The Week That Was: The 1994 Rangers Reunite

     The New York Rangers honored their 1994 team on the silver anniversary of their Stanley Cup-winning season with a ceremony held last Friday evening at Madison Square Garden..

      Team captain Mark Messier admitted at a press conference preceding the ceremony that he was well aware of the pressure of winning the Stanley Cup for the NHL franchise in the largest market in the United States that had been in the midst of a 54-year championship drought. Neil Smith, the general manager of the Rangers at the time, added that he made trades in which he gave up a lot of skilled youthful players that he ordinarily wouldn’t have in order to end those derisive “1940!” chants.

     Glenn Healy was the Rangers’ backup goaltender to Mike Richter after having played the preceding four seasons for the New York Islanders.

      Healy is currently an executive with the National Hockey League Players Association so it wasn’t surprising that when I mentioned to him that the Rangers’ championship was a great gift to the new NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, he quickly replied “It was but he then squandered that goodwill by having three lockouts during his tenure!”

      He still follows the Islanders from afar. “Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello (the Isles’ head coach and general manger respectively) have really changed the culture there particularly in terms of scouting and personnel evaluation.”

     The man known affectionately as “Heals” didn’t dispute my contention that the Islanders are still wary of the media nor was he surprised by it.

       The annual Thurman Munson Dinner, named after the legendary Yankees catcher who tragically died in a plane crash 40 years ago, has raised over $16 million for AHRC, a nonprofit who mission is to help those with cognitive disabilities. 

    Among those honored Tuesday night were New York Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone and two of his players, Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius, and longtime former Mets first baseman, Ed Kranepool who has valiantly been battling renal disease and is hoping for a kidney transplant in the very near future.

     This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Miracle Mets of which Kranepool was an integral member. Forty years ago however he came close to being the first former player to have an equity stake in a Major League Baseball team as he was part of a syndicate led by financier Robert Abplanalp that sought to buy the Mets from the Payson family.

    “Abplanalp gave the Paysons a blank check and told them to name their price. For some reason they went with the bid from Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon,” Kranepool said forlornly. And the rest as they say is history.

      Kranepool’s fellow ‘69 teammates, Ron Swoboda and Art Shamsky, were on hand to lend support.

     The passing of Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson understandably saddened anyone whoever saw him play or manage.

     Robinson’s tenure as the last manager the history of the Montreal Expos and the first as the manager of the Washington Nationals (the relocated Expos) received scant attention in his obituaries. It should have.

      Major League Baseball owned the financially troubled Expos for a few years and they were understandably tight with the team’s payroll dollars. In spite of that, Robinson did a good job keeping the Expos respectable enough so that a buyer, DC’s Ted Lerner, was willing to pay a princely sum for the team.

    It would have been proper had MLB owners given Frank Robinson a small portion of the sales proceeds from the deal but they didn’t. I wrote about their cheapness and lack of gratitude and I sthe opportunity to show him my column. Robinson read my article and thanked me with a big smile and handshake. It was a career highlight for me.

     CBS executives are smarting over the fact that Super Bowl LIII turned out to be to the lowest-rated in a decade. It wasn’t the Tiffany Network’s fault that the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots engaged in a defensive battle that turned off many marginal football fans who like seeing big offensive plays and touchdowns. CBS’s play-by-play team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were terrific as were the technical aspects of the broadcast. It should be noted that over 100 million people did view the game in private residences and that an additional 12 million viewed it in public places as bars and restaurants.

    It will be interesting to see whether the new spring professional league, the Alliance for American Football whose games will be broadcast on CBS, the CBS Sports Network and Turner Broadcasting, resonates with sports consumers. Incidentally, a pair of Jets’ high draft choices who proved to be busts, wide receiver Stephen Hill and QB Christian Hackenberg are playing for the AAF’s Atlanta Legends and Memphis Express respectively.

     Speaking of the AAF, Starter is the official supplier of team and league apparel and uniforms and they are available for sale to the public. They certainly should generate conversation from sports fans who have seen their fill of MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL jackets and baseball caps over the years

. Starter is currently owned by New York Giants linebacker legend and current team radio analyst Carl Banks.

    The Mets signed free agent catcher Devin Mesoraco to a minor league contract where he’ll serve as an insurance policy in case Wilson Ramos and/or Travis d’Arnaud wind up on the injured list/ Both players have missed significant time in recent years.

     The first true sign of spring has arrived. The end of the NFL season means that Ed Randall’s “Talking Baseball” program has returned to WFAN’s 9-11 Sunday morning time slot.

     Randall is both a knowledgeable and ego-free host and he allows callers to talk with his guests who are generally retired baseball greats. “Talking Baseball” sounds more like NPR than it does FAN.

    Editor Showcase, the quarterly food and beverage industry trade show for media held its annual “Health & Nutrition” event.

      As expected, weight-loss products were big as reps from Atkins, SlimFast, and Herbalife showed off their latest lines of powdered smoothies and shakes that are supposed to be used as meal replacements. 

    Nondairy milks were also on display as Elmhurst (which got its start in that Queens neighborhood as Elmhurst Dairy) presented its lines of nut beverages such as almond, cashew, and walnut milks. In a similar vein, Planet Oat showed off their various oatmilks.

     Carvel leveraged its famous commercial characters, Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss, for pint-sized sundaes that don’t take up much room in your freezer, as a Valentine’s Day promotion. No word as to whether they’ll make these ice cream products permanent.


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