While Billy Joel, Harry Styles and the band Phish all have banners hanging from the rafters at Madison Square Garden, there is still nothing up there honoring former Ranger captain and NHL Hall of Famer, Brad Park.
Granted, Billy Joel, is a legendary singer-songwriter who has a long-time residency at the Garden. His music will be remembered for generations to come. But I have already forgotten the other two acts while writing this paragraph.
Park also had a long-time residency at the Garden, 465 games over eight seasons as a Ranger, and from the minute the 20-year old defenseman made his debut in 1968, he gave an entire generation of fans hope for the future.
Park was tough and smart. He could skate, handle the puck and had a quick accurate shot from the point. Often compared to the incomparable Robert Gordon Orr, Douglas Bradford Park was a dynamic player in his own right. Whether rushing the puck over the red line or delivering an open ice hip check, he made things happen out there and you couldn’t take your eyes off of him.
Park was the Blueshirts’ first true offensive-defenseman of the Emile Francis era. He led the Rangers in points, assists and penalty minutes in 1973-74 as well as sharing the lead in points (with Pete Stemkowski) and assists (with Dale Rolfe) in the 1974 playoffs.
He also led all Blueshirt defensemen in scoring from 1969-70 until he was traded in 1975. Overall he scored 95 goals with 283 assists in the regular season plus another 12 goals and 32 assists in 64 playoff games for the Rangers.
Park was named team Captain in 1974 and appeared in five All-Star games. He played a major role with Team Canada in 1972, and was named the Rangers MVP and won the Frank Boucher award, as the team’s most popular player, in 1973-74. Emile Francis once said that Park was the best defenseman he ever had.
Park’s Ranger career ended in November 1975 when he was dealt to the Bruins with Jean Ratelle, and Joe Zanussi for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais, in a blockbuster trade meant to shake up both clubs. He then played another eight seasons with Boston before finishing his career with Detroit. But as Frank Boucher often said, “Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.”
Brad Park deserves to have a banner in the Garden’s rafters just as much as his teammates, Rod Gilbert, Ed Giacomin, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Harry Howell, not only for what he meant to the Rangers on the ice but for what he meant to the fans in the stands as well.
He also deserves to be honored in the company of his peers and sadly that window is rapidly closing. We’ve already lost Emile Francis and Rod Gilbert and at this point, “Father Time” is catching up to a few more of his teammates as well.
The Rangers need to honor Park NOW, and if not NOW, the question then becomes not WHEN but WHY NOT?