Depending on your age and fandom roots, Alain Vigneault might be the first Rangers’ Head Coach you’ve seen surpass 100 wins. “Captain Video” was mine. While AV accomplished this feat in record time, Roger Neilson also brought home the league’s 1992 President’s Trophy with a sprinkle of innovation on top. Among Neilson’s most well-known contributions to the National Hockey League was his utilization of analyzing opposition through videotape and forging communication with his Assistant Head Coaches via microphone headset. Even now, these imaginative accolades barely scratch the surface in comparison to the legacy Lester Patrick left behind.
Blue lines. Assists. Penalty shots. Forward passes. Playoff systems. Sweater numbers. All trivial parts of professional hockey introduced by Patrick himself. While 22 of his inaugurated rulings remain in the NHL rulebook today, my favorite Lester Patrick moment occurred in 1928.
During April’s Stanley Cup Final, Blueshirt Goaltender Lorne Chabot suffered a grueling eye injury. Since it was uncommon for teams to have backup goaltenders, our beloved Rangers were left in dire straits. Constraints that included a bizarre list of checks and balances (At the time, opposing team coaches had to green light rare goalie substitution) Lester Patrick eventually picked up the pieces and injected himself into New York’s third period lineup. Can you believe Patrick broke more historical ground by playing in the Rangers’ playoff showdown against the Montreal Maroons? The 44-year-old marvel became the only Head Coach and General Manager to replace an active player simultaneously. He also rejoined his coaching bench for the remainder of their series and ultimately guided New York to two championships in the course of five years.
Through all of this hustle and bustle, Patrick’s coaching replacement was waiting in the wings. In 1939, “The Brain of Modern Hockey” handpicked his former center Frank Boucher as his successor to New York’s hockey throne. Boucher was more than a brilliant forward though. During the 1945-1946 regular season, this multiple Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner became the first Head Coach to use two goalies regularly, proving the usefulness of loaded crease presence. Frank Boucher’s status as the star of two Rangers’ Stanley Cups and the coach behind another, marks him and Lester Patrick as the greatest Blueshirts of all time. Do you agree? Let me know in the comment section!