While the Rangers took a break for the Olympics, another group of young Blueshirts represented the organization with great pride in February at the annual World PeeWee Championship hockey tournament in Quebec.
Coached by the father-son duo of Doug and Mark Messier, the PeeWee Rangers competed in the tournament's Class AA Bolduc Division -- the top division for a prestigious event known as a launching pad for future NHL stars.
After going 3-1 in preliminary games against the Alaska All-Stars, Czech All-Stars, Hamilton (Ontario) Reps and PeeWee Edmonton Oilers, the Pee Wee Rangers began their run in the 28-team tournament with a first-round bye. In the second round, they went on to upset the top-ranked Boston Minuteman Flames 3-2 on Feb. 13.
The Rangers outworked the Flames for the dramatic win at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City - the same rink that was once home to the Quebec Nordiques of the NHL. The victory moved them into the tournament's quarterfinals, where they fell 1-0 to Team Moscow on Feb. 17.
In preparation for their game against the Russians, the Pee Wee Rangers played several exhibition games leading up to the quarterfinals.
On Feb. 14, the Rangers beat the PeeWee Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. The following day, they fell 5-1 to the powerful Detroit Compuware program that has produced several NHL stars, including Pat LaFontaine, Al Iafrate and Kevin Hatcher.
On Feb. 16, the Rangers toppled a team of German Pee Wee stars 5-1 and also beat L.A. Hockey 1-0 in an 11-round shootout.
Before beginning tournament play, the Rangers beat Alaska 5-1, Hamilton 4-1, and the Oilers 4-3 but lost to the talented Czech stars 4-2.
Against the Oilers, a team that featured the sons of former Rangers Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish, the Pee Wee Rangers turned in a tremendous performance to take a 4-0 lead in the first period. Over 1,000 fans turned up in Pont Rouge, Quebec, for the doubl- header that included a local team's game against Team England as well as a chance for youngsters to skate with Lowe, Joe Juneau and Mark and Paul Messier.
The Rangers team was made up of local all-stars who have spent the past several months training for this tournament. In addition to playing hockey, team members were treated to the unique experience of living with French families and taking in all the events at the world famous Quebec Winter Carnival.
As part of their stay, the team was treated to a Quebecois tradition during a visit to a Maple Sugar Farm -- eating traditional French treats: pea soup, pork pie, ham and crepes with fresh maple syrup. Players also took in traditional folk music played by a violinist and learned how to play the spoons (wooden), and traditional folk dance. The event was capped with sleigh rides pulled by the magnificent Clydesdale horses.