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Sports fans love to reminisce over the days when it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
|CNNSI.com asked if Rangers fans had any opinions on the subject. And guess what ... they did.
Click here to read a sampling of what CNNSI.com users had to say.
To take a stroll down Bad Memory Lane, aka Broadway, CNNSI.com's David Vecsey found no better starting point than the stunning casting off of Ed Giacomin, followed by the Esposito-Park trade and the equally bad followup of Middleton-for-Hodge; the bitter departure of Mark Messier in 1997; and the New Year's Day trade that sent Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley to Washington.
Ed Giacomin played the first 10 years of his career for the Rangers, his 266 victories remaining a team record until Mike Richter passed him just this season. Giacomin posted 50 career shutouts, shared the Vezina Trophy with Gilles Villemure in 1971 and, in the words of former general manager Phil Esposito, "simply may have been the most popular player ever for the Rangers.''
| October 31
| Detroit claims G Eddie Giacomin off waivers
Giacomin's No. 1 is one of only two jerseys (Rod Gilbert's No. 7 being the other) retired by the Rangers.
So how to explain why a future Hall of Famer was rudely placed on waivers at a time when Rangers fans had little to embrace? All you can say is Giacomin was nearing the end of his career and Rangers GM Emile Francis was starting to farm out veterans.
Giacomin returned to Madison Square Garden with the Red Wings just two days after being claimed. Rangers fans roared for him through the national anthem and throughout the game. Giacomin wept in the crease and then helped whip the Rangers ... to the delight of the crowd.
|| A Permanent Home for No. 1
The New York Times -- March 14, 1989
By Joe Sexton
It was Halloween night 1975 that Giacomin pulled his car into the deserted parking lot of the team's practice rink in Long Beach, L.I. His recollection of detail is uncanny, his reconstruction of events comprehensive. He could be describing a great crime, which for many, of course, it was.
There was no moon and only one other car in the lot that Friday night. The wind was up, the only light a thin crack of fluorescence sneaking out from Francis's office. As his wife, Marge, waited in the car, Giacomin walked into the light of the room and the blunt, harsh realization that he was no longer a New York Ranger. He had been put on waivers and claimed by Detroit. He shook hands with Francis and walked unstably out.
''It was like I had fallen through a trap door and was tumbling in space,'' said Giacomin, who was 35 years old. ''I walked toward the car, but didn't know whether I should stop or just keep walking, keep walking out into the water."
|| Robert Seifried, Everett, Wa.:
"Seeing Eddie in red instead of blue was a very odd sight. During the national anthem the crowd in a low chant started cheering, "Eddie, Eddie!" By the end of the anthem, the chant of "Eddie! Eddie!" had completely drowned out the anthem. The TV camera was on Giacomin, who was clearly crying behind his goalie mask. The fans at the Garden rooted for Detroit the entire game, making them in effect the home team. The Red Wings won the game easily."
| July 30
| C Mark Messier signs free-agent contract
Neil Smith and Dave Checketts thought they had it all figured out, didn't they?
Rangers fans said they wanted Messier back ... and, poof, he was back. Al Bello/Allsport
Mark Messier, 36 years old and three years removed from his Stanley Cup heroics, was looking for one more big contract to get him to the end of his career. All of New York thought it was a slam dunk: Give the man what he wants. He ended the 54-year drought, stunk of New York attitude and could get Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Mike Richter to jump in front of bullets.
But GM Smith wasn't going to hand over a blank check, this was going to be business first. After all Joe Sakic was a restricted free agent in cash-strapped Colorado and, besides, Smith still had Wayne Gretzky. So off Messier goes to Vancouver, the Avalanche somehow match the Rangers' offer sheet to Sakic, woozy Pat LaFontaine can't get through the '97-98 season, and, one year later, Gretzky retires.
That leaves Smith with Petr Nedved and about 12 third-line centers for the abysmal 1999-2000 season. Smith wouldn't be back for '00-01. Messier would.
|| A Bad Feeling Chases Messier Out of New York
The New York Times -- July 29, 1997
By Jason Diamos
Messier was the lifeblood of the Ranger organization, its unquestioned leader on the ice and a strong influence in personnel decisions as well. He delivered crushing checks and timely goals, never more so than during the 1994 run to the championship. In a memorable semifinal game against the Devils, Messier guaranteed a Ranger victory, then scored three goals to make sure.
Nevertheless, the Rangers were blunt in their assessment of the negotiations and their decision to let Messier go. In New York, Dave Checketts, the president of Madison Square Garden, said the organization did not think Messier was worth $20 million for the next three years.
"How long should we pay for that cup?" Checketts said. "He played six years and won one cup. We made a financial decision. That's the end of it. I'm not going to cry any more over it because we're moving on."
When asked whether he would have signed a one-year extension last season for the same $6 million salary that he was then making, Messier said: "I told them I would have taken less than that. And I think they knew I would have taken less."
|| Robert, New York:
"There is no doubt that countless sports organizations have pulled some underhanded stunts throughout history, but when you think of the absolute worst, it was when N.Y. Ranger fans saw Mark Messier pulling over his head a sweater with a frickin' whale on it. Management was tired of paying its team's heart to beat, so they shocked him and the world by not paying him and just letting him leave. Ownership felt it easier to just turn their backs without a word, and for their part in this sordid affair, the owners of the N.Y. Rangers have seen their team miss the playoffs and lose game after game. Idiots, thanks a lot."
One week after losing Giacomin, Rangers fans were sent reeling when Francis sent his two most popular players to the hated Boston Bruins.
| November 7
| N.Y. trades D Brad Park, C Jean Ratelle
and D Joe Zanussi to Boston for C Phil Esposito
and D Carol Vadnais
Ratelle was a five-time winner of the Rangers' Players' Player Award; Park was named the Most Popular Player by fans just two seasons before.
Still, this should have been considered a blockbuster trade for the Rangers. Esposito had led the league in goals each of the previous six seasons, topping out at 76 and bottoming out at 43 in that stretch. He was the premier goal-scorer in the league.
But unlike today, when you can just pluck another team's star and call him your own, rivalries meant something in the NHL in the mid-70s. Esposito's whole identity was with the Bruins, and many Rangers fans could not warm up to him. His production was steady (34, 38 and 42 goals in his first three full seasons in N.Y.) but not even close to his numbers in Boston.
The other player the Rangers received, defenseman Carol Vadnais, did earn two All-Star berths in N.Y. ... but also inspired the crowd chant of "Hit 'em with your purse, Carol!"
|| Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times:
"As a kid, I remember the Rangers' trade of Brad Park to the Bruins as
absolutely heartbreaking and monumental. The Rangers and Bruins were bitter enemies and Park always finished second to Bobby Orr in the Norris trophy voting. To trade him to Boston was the ultimate insult to fans."
Ed McCarthy, Herndon, Va.:
"I and the rest of my hockey friends were devastated. Some even became Islander fans over the affair. I was never so shocked over a trade before or since."
Jon Kark, Falls Church, Va.:
"Park was an extraordinary D-man, but he always (deservedly) played in the shadow of Orr; but his perseverance to try and catch Orr won't be forgotten. But Park's loss wasn't my turn-off to the Rangers ... the trade of Jean Ratelle was. One of the classiest players ever. Trading him seemed like the team had completely forgotten the glories of the G-A-G line (with Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield) and dissed their own soul by sending him to Beantown. Espo and Vadnais were credible talents to receive in return, but I simply could never root for the Blueshirts again. And I never have."
In an attempt to get Espo a familiar face, the Rangers traded Rick Middleton to Boston for Ken Hodge, who had put up impressive numbers while playing on Espo's line all those years in Boston.
| May 26
| N.Y. trades RW Rick Middleton
to Boston for RW Ken Hodge
Problem was, as much as Espo was nearing the downslope of his career, Hodge was already there. He lasted only a season-plus in New York, scoring 23 goals in 96 games.
Middleton, meanwhile, went on to become one of the top-scoring Bruins of all-time, averaging well over a point per game over 12 seasons. This trade is about the closest Boston has ever come to getting the better of New York.
| January 1
| N.Y. trades LW Kelly Miller, C Mike Ridley
and RW Bob Crawford to Washington
for C Bob Carpenter and a 2nd-round pick
It was the Phil Esposito trade all over again ... and this time, Espo made it.
Washington got 1,466 games out of Kelly Miller (left) and Mike Ridley; the Rangers got 28 out of Bob Carpenter. Allsport photos
To get former 50-goal scorer Bob Carpenter from Washington, Espo shipped out second-year players Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley, who had been pumping up the Garden crowd with their nightly hustle and determination. Carpenter was on the Capitals' bench for insubordination.
"I was the worst temperamental player there ever was, so I'm not worried about him," Esposito said at the time. "I know enough of the story to know that [Carpenter's reputation] won't be a problem for us."
Well, it wasn't. Carpenter was traded to L.A. 28 games and two goals later. Miller finished his 1,057-game career with the Caps. Ridley played seven seasons in Washington, scoring between 23 and 41 goals in each of them.
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