How The New York Rangers Almost Destroyed The Stanley Cup

When New York Rangers captain Mark Messier was handed the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, it snapped one of the longest Stanley Cup droughts in National Hockey League History (via Hockey Reference). Despite being one of the NHL's Original Six franchises and playing their home games in the heart of Manhattan in the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers had run into a stretch of more than five Stanley Cup-less decades in a row.

While most would likely see something like this as simply the franchise's repeated failures to assemble the right talent, at the right moment in their careers, and led by the proper coaching, the more superstitiously inclined may point to what happened after the Rangers' previous victory in 1940 (via Britannica). That year, the most well-known trophy in North American professional sports was nearly destroyed, so perhaps it put a curse on the Blueshirts as an act of self-preservation.

The New York Rangers have been around since 1926

When talking about the NHL, Original Six is a bit of a misnomer, because it's not referring to six teams that were part of the league in its inaugural season in 1917, it's talking about the six franchises that made up the league's most consistent lineup until the league doubled to 12 teams in 1967 (via Pro Stock Hockey). The New York Rangers were one of those teams.

The franchise debuted in 1926 and was owned by Tex Rickard. According to Woodlawn Cemetery, Rickard was a successful boxing promoter, but before that, he worked as the marshal of Henrieta in Clay County, Texas. This is why when he decided to start his own hockey team in New York City, the press referred to them as "Tex's Rangers. The name stuck and the team became the New York Rangers. The Rangers were off to a quick start and posted the league's best record in their debut season. By 1928 they were already hoisting the Stanley Cup, a feat they repeated five years later to cap off the 1932-33 season, per Britannica.

The Rangers nearly destroyed the Stanley Cup in 1940

During the 1939-40 season, it was clear that the Rangers had a shot at claiming the franchise's third Stanley Cup Championship in under 15 years after they finished the regular season in second place in the standings, just three points behind the first-place Boston Bruins. That era's playoff format gave the top two seeds a quarterfinals bid, so the Rangers' first series came in the semifinals against Boston (via Hockey Reference). The Rangers won that series in six games which earned them a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once again, the Rangers won that best-of-seven series in six games and were Stanley Cup champions once again.

One of the traditions with the Stanley Cup is that the winners get to do whatever they want with it. Babies have had baths in the Stanley Cup while some players have used it as a cereal bowl. (It is cleaned regularly. Don't worry). Keeping with this tradition, the Rangers used the Cup as part of their celebration for paying off the mortgage for Madison Square Garden. They put the mortgage in the Cup and lit it on fire, but according to Bleacher Report, the fire quickly got out of hand and damaged the iconic trophy. Fortunately, some players managed to put out the fire ... with their own urine. (Again, it gets cleaned regularly.)

The Rangers' Stanley Cup drought

After 1940, the Rangers went on quite the dry spell. The team made three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1949-50, 1971-72, and 1978-79 seasons, but they lost them all (via Hockey Reference). The franchise's next crack at breaking the curse from that one time they accidentally set the Cup on fire and put it out with — well, you know — came in 1994.

Mark Messier was serving as the team's captain and he brought with him a championship pedigree, having won several Stanley Cups with the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s. In 1994, they met the Vancouver Canucks, who were headlined at the time by the Russian Rocket himself, Pavel Bure, per Hockey Reference. It was a hard-fought series, but the Rangers managed to dispatch the Canucks in Game 7. The curse was broken and the Rangers were Cup champions once again after 54 years.

However, the Rangers are currently in the midst of another lengthy Stanley Cup drought. This one is the second-longest in team history. They came close to ending it when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years during the 2013-14 season, but they were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings.