, who placed fourth, and Henrik Lundqvist
, the third-place finisher behind Giacomin and Richter.
On defense, Brad Park
and Brian Leetch
were the clear favorites. Park, who would have won multiple Norris Trophies in the 1970s if it weren't for Bobby Orr, and Leetch, a two-time Norris winner during his 16 full seasons in New York, dominated the fan voting with Leetch placing first overall.
Finishing behind Park and Leetch were Harry Howell, who played more games with the Rangers than any other player, former captain Ron Greschner, who bridged Park's team of the 1970s with the resurgence of the early 1990s under Leetch.
At forward, fans selected two legends from the 1960s and 1970s -- Jean Ratelle
, the center of the famous GAG Line, and Ratelle's right wing, Rod Gilbert
, the team's all-time leading scorer. Rounding out the three forwards was The Captain, Mark Messier
, who drove the Blueshirts to the Stanley Cup in 1994.
Gilbert, the only Rangers player to score 1,000 points in a Blueshirts uniform, drew the most votes, Messier the second-most, and Ratelle finished third in the voting – earning all three spots on the All-Time team.
Others on the ballot included were Bill Cook, Frank Boucher, Andy Bathgate, Vic Hadfield, Phil Esposito, Adam Graves, Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr,
The final choice for fans was the team's all-time greatest coach, and it went to the man who turned the Rangers into perennial Stanley Cup contenders in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Emile "The Cat" Francis
, who had a local youth hockey award named in his honor this past season, received the most votes.
Francis, who also played goal for the Blueshirts in the 1950s, guided the Rangers to 11 straight playoff appearances after taking over as head coach in the mid-1960s.
The second-place finisher was current Rangers head coach Tom Renney, who led the team out of the 2004-05 lockout to three straight playoff appearances – and counting. Finishing third was Mike Keenan, whose lone year in New York included the Stanley Cup championship.