When it comes to an “Incredible But True” saga nothing tops the manner in which the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 1928 over the heavily-favored Montreal Maroons. Check these out:
- BEATING THE ODDS: The triumph took place in only the second year of the club’s existence.
- OLD MAN, LESTER PATRICK IN GOAL: When regular goalie Lorne Chabot was badly injured in Game 2, manager-coach Lester Patrick went into the net and beat Montreal, 2-1.
- FINDING ANOTHER GOALIE: The only sub-goalie the Maroons would allow Patrick to sign for the rest of the series was Joe Miller, who had played for the New York Americans. Joe was so bad his nickname was “Red Light” Miller.
- NO HOME GAMES: Since the Ringling Brothers Circus had taken over Madison Square Garden (then on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets) all games had to be played at the Montreal Forum, home of the Maroons.
Which brings us to the question: how did the Blueshirts manage to win The Cup in the first place?
For starters, Patrick’s valorous performance (2-1 win) galvanized his team and tied the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
Although the Rangers lost Game 3 to the Maroons, Joe Miller was impressively steady in goal and convinced Patrick that an additional goaltender wasn’t necessary to complete the series.
“The Maroons consented to Joe,” said Rangers crack center Frank Boucher, “because they thought he was the NHL’s weakest goalie. But he played very well for us in the third game even though we lost 2-0.”
Sure enough, as Montreal prepared for a Cup-winning victory parade following Game 4, Boucher derailed the Maroons with the contest’s only score while Miller whitewashed the home club.
Now the Rangers had as good a chance for the Cup as Montreal, although the Blueshirts would be up against a future Hall of Fame goalie, Clint Benedict.
No problem; Boucher delivered again; this time with a pair of goals while Miller allowed only one and New York had its first Stanley Cup.
How splendid was this unexpected upset? Here’s what Toronto sportswriter Lou Marsh reported:
“The Rangers grabbed the brass ring on the Stanley Cup merry-go-round right from under the fingers of the maroon-clad squad. The score was 2-1 in Saturday’s final game and the Rangers take the silver bowl three games to two.
“Ten days ago, [the] Maroons started out odds-on favorites to win the old mug and with $3500 each in bonuses dangling in the orchard, but all they harvested Saturday night was a flock of rubber grapes.
“And don’t try and tell me that the better team did not win, not only Saturday night’s game but the series.
“Rangers faced the toughest sort of hard luck and then came from behind to defeat the most rugged team in the NHL in as grueling a series as has ever been staged for Lord Stanley’s battered and bent goblet. Rangers won on their grit, courage, speed and brains. Every game was a battle – a stark test of stamina and courage – but the Ranger machine stood up to the test and won their merits.
“There were no weaklings on either team. Rangers Frankie Boucher scored both goals on sturdy, his third and fourth of the series. In fact, Rangers got only five goals in the five games, and Boucher scored the winning goal in each of the three the New Yorkers won. Boucher and Joe Miller, the substitute goalie, were the heroes, and the brothers Cook and the irrepressible Ching Johnson had many marvelous moments.”
And, yes, yet another marvelous moment occurred a few days later when Mayor Jimmy (Beau James) Walker honored the champion Rangers on the steps of City Hall.
As one reporter noted, “A beaming Mayor Walker embraced Lester Patrick as the crowd cheered and the flashbulbs popped!”