A couple months ago, we took a short walk back in time to look at some former Rangers who never quite were stars, but were still recognizable and somewhat memorable in their own right. During the late ‘90s and early 2000s, there were a number of players who fit that exact bill, and now seems like as good a time as ever for another trot down memory lane.
This is part two of the “Remember Them in Blue” series, where we will continue to look back at some of the more “random” Rangers alumni who at one time or another called Madison Square Garden their home during the not-so glory days in New York of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Ahh yes, Petr Nedved. The left side wing on what was often referred to as the “Czech Mate Line” which featured two other fellow countrymen Jan Hlavac and Radek Dvorak. Nedved, whose first stint on Broadway came during the 94-95 season, went on to spend a total of six seasons with the Blueshirts primarily between 1998 and 2004. Despite the team’s overall lack of success over those years, Nedved didn’t do half bad for himself. Four times during his tenure in the Empire State did Nedved exceed the 20 goal marker, and he even scored 32 and put up 78 total points in 2000-01. For a team that failed to make the playoffs each of those seasons where he scored 20 or more goals, Nedved certainly wasn’t the low point.
At the 2004 trade deadline, however, Nedved was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers where he played the season’s final 16 games. After the lockout of 2004-05, Nedved proceeded to bounce around for a while, but ultimately only played another 93 total NHL games between 2005 and 2007. Once it became clear that his North American hockey days were over, Nedved went back home to the Czech Republic where he played his final seven seasons of professional hockey. He retired following the 2013-14 season.
Valeri Kamensky was a pretty good hockey player for a few years there in the mid-90s, and bordered on dominant when he scored 38 and posted 85 points for the Avalanche during the 1995-96 season. But as his glory days faded after winning an Olympic gold medal with the Soviet Union in 1988, and the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996, Kamensky eventually landed a gig in New York playing for the Rangers.
The native of the former Soviet Union arrived in New York in 1999, and spent just two seasons on Broadway. Unfortunately for Kamensky and the Rangers, though, his days of posting 25-plus goals in a season were long behind him. In 123 games with New York over those two seasons, Kamensky registered just 27 goals and 66 total points. His career was on the decline, and the Rangers were stuck in the muck of a long playoff drought. While Valeri Kamensky was not the same player in New York that he was in Colorado, he still was one of so many to call Madison Square Garden home, and for that we shall indeed remember him in blue.
Talk about a one – or two – hit wonder. Remember when the NHL returned from the 2004-05 lockout and this small, random forward named Petr Prucha burst onto the New York hockey scene and scored 30 goals in his rookie season for the Rangers? Yeah, that was wild. You know what’s equally crazy? The fact that he’s now 32 years of age and has been retired from professional hockey since 2013.
Petr Prucha may not fit the bill for a Ranger from the late-90s and early 2000s, but he certainly was a player who had a big impact for the very short period of time that he was in New York. The Czech native never did again score 30 goals like he did during the 2005-06 season, (which was also when the Rangers made their first playoff appearance since 1998) but he did score 22 in his second season with the Rangers in 2006-07. From there, though, it was unfortunately all downhill for Prucha. After just 28 games for New York in 2008-09, he was traded away to the Coyotes where he spent just one full season, and ultimately ended his NHL career in 2010-11. Just as quickly as he burst into the spotlight, Prucha rode off into the sunset and away from North American hockey. But Rangers fans will always remember the one improbable season where he was oh so very effective.
More to Come
Don’t worry. It won’t be long before part 3 of the “Remember Them in Blue” series will come your way. Have suggestions on who we should profile? Leave them in the comments section below.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.