Retro Rangers: Remembering Arnie Brown

by | Jul 28, 2019

Retro Rangers: Remembering Arnie Brown

by | Jul 28, 2019

Defenseman Arnie Brown came to the Rangers along with Bob Nevin, Dick Duff, Rod Seiling and Billy Collins in the blockbuster February 22, 1964 deal that sent Blueshirt captain Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Brown had played his junior hockey with the St. Michaels Majors of the OHA, winning a Memorial Cup in 1961. He saw action in four games with the Maple Leafs as a twenty-year old in 1961-62 and spent time with the Toronto Marlboros and Rochester Americans before being acquired by the Rangers.

Despite giving up their best player in Bathgate, the deal eventually paid off for the Rangers as Nevin, Seiling and Brown became key players in the rebuilding process that was to come under the guidance of Emile Francis. The trade also worked out well for Bathgate and McKenney who both won the only Stanley Cup of their respective careers that spring with Toronto.

Arnie Brown: “The trade to the Rangers created a whole new atmosphere for the guys who were there and were really having a bad time. And Emile Francis developed a system, coming out of your end, turning in the corner and the winger on the outside coming across and stuff and so we got pretty confident that we could move the puck. And then Vic Hadfield was always a tough guy and a good fighter, so we had some toughness and we had some people who, if you had to get into a fight, win or lose, would back you up.  But before when I was there, no one would take that position, standing up for the other players and stuff like that.”

Brown made his Ranger debut on October 12, 1964, at the age of 23, and like most young Blueshirt defensemen in those days was paired with veteran Harry Howell. Brown quickly developed into a steady, dependable, stay-at-home rearguard who was Howell’s partner when Harry won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 1967.

Arnie Brown: “I played with Harry Howell most of the time until Brad Park came along and then I played with him. With Park I started to get a few more points because he could throw the puck around pretty well, especially in the opposition’s end. Sometime he’d move it across to me or sometimes he’d shoot. He had a great shot from the point. And I developed a pretty good shot because of that and started to score a few goals. With Harry, he was a left handed shot playing on the right side and so he always moved the puck up the right side and of course his puck handling was always in the middle of the ice but he did not like to move the puck across the blue line because he would have to turn straight to move it across. So I started to see more pucks coming my way when I started to play with Brad. And that helped me gain more confidence. I got the puck more and made more plays. I had a good time playing with him. He was a good guy, always up and never down.”

Arnie was one of the Rangers who scaled the Plexiglas at the “Old” Madison Square Garden on the night of November 21, 1965 when they saw that Emile Francis had gotten into an altercation with some fans over a bad call by goal judge Arthur Reichert.

Arnie Brown: “I heard Hadfield say, ‘Hey that’s Emile in there, let’s go! So we put our foot up on the edge of the top of the boards because at that time they had the glass behind the boards a little bit, you could get the side of your skate on that little ledge there, not the blade but the side of the skate and we went up and over the glass. So it was a real mess. People were shoving and pushing. We were trying to get at this guy because he had Emile and he was hitting him pretty good. And when I came down from the top of the glass, they had portable chairs back there then and my foot went right through the back of the chair. So here we are, people pushing and swinging and I’ve got my damn foot caught in the chair.”

Arnie spent nearly seven full seasons in New York but his Rangers career ended rather suddenly on February 2, 1971 when he was traded to Detroit with Mike Robitaille and Tom Miller for winger Bruce MacGregor and defenseman Larry Brown.

Arnie Brown:  I was pissed off when Emile traded me but that’s the game. You get over it. I was home and I got a call from Francis “Arnie I just traded you to Detroit and they’re expecting you to be there tomorrow night.” It just knocked the wind out of me when that happened.  I had never had any feeling that I was gonna get traded. Detroit was a bad scenario. Ned Harkness was there and he was a college coach and he was an absolute nut. He just destroyed the team. You could see Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio were there and they had a bad season because Harkness was such a jerk. That started the downswing for me. I started getting my knees hurt and stuff like that.

I was playing with Park and we’d move the puck and Parkie gave me a lot of good setups to shoot the puck hard.  I don’t know if Francis appreciated the goals or not. He didn’t think that defensemen should be up the ice that much. I think he saw me as a defensive-defenseman and not an offensive-defenseman and he didn’t like it when you were up the ice.” 

At the end of that same 1970-71 season Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure were battling Chicago’s goaltending tandem of Tony Esposito and Gerry Desjardins for the Vezina Trophy which was awarded to the goaltenders of the team with the fewest goals against.

Giacomin sealed the deal with a 6-0 shutout of the Red Wings at the Garden in the final game of the season. After the final buzzer, while Giacomin was being mobbed by his teammates, Brown, who was then with Detroit, skated the length of the ice to congratulate his former teammate.

Arnie Brown:  “Well if someone deserves an accolade you should give it to him. I played a lot of hockey games in front of him and him behind me and it was a team effort. We played hard, we had nothing to be ashamed of”.

In 460 games over seven seasons with the Rangers Arnie notched 33 goals with 98 assists for 131 points with 547 PIM. In 18 playoff games he recorded 6 assists and 23 PIM.

Arnie went on to play for Detroit, the Atlanta Flames, and the Islanders before winding up his career with the Michigan – Baltimore franchise and Vancouver of the WHA.

In his 12-year NHL career Arnie played in 681 games with 44 goals and 141 assists for 185 points with 740 PIM.  In 22 playoff games he recorded 6 assists and 23 PIM. In one season in the WHA he played in 60 games with 3 goals and 5 assists and a total of 40 PIM.

Brown was known as a gentleman and was well respected by his teammates, the media and the fans. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and worked in sales for Monsanto for many years following his playing career.

Arnie passed away on July 26, 2019 at the age of 77.

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