The Rangers weren't exactly models of graciousness throughout the series. They complained that their bench at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena was too short. They fretted that on several occasions Wregget had dislodged the net to force a whistle. They whined about the Penguins' "diving" to draw penalty calls from gullible referees, worrying as much about the ice time of Pittsburgh trainer Skip Thayer, who ministered to the prostrate Penguins, as that of Lemieux. They yelped that the game tapes Pittsburgh provided them didn't have, as per NHL custom, the commercials and intermissions edited out, obliging New York coaches to do the editing themselves. The only shock is that no one from the Rangers claimed a dog ate their scouting reports.
New York also griped that the pictures were lousy on the VCR monitors in Pittsburgh, which might explain why the Rangers failed to see how solidly Wregget was playing, except for his 6-3 loss to them in Game 2. During the summer New York should rerun this: With the Rangers down by two goals seven minutes into the third period last Saturday, Wregget slid across the crease on his locked knee for a skate save on Brian Leetch's shot at a yawning net. Hometown fans chanted Wregget's name. "Usually," he says, "they just yell at me." Penguins center Bryan Smolinski scored 30 seconds later to put away the Rangers, who should have felt chastened after they were held in check not only by a perennial No. 2 goalie but also by a group of defensemen, only one of whom, Sergei Zubov, would appear to be good enough to make their team. And New York traded him to Pittsburgh last August.
Gordon Wregget once told his son Ken that the Wregget men reach their prime in their 30's. Ken believes him. Maybe this hot streak is the logical culmination of years of experience, study and the conditioning that has become a central part of Wregget's life. Or maybe this is simply kismet, a good run by Good Neighbor Ken who still provides inviting targets high on both the glove and the slick sides. We will see. Wregget will too. "I figured if this was my role. I was going to work hard and do everything I could at the rink to stay ready," Wregget says. "And if you're going to back up, this had to be the best place in the league to do it. I think it's awfully smart, if you want to win, to cling to talents like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr."
Maybe. But now their hats are off to Wregget. They certainly have enough of them.