The New York Rangers have one of the most storied franchises in all professional sports. Being an Original Six team with a long history of winning in the most famous city in the world is a lot to live up to. These five defensive stalwarts held up their end of the bargain and more.
5. Sergei Zubov
Sergei Zubov did some impressive things with the Rangers. However, his Rangers tenure was cut short by a trade that sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins after only threes seasons. Many Rangers fans are still bitter about that one.
Zubov led the Rangers in scoring during the 1993-94 season. He had 89 points in 78 games. Yes, as a defenseman. He also racked up 19 points during the Stanley Cup run that postseason. The Russian-born defenseman ended up with 153 points in 165 games and plus-17 in his three seasons with the team. Zubov went on to win another Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1998-99 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019.
4. Ron Greschner
Ron Greschner played 16 seasons in the NHL, all with the Rangers. He was hampered by a back injury in the prime of his career, or else he’d have better stats than the 610 points in 982 games. Although he had several seasons where he scored 50 points or more, he contributed much more than offense.
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Greschner was part of the core of the Rangers franchise touching three decades. Opposing forwards certainly didn’t like to stand in front of the Rangers’ net while he was on the ice. The one-time Rangers captain racked up over 1,200 penalty minutes in his career and was never one to shy away from a good tilt. Greschner went on to do some work in Hollywood near the end and after his career.
3. Harry Howell
Harry Howell played 17 seasons for the Rangers from 1952-1969. Howell was a stay-at-home defenseman who was the last player to win the Norris Trophy (awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman) before the expansion era after the 1966-67 season. Howell always talked about being lucky to win the Norris when he did because Bobby Orr finished second that season and won the next eight. Not many guys can say they beat out Bobby Orr for anything let alone the Norris Trophy.
Howell was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 and his #3 jersey was retired by the Rangers in Feb. 2009. The defensive defenseman was also a seven-time All-Star. Howell is still the Rangers’ all-time games played leader to this day. He played 1,160 games for the club.
2. Brad Park
Brad Park is considered by many as the second-best defenseman of his generation. He began his career and played eight seasons with the Rangers before being traded to the Boston Bruins in a trade that involved Ranger great Jean Ratelle which brought Phil Esposito to Manhattan. He finished his career with Detroit. Park retired after 17 seasons in the NHL, each of which his team made the playoffs. Park finished second to Bobby Orr in the Norris Trophy race six times.
Park ended his career with 896 points in 1,113 games and an astounding plus-363. He was picked second overall by the Rangers in the 1966 NHL Draft. Along with putting up good numbers, he played with poise and aggressiveness on the backend. Park was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy after the 1983-84 season for being the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
Park was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 and selected to the NHL’s 100 greatest players team in 2017.
1. Brian Leetch
Brian Leetch is thought of by some to be the best American-born player in NHL history. He’s for sure the best defenseman born in the United States. I don’t think many can argue that, except maybe Chris Chelios.
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The 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman from Corpus Cristi, Texas had an amazing career. He’s second to Howell in games played for the franchise. Leetch won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP during the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup run. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year in his first full season with the Rangers in 1988-89. The former ninth overall pick by the Rangers won two Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman during his career.
Leetch was also awarded the Lester B. Patrick Trophy for his contribution to hockey in the United States in 2006-07. He played with both speed and skill and had some of the best hands ever seen on a defenseman. He finished his Rangers career with 981 points in 1,129 games with the team. Leetch ended his NHL career with 1,028 points in 1,205 games.
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He captained the US to a 1996 World Cup Championship. He was also a member of the 2002 US Olympic Team that lost to Canada in the gold medal game. Leetch was inducted into the United States Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 with former Rangers teammate Mike Richter and in 2009 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.