November 16, 1926.
Calvin Coolidge was President. Five days earlier, The U.S. Numbered Highway System was established. Tony Bennett was three months old. The Yankees were months away from embarking on a record-setting 1927 campaign. And the New York Rangers – led by Bill and Bun Cook, Frank Boucher and Lorne Chabot – played their first regular-season game: A 1-0 victory over the Montreal Maroons.
Fast forward 90 years. Tonight, the Broadway Blueshirts will open the curtains on the 2016-17 campaign against the New York Islanders.
Oh, how time flies.
It has been nearly six months since the 2015-16 season came to an end in Pittsburgh; the first time since 2011 that the Rangers did not win a postseason round. The springs of 2012 through 2015 were magical: 12 playoff series, 76 postseason games, three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and one appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
The core group from that four-year stretch remains in place: Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Kevin Klein, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello. Plus youngsters such as J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast and Dylan McIlrath, who have established themselves over the last few seasons.
In addition, I am very excited about the influx of young talent who the “Blueshirt Faithful” hopes will lead the club – along with the veterans mentioned above – to even greater heights:
- 23-year-old Mika Zibanejad – who already has four full NHL seasons under his belt in Ottawa, and is coming off a career-best season with the Senators (21 goals, 51 points).
- 21-year old Pavel Buchnevich, who clicked so well during pre-season with Kreider and Zibanejad.
- 23-year-old Jimmy Vesey, the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner at Harvard.
- 24-year-old Brandon Pirri, a former second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, who scored 21 goals two seasons ago for the Florida Panthers.
- 22-year-old Brady Skjei, the Rangers first-round pick in 2012, who has appeared in only seven regular season games, but was one of the best Rangers during the 2016 Stanley Cup playoff series against Pittsburgh.
I can’t wait to watch the 2016-17 Rangers as they hit the ice for the first time tonight. It is an honor to call the games on the MSG Radio Network for my 21st season and 12th year with the captain, Dave Maloney.
Drop the puck!