Rangers to Fans: Prepare for “Exciting New Chapter”

The New York Rangers released a letter to their fans this week. Signed by President Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton, the letter announced, in so many words, that the team is rebuilding. The release of a letter like this is an unusual move. However, it is one that should be repeated by other general managers in other sports. While some may see this as a mere public relations move designed to soften the blow of significant future roster changes, it is more than that. By releasing the letter now and seeking to inform the broader community from the outset, the Rangers treated their fans like adults this week. It should be lauded.

Glen Sather (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Remember this moment. The days of teams taking their fans for granted during the lean years may be over. Why? The competition for fandom is just too fierce. Now more than ever, there is a need for teams to build communities of fans for the long term. This means more honesty and greater transparency in moments like these. No longer should those who pay good money to see their team play have to infer their teams’ plans based on the moves made at the trade deadline.  The full letter is provided below. In a sign of the times, it was also released in full and via a series of tweets.

Opening With Style

The letter starts by praising fans and summarizing the state of the organization.

As a member of the Blueshirt Faithful, we consider you a part of the New York Rangers family, and always want to ensure we share important news about the organization directly with you. Today, we want to talk to you about the future.

As you know, since the 2005-06 season, we have been a highly competitive team. We have played 129 playoff games, won the Presidents’ Trophy, reached the Conference Finals three times, as well as the Stanley Cup Final.

Outlining the Issue

Next, the letter outlines the problem the organization faces and the plan to address it. It links the future to the immediate past, referencing the big trade last summer mere hours before the 2017 NHL Draft.

While we’re proud of all those accomplishments – we didn’t reach our ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to New York.

So as we do every season, we have been continuously evaluating our team, looking for areas that can be improved to enhance our chances of winning.

We began the process of reshaping our team this past summer, when we traded for assets that we believe will help us in the years to come.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers, NHL
Derek Stepan was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2017 only hours before the NHL Draft as the Rangers began to restructure their roster and clear salary cap space. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Preparing Fans for Pain

Here comes the real news.
As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, we will be focused on adding young, competitive players that combine speed, skill and character.
This may mean we lose some familiar faces, guys we all care about & respect. While this is part of the game it’s never easy. Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we’re building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.

Ending With an Ask

The final section of the letter panders a bit and then sets out the ask: Please keep supporting us as we try to rebuild this team. It promises further updates and information.
There are no fans like Rangers fans. You are passionate, loyal and true. You fill The Garden every night, and we always know there will be a strong showing from RangersTown in every building across the League.
We do not take your support for granted. We appreciate that you have always stood by us, and we ask you to remain by our side as we undertake this exciting new chapter filled with promise and change.
We will keep you informed as this process takes shape. Thank you for the incredible loyalty, pride and respect you show to the New York Rangers, each and every day.

Context and Communication

Most fans won’t be surprised.  A report in the NY Post suggested the Rangers would be sellers at the trade deadline. Some might wish for more information about the future of beleaguered coach Alain Vigneault. For that, fans will need to wait for the offseason. In the meantime, the Rangers are attempting to explicitly involve and inform fans in the future. They are promising that in the short term they can expect to see more “… young, competitive players that combine speed, skill, and character.”

By getting out in front of the inevitable challenges to come, they are suggesting to fans that supporting their team now is a chance to get a front row seat to learn about the personnel, strategies, and tactics that will inform a competitive, Cup-contending Ranger team. The letter is clear, complimentary, and forward-looking. It is a communications coup.

Full Letter