“Losing The Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers” Book Review. A Look At The Greatest Time in the Modern Era for NYR & What Could’ve Been, In This In-Depth Book Review w/A Ton of Pictures. Plus: “The Legion of Doom & Mohles”

Maybe it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment, but I really enjoyed the “Fall” part of the book, more than the rise.

What’s up everyone and welcome to the first of three blogs today, here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. If you haven’t seen already, if you go to the http://www.bluecollarblueshirts.com main page, you will see two other brand new blogs posted today. The other blogs are a 1995 Delorean blog & a blog on everything in the current day. However here, in this blog, I’ll be looking at “Losing The Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers.” From here on in, for the purpose of brevity, I will be referring to this book as just, “Losing The Edge”.

I gotta admit – I had a whole bunch of emotions when typing out “Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers.” It seems surreal. It seems like the impossible. It seems taboo. It seems unheard of. As Freddie Mercury once said, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

However, in 1994, the lines between fantasy, your hopes, your dreams and reality all blurred, as on June 14th, 1994, the Edmonton OIlers New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup. As I’ll talk about more in-depth in the 1995 Delorean blog, I just turned 12 years old, when the Rangers won in 1994. (My birthday is June 13th, 1982.) It’s around that age where you start to get really invested in your sports teams, if you’re a sports nut. At that time, I thought that winning the Stanley Cup was an easy feat for the Rangers. How wrong I would be, as a naive ex-11 year old, on June 14th, 1994.

Now at 35 years old, from doing my own research, reading books, watching old games and talking to people, it seems that I wasn’t that far off. At the time of the Rangers Cup win, I was aware of the 1940 chant, the curse and all that jazz, but I couldn’t really put it into context. It’s like using a word all the time. It just loses meaning. So when my asshole Islander fan friends, at the time, were chanting “1940!”, they didn’t know what they were chanting either. They just knew they heard the chant on TV and that I was supposed to sell (give a reaction) for it.

Keep in mind, at 11-12 years old, I wasn’t as invested, nor had the “fan tenure”, that I have with the team today. When my Islander fan friends said that the Isles won four cups, it really didn’t mean shit,. After all, the Isles won two Cups before my friends were a thought in their father’s eye and they were crapping themselves through the other two Cup wins.

In 1994, the concept of years and decades, didn’t have much meaning to me then, as they do now. 1940 may as well have been 1776, when America declared independence. In 1994, to me, 1940 was just as long ago as the “Ides of March”, which took place on March 15th, 44 B.C. While the assassination of Julius Caeser, Thomas Jefferson getting his Declaration of Independence signed and the 1940 Rangers Stanley Cup win, are all historic significant events in their own right, I’m proud to announce, now at 35, I can figure out these eras and period of times, from each other!

“Et tu Brute”, or is this a young Glen Sather, in 44 BC, giving the knife to a Rangers fan?

BlueCollarBlueShirt.com reader, Doug Israel, knowing that I enjoy history (Something else a 12 year old me wouldn’t be able to fully comprehend) suggested, “Losing the Edge”, as the next book review for this blog.

Speaking of, one of these days, I’m going to find someone with webmaster skills, who can help me post all the book review blogs in one place. I keep getting emails all the time from people asking me where they can find certain book reviews. The best way is to just Google the name of the book & BlueCollarBlueShirts together.

As I’ve talked about in the Delorean blogs all summer, I really don’t want to do blogs just talking about 1994 for many reasons. I feel like it’s been done to death. Many of you, like me, lived it. What can I really add to that period of time that you don’t already know? It would be fun to talk about 1994, but really, what’s the point? It’s just overkill.

When Doug suggested this book to me, I kinda blew it off initially, because it was another 1994 relic. However Doug told me (and after double-checking, he was right) that this book wasn’t all about 1994. While this book is no “Thin Ice”, it’s similar in the fact that it recaps a disappointing season, after a strong finish in the season prior. (For those who don’t know, “Thin Ice” recapped the season after the Rangers Cup loss in 1979, while this book covers 1994 and 1995.)

From reading other books, seeing old clips, reading old columns and talking to older fans, as I said at the top of this blog, it seems that at 12 years old, I wasn’t far off with my expectations. While I perhaps didn’t appreciate the concept of time, at 12 years old, there was no reason to me then, and there is no reason to me now, that the Rangers shouldn’t have ripped off a mini-dynasty through multiple Cup wins.

These guys may have been hugging in 1993, but come 1995, Neil Smith and Mike Keenan would’ve flung shit at each other if they could. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

There are a few things you should know before I continue. “Losing the Edge” was published in December of 1995. In other words, during the middle of the 1995-1996 season. The Devils were defending their Lock Out Stanley Cup, as they swept the Redwings for the Cup in June of 1995. The Rangers were coming off a sweep themselves, however on the wrong end of it, as they were swept by the “Legion of Doom” Flyers, in the second round of the 1995 playoffs.

By the way, to this day, I hated that the Flyers were able to use the “Legion of Doom” nickname. As you know, I worked in wrestling for 10 years and prior to that, I was a big fan of the male rope opera. The Road Warriors, Hawk & Animal, were my favorite tag team. When they jumped to the WWF, Vince McMahon dubbed them the “Legion of Doom”, essentially for marketing purposes.

Here’s some fun trivia: What did the Legion of Doom do in MSG that Henrik Lundqvist never did? Answer: They won a championship!

I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen Henrik Lundswiss many times at Madison Square Garden, and to this day, he’s not a champion. However, in the Summer of 1991, I was there when the Legion of Doom beat the Nasty Boys for the WWF Tag Team Championships at Summerslam! King my fucking ass!

Of course, as I go off on an other tangent, while on a tangent already, my point here is that I hated the Legion of Doom Flyers for not only ripping off Hawk & Animal, but for being Flyers. Phuck Philly!

WHAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTAAAAAAA RUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSH! If you don’t what video game this screen grab is from, your childhood sucked.

Is it me, or is anyone else chanting “LOD! LOD! LOD!” in their head right now?

Aww fuck it, here’s the LOD winning the titles at the Garden in 1991:


Legion of Doom vs The Nasty Boys-WWF Tag Team… by TSteck160
And the Flyers wanted to call themselves the Legion of Doom? Hawk and Animal would’ve knocked Lindros out of the league, long before he experienced any concussion issues!

If it was up to Mike Keenan, the numbers of Richter & Leetch may not be hanging in the Garden right now.

As we get back on topic here, as a kid, I thought the Rangers would repeat the 1994 win with a Cup in 1995. Of course, the lockout (more on that to come) affected things here. That said (one, take a shot. Regular readers will get this joke.) every team was coming off a lockout, not just the Rangers.

Arguably, the 1994 team was the best team in Rangers history. When I say arguably, it means you can make that argument, and I’m not going to argue it! Hockey is such a tough sport to compare eras because of all the rule changes, team changes, size of the league, draft rights, gear changes, etc. Plus, who is over a 100 years old, and can remember the 1928 Cup winning Rangers and then be able to compare them to the 1933, 1940 and 1994 teams? In addition, I’m there were other great Ranger teams, that came up short, due to another powerhouse in the league or injury. (POTVIN SUCKS/Ulf Nilsson 1979.)

While some readers of “Losing the Edge” may enjoy reliving the glory days of 1994, to me, the fallout, which this book spends a good amount of time on, is what hooked me. The summer of 1994, after the Cup win, is what had me fascinated the most. How come this team couldn’t repeat? “Losing the Edge” has every gory detail.

If you want the quick and dirty, author Barry Meisel spills most of his ink talking about Mike Keenan vs Neil Smith. In fact, as Doug Israel told me, this was a great companion book for the Mike Keenan biography, that I also reviewed on this site. You can get that review here:

BCBS Update: “Keenan: The High Times and Misadventures of Hockey’s Most Controversial Coach” In-Depth Book Review

 

We all know the story of Mike Keenan. He’s the hard-ass, take no shit, mind game type of coach. The man who hired him, Neil Smith, was someone who wanted a Cup just as bad as Keenan, but knew how to swim the political waters. Just like today, MSG was no different in 1993, when Keenan was hired – it was a huge corporation with many suits and ties all over the place. This wasn’t small market Edmonton or Florida, this was New York. Big bucks and men, perceived to be powerful, made the M$G machine roll.

While I don’t think Barry Meisel meant to blame Smith or Keenan directly for the failure of 1995, it does produce another “WHAT IF?” What if Mike Keenan & Neil Smith were able to get along? As in the “Keenan” book, in “Losing the Edge”, you come to the same conclusion that the blame largely falls on Keenan. His thirst for more power and wanting to be the dual GM/Coach, came at the expense of the team he was working for.

As stated, this book was written in 1995. If only Barry Meisel knew what was in store for the Rangers, Keenan and Smith. Looking back at this period of time, 23 years later, while we are all happy to have that one Cup, the Rangers really did miss out on having the chance of bringing multiple Cups to MSG.

Steve Larmer was an unsung hero and a Keenan favorite, for the 1994 Rangers. Photo Credit: NHL.com

Like most of the books I read & review here, I really enjoyed this book. While I wouldn’t put this book on any Top 10 list, it still was a great read. I just happen to read a ton of books. Admittedly, I should’ve read this book before I read the “Keenan” book, because most of the information on Keenan’s NYR tenure in the “Keenan” book, was directly lifted from “Losing the Edge.”

When I start a review for this blog, if I’m not familiar with an author and their whereabouts today, I usually google them. Here’s what comes up for “Barry Meisel” and “Barry Meisel” NY:

“Take a little off the top.”

If you have the same sense of humor as me, you’re cracking up right now. I knew Barry Meisel wrote for the Daily News two decades ago. While anyone can chase their dreams, I had a sneaking suspicion that the Barry Meisel that wrote this book, didn’t all of a sudden, go into the Jewish sexual organ medical trade. My sleuthing skills (Aka multiple Google searches) confirmed my suspicions.

In fact, the Barry Meisel that wrote “Losing the Edge”, currently runs the MeiGray Group, which sells sports memorabilia for an insane amount of money. Even the notoriously overpriced Steiner Sports must pucker their assholes up when they see what MeiGray wants for their stuff.

For example, a 2010 Alex Auld jersey goes for a $595. Even better, a 2014 Brian Boyle jersey goes for $1995. Try explaining to your significant other that you can’t pay the bills this month because you dropped $1250 on MeiGray.com, after buying a 2012 Michael Del Zaster jersey.

While this Barry Meisel may not be a Jewish mohel, maybe he should explore the other end of the body and get into Proctology, since he is ripping your ass off with these prices.

I could make a Jew and money joke here, but then Larry Brooks would call me anti-semitic again. It always struck me odd that Larry Brooks found “Family Guy” humor offensive, while his publisher plasters whatever trashy headline they can. So with “Yom Kippur” around the corner (Yom was a Jew hockey player from eons ago, that had such a hard slapshot, that it put a hole in the hand of Jesus. Jesus may save, but he couldn’t save Yom’s slapshot, which came at you faster than a gefilte fish sliding around your colon), I will refrain from making any blatantly obvious jokes or showing any sense of humor here. Shalom! Or is it Mazel Tov? Either way, Larry Brooks is a snowflake!

Oh yea, back to Barry Meisel. The Barry Meisel who wrote this book gave up the pen, but continued to follow athletes. Instead of following the athletes to cover them, he followed them for their clothing, which he sells presumably unwashed on his website. Here’s his bio from MeiGray.com:

BARRY MEISEL
President and Chief Operating Officer

On April 21, 1997, The MeiGray Group wooed award-winning sportswriter Barry Meisel from the New York Daily News by signing the Brooklyn, New York native to an exclusive multi-year contract.

MeiGray marks the second sports memorabilia company to be headed by Meisel. His successful 18-year sports journalism career began while he was directing Garden Sportscard Company, which Meisel founded in August 1977, the prehistoric days of the sports memorabilia industry, while a junior at the State University of Binghamton, N.Y.

Sports card and memorabilia collecting was still an innocent, unknown hobby when Garden helped popularize the retail sale of cards and accessories to collectors. From 1977-81, Garden sold nearly 10,000,000 sports cards and more than 100,000 plastic card holders, sheets, albums and boxes to thousands of collectors across North America.

Garden’s rapid growth under Meisel’s direction – sales rose more than 500% over four years – mirrored Meisel’s blossoming journalism career. After his graduation from SUNY-Binghamton in May 1979, he was hired by the Binghamton Sun-Bulletin to cover the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Whalers.

By 1981, Garden had become phenomenally successful – so successful that it needed Meisel and his partner to run it full-time. Rather than give up his sports journalism career at the age of 23, Meisel sold his 50 percent stake in Garden. He spent five years at the Sun-Bulletin, and then was hired in June 1984 to cover the New York Rangers, New York Mets and New Jersey Devils for the Morristown, N.J., Daily Record.

After only 15 months at the Daily Record, Meisel was hired in October 1985 by the New York Daily News. In his 12 years at one of the nation’s largest dailies he covered the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Giants. He spent 1993 and 1994 as the News’ investigative sports reporter.

He has also worked as a columnist for The Hockey News (1982-90) and The New York Giants Newsweekly (1990-96). He was a contributing writer for Sport from 1990-1994. He has written two books. In 1988 he co-authored ‘Boss: The Mike Bossy Story’ and in 1995 he wrote ‘Losing the Edge: The Rise and Fall of the Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers.’

Meisel, who speaks at schools and in front of charitable organizations, has collected sports memorabilia since 1985. His interests include championship mementos of the ’69 Mets, ’69 Jets and ’94 Rangers. He also has an extensive collection of first-edition press guides, and a growing collection of game-worn jerseys representing the professional teams he covered during his sportswriting career.

Meisel lives in Warren, N.J., with his wife, Katy, and their two children, David, 19, and Jess, 17. Dave, a freshman at Hamilton College, is an aspiring journalist who played second base for Gill St. Bernards High School. Jess, a junior at Gill St. Bernards who loves studying French and calls Paris her favorite city, plays defense for the GSB Knights’ girls soccer team.

Bob Gutkowski was a major player in this book and the mediator between Keenan and Smith. Photo Credit: Losing the Edge.

This book did a great job of giving you all the major players from the end of the 1993 season to the end of the 1995 seasons, with no stone unturned. Every player and every management figure is discussed in detail, even the Black Aces. The reasoning behind every trade is explored. With this book being released in 1995, the trade of Sergi Zubov didn’t seem as big as fans remember it today. There was also foreshadowing about Wayne Gretzky joining the Rangers too, but I think that was Meisel just reporting quotes and not him having any type of inside track.

As usual, I’ll let the book speak for itself. The following pages are from “Losing the Edge”, with my thoughts below each page. I am hoping that Meisel (and for that matter, that lovely couple of Simon & Shuster) don’t sue me here. I’m promoting a 23 year old book after all. Just check the Amazon sales of the book before and after one of these reviews. Guaranteed 10 units sold. (Granted, it’s because the book is usually going for $1.45 used, but still, it’s the thought that counts!)

Note: You can find more pages of “Losing the Edge” on my twitter @NYCTHEMIC. And, yes, I know the pages aren’t in chronological order. Just posting the pages that stuck out to me the most.

One of these things happened. While I’m glad 99 was in NY, I would’ve preferred the Cup.

The first playoff game I ever went to was very memorable. SPOILER: This game is this week’s Delorean blog!

As you all know by now, Messier is the greatest captain ever. This book is full of great Messier stories. Here’s one of them.

Hard to imagine Zubov chain smoking.

Verbeek wasn’t a long term solution for the Rangers. Ironically, he would win a Cup with Zubov in Dallas.

After a major OT check this week, I got 42% of my check after taxes. So I’m with Kypreos here, FUCK FICA!

Many young great players talk about Messier helping them out in their career. Leetch was one of them.

I don’t blame Oiler fans when they say the 1994 Rangers Cup was the Oiler’s 6th.

I was always a Petr Nedved guy as a kid. However, every story I hear about him as an adult, it is always negative.

Keenan had a raging hard-on for his ex-Blackhawk players, especially with Steve Larmer.

Losing The Edge does a tremendous job in giving you minute-by-minute play-by-play of the Keenan vs Smith feud. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

Example 86789678967896 of why Mark Messier is one of the all-time greats.

I’ve said the same thing Messier believed in forever – you can’t predict playoff games based on regular season play.

Something Lundqvist will never experience.

Even with 6 Stanley Cups, it seemed that Messier touched even more Cups than that on this night, if you get what I’m saying, har har har.

Pretty cool story on how Neil Smith got his break. This would never happen today, because for starters – many rabid fans are priced out of M$G.

As a Nedved fan, this was tough to read.

I wonder if Dick Todd had a brother named Ray? Get the joke? Send your complaints to BULLSMC@aol.com

This story got me the most. I would’ve loved to hear Giacomin’s side of this. Is he just upset that the players got paid more than his generation, that he wanted $2500 to show up?

I had two of these SC Champ shirts, that I ran ragged in middle school.

Nedved’s defection. Really puts life into perspective.

A decade later, the NHL would lose a season for real.

Again, for more pages, just check the media tab of my twitter.

I had one of these as a kid, but I want to say it was a CCM jersey and not a Koho.

In conclusion, this is a great book for any Ranger fan. I don’t know if this book would appeal to other hockey fans, unless they want the historical account of a Stanley Cup winning year. This isn’t like the Avalanche v Red Wings book that I reviewed & read, where it had universal appeal to non-fans of those teams. This is all about the Rangers, which if you’re reading this blog, means this book is in your wheelhouse.

While the post 1994 Cup win was the content was the stuff I enjoyed the most, I really enjoyed how the book explored everyone in the book, no matter how minor or major they were on the team. Whether it was the “Core Four” of 2, 9, 11 and 35 or the Black Aces of Eddie O, Glenn Healy, Nick Kypreos, Doug Lidster, Mike Hartman, etc, every player got space in this book. While the Keenan vs Smith feud drives the story, Meisel made many pit stops to the end of his destination.

This blog focused more on the stuff I liked the most, but for anyone looking for stuff on 1994, this book is ideal. Every playoff game from 1994 is talked about in-depth, and yes you’ll be screaming MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! when you get up to that part in the book too!

Despite this book being 22+ years old, I would recommend it to any Rangers fan.

You can get this book used on Amazon for less than $3. You know you’ve spent money on worse.

If you’re craving more 1995 New York Rangers or like going back in time, check out the Delorean blog that was posted today too!

As always, thanks for reading and “LET’S GO RANGERS!”

Sean McCaffrey

BULLSMC@aol.com

@NYCTHEMIC on the tweeter

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