Many of us have our favorite memories of Ranger lore. The Cup run in ’94 obviously ranks as everyone’s favorite. For me, that two-month stretch was heaven on earth, as I’m sure it was for most Ranger fans.
This, however, is not a walk down that lane. Instead, I want to discuss a game I attended that holds a special place for me for other reasons. The date: Sunday, Dec. 23, 1979. The Don Cherry-less big bad Bruins were the opponents. I arrived outside the Garden around 4 p.m. from my grandmother’s apartment in Ridgewood, Queens. I scalped tickets back then from the same guy I always did…an older scruffy guy who was mute but easy to communicate with. He always had a variety of seats in all colors and his prices, while a little high, were never outrageous. He offered me two orange seats, just above the reds, opposite the players’ benches right on the red line for $80/pair. Not in a mood to negotiate, I snapped them up. I got looks from bystanders like I was insane. I didn’t care. Best seats I ever had (aside from sneaking down late in the third period from the yellow and green seats). The atmosphere was already electric and I sensed this was going to be a memorable game.
There were high hopes for the Rangers that 79-80 season, as the previous year saw them losing in the Stanley Cup finals in 5 to Montreal. In fact, that final began with the hope that 39 years of despair were going to end. The Rangers, as you recall, won Game 1 and were up 2-0 early in Game 2 before losing in five.
The semifinal victory over the Islanders that year was one of their greatest playoff victories to date. Carp has gone on record several times indicating that the Garden crowd that spring was the loudest he has heard. I cannot disagree as I wasn’t there but watching on TV had ME screaming with joy. The heavily favored Islanders were expected to compete for the cup, and that six game series helped wash away the pain that Ranger fans experienced after the ‘75 Ranger/Islanders playoff loss. Sadly, that playoff debacle signaled the tragic end to those great 70’s Ranger teams.
After the first period, I headed up to partake in some herbal enjoyment and I turned and BANG…there was Cheryl Tiegs and Peter Beard. Dressed in a lovely purple dress and much tanner than the average Ranger fan at that game, I was blown away. Long an admirer, she was absolutely stunning. I carried her fish-net stocking bikini photo around in my wallet for alone time…….and I wanted to pull it out (the picture that is) and show her, but quickly realized how puerile that would have looked. A guy in front of me wanted an autograph while I had more nefarious thoughts in mind.
I asked for a handshake, and she pointed at my Ranger jersey and said “Rrraaangers”, as if she was just learning to read. I looked in her eyes and said “well, we’re at a Rangers game,” and I realized that beauty doesn’t always correlate with intelligence. Then again, I was the one carrying her picture in my wallet… I asked her who her favorite player was, and she said she loved the whole team. At that moment, I so wanted to be Ron Duguay.
The game itself was incredible—physical and hard hitting, close throughout. I think Anders Hedberg may have scored for the Rangers. With 10 seconds remaining in the third, and the Rangers trailing 4-3, Carol Vadnais hit Esposito with a beautiful pass inside his blue line for a breakaway against Gerry Cheevers. As Esposito crossed the blue line, a tennis ball magically appeared right next to the puck. Esposito, puck on stick, was clearly distracted by the tennis ball. He tried to go over Cheevers left shoulder, but didn’t elevate the puck. Cheevers made the save, the game soon ended, and then the carcillo hit the fan.
JD was P.O’d about something. The Bruins had been bumping into him in the crease the whole game, and he motored down the other end of the rink and was clearly irate. Espo stormed off the ice while the remainder of the Rangers and Bruins gathered at the far boards. Pushing and shoving escalated until a Ranger fan reached over and grabbed Terry O’Reilly’s stick, and all of the sudden McNab, O’Reilly and Milbury climbed over the boards and started fighting Ranger fans. The rest of the Bruins joined the fracas. Either Milbury, Secord, or McNab famously wacked a Ranger fan over the head with his own shoe. (editor’s note: it was Milbury).
YouTube 12/23/79 Bruins/Rangers game to see the footage. I think there’s at least one where you can see the tennis ball. It was a great game with an insane ending. And I got to meet the lovely Cheryl Tiegs.
Interestingly enough, I sat behind Carol Alt when she was Mrs. Ron Greschner on 11/26/89 when the Rangers played the Quebec Nordiques. She sat about 6 or so rows behind the Rangers 1st and 3rd period defended goal (7th Avenue) and I was directly behind her. I turned to my friend during the early part of the game and said something like “I remember Gresch was he was just a kid playing for the Rangers, one of my favorite players…”…..she turned and said “hi that’s my husband” …..She had without a doubt, the bluest eyes I have ever seen…..Like ocean water…..that game also featured Lindy Ruff scoring on a penalty shot for the Rangers who won 3-1. Second-year players Brian Leetch, for the Rangers and Joe Sakic, for Quebec, played in that game….perhaps you may have heard of them. Quite a few former and future Rangers players were on the Quebec roster too: Joe Cirella, Guy Lafleur, Michel Petit, Lucien DeBlois, and Mario Marois.