Rick Carpiniello spent the better part of 43 years (1978-79 – 2020-21) covering the New York Rangers and the NHL for the New York Journal News as well as The Athletic. And his new book, The Franchise: New York Rangers… A Curated History of the Blueshirts, does a great job of condensing all those years into a highly informative and entertaining 256 page read.
During those four-plus decades, the Rangers, never known for their stability, burned through six general managers and 19 different coaches. Carp takes us from the sudden rise and quick demise of the Freddie Shero era, to Craig Patrick’s sure and steady approach that did not produce results quickly enough for his impatient bosses at Madison Square Garden.
Next came the lunacy of Phil Esposito’s short but colorful run as GM and sometimes coach, which led to the hiring of “Big Deal” Neil Smith, who took many a risk, but was ultimately rewarded with a Stanley Cup in 1994. Unfortunately Smith tried too hard to replicate that feat over the next few seasons and was replaced by Glen Sather, who despite much bravado, never got the Blueshirts to the promised land, but remarkably is still around, helping owner Jim Dolan make decisions. One of those decision was to fire his hand-picked successor, Jeff Gorton and team president, John “JD” Davidson for at least one reason that will surprise most readers.
The book contains many revealing stories about each of these eras and filled in quite a few blanks for long time Ranger watchers like myself. Carp also shares a lot of background information about the 1994 Stanley Cup victory and the many, wild celebrations that followed.
There are also a number of laugh-out-loud behind-the scenes anecdotes as well as conversations with some of the players that Carp became close to over the years, including Brian Leetch and Adam Graves among others.
Many of us may often think of sports writing as a glamourous profession, a nice way to make a living. That may be true in some ways, but the beat writers are under a lot of pressure to get their stories right and filed before their deadline. Plus, just like the fans, they also need to get to and from the games and Carp describes a number of travel mis-adventures, some serious that, thankfully, he survived.
The Franchise will no doubt bring back a lot of memories for long-time Ranger fans as well as educate younger generations of Blueshirt followers who want to learn about the team’s storied past. Frankly. It is the best book about the Blueshirts that I’ve read in many years.
This is Carpiniello’s third book about the Rangers, having previously written “Nightmare on 33rd Street” (2001), and “Messier; Hockey’s Dragon Slayer” (1999).
We certainly hope there are many more to come.