Another reward I decided to give AG_Blue for winning the Guest Blogger Contest was allowing him to write another guest blog post. Here it is...
When did you become a hockey fan? How did you become a Rangers fan? Who are some of the players that made you tune-in? We're always comparing the teams and players of today with clubs of the past and talking about the best players. Sometimes I like to reminisce about when I was a kid and getting into hockey for the first time. It was gradual, calling myself a Rangers fan and then by degrees learning about the players and the game until I was hooked, watching every game and following all the stats. I'm sure most of you have similar stories.
I share a first name with Anders Hedberg, which was great as a kid because it's not too common a name in this country. It was one way other kids could understand my name and hopefully pronounce it correctly. I was born in Brooklyn, but my Mom is a first generation American, her Dad came from Sweden, and I've always rooted for the Swedes – big Lundquist fan here.
Many years before becoming the Rangers' Head Professional European Scout in 2007, Hedberg scored 32 goals and 35 assists during the 1983-84 season when I was 11 years old. Not bad for his fifth season at 33 years old (but I'll expect as good or better from Brad Richards when he's 33 in two years). Back in the 70's he scored 100 points in 65 games in his first WHA season playing alongside Bobby Hull and Ulf Nilsson with the Winnipeg Jets (welcome back Winnipeg Jets!).
The Islanders, who I had already learned to hate, were annoyingly good. Potvin already sucked, even if that knowledge wasn't as widespread yet, but I had to respect Mike Bossy a little bit. Wayne Gretzky was kind of a big deal back then and he definitely made hockey fun. Also, for the 1983-84 Rangers, Pierre Larouche had 48 goals and 81 points, Mark Pavelich had 29 goals and 82 points – pretty good numbers – and the Maloney brothers were still on the team. It's great to still have Dave around as a broadcaster.
That was the rookie season for fellow Swede, Jan Erixon, one of my top five all-time favorite Rangers. Later to be called "The Shadow," and the first winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in 1987-88 (he won the award again in 1990-91), Erixon was a great Ranger, and I'm psyched to see his son Tim join the organization and it sounds like he has a pretty good shot at making the team out of camp.
While I was aware of Hedberg, Erixon, and some of the other players earlier on, 1987-88 was the season I really became invested as a full-time fan, reading the papers, following stats, and catching every game I could.
The Rangers only went 36-34-10 for 82 points that year, but it was a lot of fun following the team. It was a changing game, only a few players left in the league not wearing helmets (Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur played for the Rangers the following season, he may have been the last on the Rangers to play without a helmet, can anyone confirm that?), and it was a changing team: Hedberg was retired, but defenseman James Patrick had a solid fourth season with 17 goals and 45 assists, Jan Erixon established himself as one of the best defensive forwards in the game, Tomas Sandstrom had 28 goals and 40 assists. Rookie Ulf Dahlen put up 29 goals and 23 assists and, along with Erixon and Sandstrom, completed "the Swedish Connection." Another rookie showed promise that year by the name of Brian Leetch; he is another one of my top five all-time favorite Rangers along with Mark Messier who arrived just a few years later in the 1991-92 season.
It was easy to be a fan. I identified with the team and there were good players in every role. I have the same birthday as tough-guy Chris Nilan, who the Rangers acquired from Montreal in 1987-88. We also got Rudy Poeschek that year, though he only played one game, but it's hard to believe, given the way the game is played now, that we had two heavyweight enforcers on the team, and for a few years. In the 1987-88 season the Rangers had 7 guys with over 20 goals, two of those over 30 goals (this year we had 5 guys with 20 or more goals and the highest total was 24). Walt Poddubny put up solid numbers with 38 goals and 50 assists, Kelly Kisio had 23 goals and 55 assists. It was Ron Duguay's final year with the Rangers (after his first 7 seasons with the Rangers, he moved around between Detroit, Toronto, and Pittsburgh, and finished his career in Los Angeles in 1989) but it's cool to still have him around as a broadcaster. John Davidson, who played his final season in the crease back in the 1982-83 season, was an announcer alongside Sam Rosen back then and they were a terrific tandem.
The Rangers have had a lot of great players over the years and they made it easy to be a fan despite a sparse number of championship wins, and it's fun to have a number of these guys still involved with the organization. Do you guys remember a lot of these players? Starting with that 1987-88 season when I really tuned-in, it was seven years, up and down in the standings, but that was a nice run to the cup, and I'm a fan for life as a result. There were some tough years to come after the buzz of the cup wore off. It was fun to have Gretzky here. Despite the ups and downs, the wins and losses, moral victories and disappointments, today I am as big a fan as ever. In fact, it's as fun now as it was the last time we made a run for the cup.
Could that mean?...
So when did you become a fan?
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