Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - New York Rangers - 1994
One on One Turning Point

Turning Point - New York Rangers - 1994
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presents the Stanley Cup to New York Ranger captain Mark Messier following the Rangers 4 games to 3 series win over the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. (Doug MacLellan/Hockey Hall of Fame)
It was a source of immense frustration for fans of the New York Rangers.

Followers of opposing teams had taken to singing, "Nineteen forty" whenever the Rangers came to town. It had been that long since the team had won the Stanley Cup.

Mark Messier had already asserted himself as an outstanding leader, having captained the Edmonton Oilers in 1990 when they won the Stanley Cup without the help of anyone named 'Gretzky.' And in 1994, Rangers GM Glen Sather, who had been the architect of the dynasty in Edmonton, surrounded Messier with a cast of familiar characters, including Glenn Anderson, Jeff Beukeboom, Adam Graves, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Esa Tikkanen, all members of that Stanley Cup team of 1990.

The Rangers rolled over the New York Islanders in the opening round of the post-season, and then eliminated the Washington Capitals in five games in the second round.

New York Ranger captain Mark Messier.
(Hockey Hall of Fame)
Facing the rival New Jersey Devils in the conference final, New York was facing elimination, down three games to two, when Messier stepped in and boldly went where few captains dared to go before. Standing in front of a phalanx of microphones and TV cameras, the captain guaranteed a win in Game Six against the Devils. "We know we're going in there to win Game Six and bringing it back for Game Seven. We feel we can win it and we feel we are going to win it."

The media ran with Messier's declaration. Even Ranger coach Mike Keenan nodded in agreement. "Mark was sending a message to his teammates that he believed together we could win. He put on an amazing performance to make sure it happened."

That he did.

In the third period, trailing 2-1, Mark Messier potted three straight goals to lead his team to victory in Game Six. The hat trick made Messier look like a soothsayer as they took the game 4-2. The Rangers then looked like they were going to win Game Seven...until New Jersey scored with less than eight seconds remaining to tie the game. The two rivals fought bitterly before Stephane Matteau scored in double-overtime to give the Rangers the game and the series.

The New York Rangers went on to collect the Stanley Cup in a seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks, with Messier scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in that deciding game. It was the Rangers first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years!

"He had a huge influence on the franchise," admitted Neil Smith on NHL.com. "More than even on the team, he left a mark on the franchise that's going to be there forever."

A boastful statement, but one backed by a legendary performance proved to be the turning point for the New York Rangers in 1994.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.