The New York Rangers played their first game in franchise history on
November 16th, 1926 at Madison Square Garden against the defending Stanley
Cup champions, the Montreal Maroons. Obviously this newly built Rangers
team was the underdog as they came out to raucous cheers from the crowd.
New York City mayor Jimmy Walker was scheduled to drop the puck for a
ceremonial face-off, but as usual, was late arriving. However, there was a
replacement. Lois Moran, a popular movie star at the time, was introduced
to the Madison Square Garden crowd. Most of the men, accustomed to going
to Broadway shows, were attired in tuxedoes. The women wore evening gowns
along with their finest jewelry. They applauded as Ms. Moran came onto the
ice, waving with one hand, and holding the puck in the other. She dropped
the puck carefully between Maroons' star Nels Stewart and Frank Boucher of
the Rangers. Boucher was only the fourth player on this Rangers team that
had played professionally...everyone else was a first year pro.
Referee Lou Marsh came in to retrieve the ceremonial puck and dropped
it a second time. The game was underway and the Rangers were now a part of
the National Hockey League. The Rangers immediately went offside and the
clang of the referee's school bell arose some humor from the crowd.
"Look, he's using a cowbell! Someone exclaimed. "That's a
At that time, cowbells were briefly used by the NHL until replaced by
whistles after several months.
Frank Boucher later stated that the game was "as rough as any ever
played." Blood poured onto the ice from cuts of high sticks. At one
point, the referee lost control of the game with all the crosschecking,
slashing, hooking and holding. It wasn't too long after all this that the
first fight in Rangers history occurred. Of all people it was Frank
Boucher. The same Frank Boucher who won seven Lady Byng trophies in eight
years. He went toe-to-toe with Montreal tough guy Bill Phillips. Phillips
knocked Boucher flat with one punch but Boucher bounced back up and
There was only one goal scored in the game and it came late in the
second period off the stick of Bill Cook, who would win the scoring title
that season. Maroons goalie Clint Benedict tried stretching across the
crease to make the save but Cook poked it in to give the Rangers the 1-0
lead. Not only did Benedict give up the goal, but also he slammed his head
against the post in attempting the save and was knocked unconscious for
several minutes. The game was delayed until he could resume playing.
As the game wore on, the ice was in terrible condition when the third
period started. There were no Zambonis in those days, instead workmen
simply used heavy-duty scrapers to remove the slush that accumulated.
The Rangers withstood every Maroon attack and came out of the game
bruised and battered…. but victorious. They received a standing ovation
as they skated off. Many of the fans remained long after the game ended to
celebrate a successful debut. Not only did the Rangers win their first
game in team history but also Rangers goalie Hal Winkler became the first
goalie in N.H.L history to record a shutout in his league debut.
As the Ranger players walked back to the locker rom, they pounded each
other on the back and were just as thrilled as the audience.
"We beat the world champions!" a player exclaimed.
"Did you hear the crowd? Another player shouted. "They love
Rangers coach Lester Patrick shook everyone's hand.
"Boys, you play some more games like that and this franchise is
going to be a huge success here in New York. It's really exciting to think
of what's ahead for all of us. This is just the beginning."
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