Park believes New York finally has a team that will be able to withstand the pressure from both Montreal and Boston—i.e., one that will not perform the classic Ranger swan dive in late winter. "Emile has handpicked this club," he says, "and for the first time we have a third line that can score."
Like the Redskins' George Allen, Francis believes that, when it comes to winning, youth is wasted on the young—Park being the rule-proving exception. Realizing he could not win the cup with a kid line, Francis traded for veterans Bruce MacGregor, Bobby Rousseau, Pete Stemkowski and Ted Irvine. MacGregor, one of hockey's best defensive forwards, scored the tying goal at Pittsburgh while the Rangers were playing shorthanded. Another reasonably mature Ranger, Rod Seiling, 26, is the team's top defensive defenseman. Unlike Park, he seldom makes a rush.
At the same time, the Rangers' first line, with Jean Ratelle centering for Gilbert and Captain Vic Hadfield, has been the most productive in the league. By week's end it had 20 goals and 26 assists in 11 games. Its slick passing combinations had rudely befuddled rival goaltenders and defensemen. Hadfield threaded such a perfect pass to Gilbert at the Detroit goal mouth last week that Rod had time to miss his shot—he actually whiffed—before firing the puck into the net on the second swing. "We've been playing together for almost seven years now, longer than any line in the NHL," notes Hadfield. "We always seem to know where the other guy is."
While charging past Montreal and Boston during October, the Rangers recorded some un-Rangerlike accomplishments. For instance, they scored eight goals against Montreal in one game. They beat Boston—in Boston—where they have been known to falter. And they checked the Black Hawks—the Hull brothers, Stan Mikita, etc.—so closely one night that Chicago managed only one shot on goal in the third period of a 3-1 game.
If Park and the Rangers can continue their superlative play, they may even get some recognition in New York, although Brad fears it will be at least 20 years before hockey attains basketball's popularity.
"They just don't know who the hockey players are," he says. "One night Rod Gilbert was the masked mystery guest on What's My Line?, and he stumped the panel. Then he took off his mask. Wouldn't you know? He still stumped the panel."