Category Archives: Hockey
Taffy Abel (Hockey. Born, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, May 28, 1900; died, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, Aug. 1, 1964.) Reputed to be the first American-born player in the N.H.L. to learn the sport in the U.S., Clarence Abel was a beefy (225 pounds) defenseman on the original Rangers of 1926-27. Abel appeared in 107 games for the Rangers in three seasons. He was signed Aug. 14, 1926, after playing on the 1924 U.S. hockey team in the first Winter Olympic Games, as well as spending three years with the amateur St. Paul (Minn.) A.C. Abel scored eight goals in 1926-27, a high figure for a backliner at the time, but missed nearly half of the next season because of injury before helping the Rangers win the 1928 Stanley Cup. He was sold to Chicago after the 1928-29 season for a reported $15,000 and played five seasons for the Blackhawks.
Tommy Anderson (Hockey. Born, Edinburgh, Scotland, July 9, 1910; died, Sylvan Lake, Alta., Sept. 15, 1971.) Thomas Linton Anderson broke into the N.H.L. with Detroit (1934) but was traded for cash Oct. 11, 1935, to the New York Americans, where he became a regular defenseman. In seven seasons with the Amerks, he scored 182 points with 57 goals, but his last season with them was his best – 12 goals and 41 points in 48 games in an era of low-scoring defensemen who rarely crossed center ice. His performance was so outstanding that he was voted the Hart Trophy as the N.H.L.’s M.V.P., although the Americans finished last in a seven-team league and were the only team not to make the playoffs. In 1942, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces for the duration of World War II. Although awarded to Chicago in the dispersal draft after the Amerks withdrew from the N.H.L., Anderson never played in the league again.
Al Arbour (Hockey. Born, Sudbury, Ont., Nov. 1, 1932.) Alger Joseph Arbour achieved milestones as coach of the New York Islanders that have made him one of the legendary figures in the history of the National Hockey League. After a 12-year career as an N.H.L. defenseman, Arbour coached the St. Louis Blues for parts of three seasons. He began his climb to coaching greatness when he was hired by the Islanders June 10, 1973. In their second season under Arbour, the Isles reached the Stanley Cup semifinals after beating the Rangers, two games to one, and Pittsburgh, four games to three after dropping the series’ first three games. The next round, they lost the seventh-game semifinal to the defending (and future) Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers, after again wiping out a 3-0 series deficit. The next year, the Islanders rose to second place in the Patrick Division. In his fourth season, 1976-77, 47 wins and 106 points earned another second-place finish. Then came two straight division titles. The Islanders were to finish first in the Patrick Division four times in five years. In 1980, the club began its great string of Stanley Cup successes by defeating Philadelphia in the final. With a team that featured the likes of Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Brian Trottier, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith, Arbour steered the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups. As a player, Arbour was a steady defenseman who saw service with Detroit, Chicago and Toronto. He played on three Stanley Cup champions, one with each of the three clubs for whom he performed in 1954 (Detroit), 1961 (Chicago), and 1964 (Toronto). But his Islanders coaching record made him one of the greats in New York sports history.
Hobey Baker (Hockey. Born, Wissahickon, PA, Jan. 15, 1892; died, Toul, France, Dec. 21, 1918.) When hockey was a seven-man game played largely on uneven outdoor rinks, Hobart Amory Hare Baker was considered the finest player in the U.S. by a wide margin. Baker flashed his talent for St. Paul’s, his prep school, and championship teams at Princeton. (He also starred in football at Princeton, following in the footsteps of his father, A.T. Baker, a halfback in 1883-84.) After his graduation in 1914, Baker moved on to the St. Nicholas Hockey Club in New York (1914-17). The St. Nicks won the American Amateur Hockey League title in 1914 and 1915 with Baker as their star, thrilling crowds with his rink-length rushes. He scored three goals Mar. 11, 1915, against Boston to clinch that year’s championship, 5-2. Baker became an Army flier in World War I and died in a military plane crash after hostilities had ceased.
Dave Balon (Hockey. Born, Wakaw, Sask., Aug. 2, 1938; died, Prince Albert, Sask., May 29, 2007.) In his two tours with the Rangers, David Alexander Balon scored 98 goals in 361 games and had 113 assists. Balon was the left wing on the “Bulldog Line” with Billy Fairbairn on the right and Walt Tkaczuk at center during his most of his second stint in New York (1959-63, 1968-71). He was sent to Montreal in 1963 in a seven-player deal that featured goalies (Gump Worsley to the Canadiens and Jacques Plante to New York). Balon’s best seasons for the Blueshirts were 1969-70 (33 goals and 70 points) and 1970-71 (36 goals and 60 points). He played in the N.H.L. All-Star Game four times (once with the Rangers – 1971) and had 192 goals during a 15-year pro career that included nine games in the W.H.A. (Quebec, 1973).
Andy Bathgate (Hockey. Born, Winnipeg, Man., Aug. 18, 1932.) Andrew James Bathgate is still thought by many to be one of the best players in the New York Rangers’ post-World War II history, even though many of the records he set in a 12-year career as right wing no longer stand. Bathgate played 18 games in 1952-53 after being called up from the minors and recorded only one point – an assist. In 20 games the following season, he increased his output to four points and scored two goals in 20 games. Starting in 1954-55, Bathgate became the Rangers’ best offensive player and rapidly developed into one of the best scoring forwards in the N.H.L. That season he scored 20 goals and added an equal number of assists for 40 points, jumping to 66 points in the 1955-56 season and 77 in 1956-57. In 1957, he was named the Rangers’ Most Valuable Player for the first of four times (also 1958, 1959, 1962). He scored 70 or more points seven straight seasons starting in 1956-57. Perhaps his finest season was 1958-59 when he had 88 points, was an N.H.L. First Team All-Star for the first time, and won the Hart Trophy as the league’s M.V.P., even though a late-season collapse cost the Rangers a playoff berth. His 40 goals that season set a Rangers record, eclipsing the 33 scored by Bill Cook 27 years earlier. In 1961-62, Bathgate had 84 points, tied with Chicago’s Bobby Hull for the N.H.L. scoring lead, and was again an N.H.L. All-Star. That season, he scored one or more goals in 10 straight games.
Barry Beck (Hockey. Born, Vancouver, B.C., July 3, 1957.) As the No. 2 pick overall in the 1977 N.H.L. entry draft, Barry David Beck was a heralded defense prospect. Beck was acquired Nov. 2, 1979, by the Rangers (who had been to the Stanley Cup final in May) from Colorado for a package of five players (including left wing Pat Hickey). Beck, a big, bruising backliner with offensive talent, was considered the missing piece to the championship puzzle, but proved to be brittle and a disappointment during his Rangers years (1979-86). He never approached his 22-goal output in his rookie year (1977-78) at Colorado and only once played more than 72 games in a season for the Rangers. Often a point man on the power play, Beck’s attempts at finesse roused long-time Rangers television color man Bill Chadwick to yell, “Shoot the puck, Barry!” He retired in 1986 but later played briefly (52 games) with Los Angeles in 1989-90.
Michel Bergeron (Hockey. Born, Dec. 12, 1939, Chicoutimi, P.Q.) Michel Bergeron cost the Rangers their No. 1 pick in the 1988 draft, and despite a plus-.500 record in his two seasons as coach was in all likelihood not worth the investment. A well-regarded coach who led the Quebec Nordiques to the playoffs each year from 1980-81 through 1986-87, the animated Bergeron was acquired June 18, 1987, by general manager Phil Esposito. The 1987-88 Rangers finished 36-34-10 but were beaten out of a playoff spot on the last night of the season. The next year, the Rangers were in first place in the Patrick Division most of the year but spiralled downward in March and Bergeron was fired Apr. 1, 1989, with two games left in the season and a 37-33-8 record. Esposito took over as coach, lost the last two regular season games, and all four playoff games to Pittsburgh. Soon Esposito too was out of a job and Neil Smith was appointed general manager. – J.S.
Gary Bettman (Hockey. Born, New York, June 2, 1952.) A graduate of Cornell and N.Y.U. Law School, Gary B. Bettman left Proskauer, Rose, Goetz and Mendelsohn, a New York law firm, to become assistant general counsel of the National Basketball Association in 1981. Thereafter, Bettman began his rise at the N.B.A. to general counsel, vice president and general counsel (1987), and senior vice president and general counsel (1991). His next move was not only up but out. On Dec. 11, 1992, Bettman was elected Commissioner of the National Hockey League and formally succeeded National Hockey League, Jr., on Feb. 1, 1993, as the fifth executive head of the N.H.L. During his tenure, the N.H.L. has expanded from 24 to 30 teams, and there have been several franchise shifts. Almost half the 1994-95 season was lost to an owners lockout, and the entire 2004-05 season was cancelled when negotiations with the Players Association broke down over owners’ demands for a “hard cap” on salaries.
Mike Bossy (Hockey. Born, Montreal, P.Q., Jan. 22, 1957.) Had injuries not shortened his career, Michael Bossy might have ranked in the top two or three N.H.L. career scorers. As it was, Bossy, with exceptional accuracy and a quick release, scored an astonishing 1,126 points in 10 seasons before retiring at age 30 in 1987. He broke in as a rookie with the Islanders in 1977-78 with 53 goals (then a rookie record) and 38 assists for 91 points in 73 games and was a Second Team All-Star. Bossy led the N.H.L. in goals in two of the next three seasons with 69 (in 1978-79) and 68 (1980-81). He had 51 goals in 1979-80, when the Islanders began their string of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships. Bossy was deadly on the power play, scoring 181 of his goals when his team had the manpower advantage. The Islanders’ first pick (No. 15 overall) in the 1977 draft, he came to full flower as the right wing on a line centered by Bryan Trottier with muscular Clark Gillies on the left wing. In 1983, as the Islanders won their fourth straight Cup, he scored the game-winning goal in all four semifinal-round victories over Boston (a record) and then netted the Cup-winning goal for the second straight year in the final, against Edmonton. In his final season (1986-87), Bossy scored 38 goals in 63 games, the first time in his career in his career he failed to reach 50 goals in a season. He retired with 573 goals and 553 assists in 752 matches, having played in seven All-Star Games. He won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play three times (1983, 1984, 1986) and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff M.V.P. in 1982.