What’s up everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. This is the first of two blogs today. Check out the main page for my latest update on my never-ending quest to get the Rangers to honor Frank Boucher. I just received a bunch of exclusive pictures from the family & you can view them on that blog.
As the summer is now unofficially over, (When Labor Day is over and the NFL season begins, the summer is dead to me) all my side-project blogs will be dwindling down. I plan on sneaking in one more “Delorean” (Old Rangers playoff game) review, before getting into the swing of things. Once the preseason starts, I’ll do my predictions, previews and all that other happy horseshit.
Many of you have found this site through my book reviews, as I reviewed a ton of books this summer. You can find those reviews in the archives of this site or by Googling a book’s name + DOINOW.com.
As usual, once the hockey season starts, a bunch of new hockey books are also released. There are a lot of great releases coming up, such as the Sean Avery book, the California Seals book, The Gratoony The Loony book, The History of the NHL book (Which I’m interested in reading, only because there are about 97678689 books dedicated to this topic and I want to see if this book stands out from the competition) & others. I plan to eventually read and review them all here, as I get time.
To kick off the NHL 2017-2018 season, “‘We Did Everything But Win’: Former New York Rangers Remember The Emile Francis Era (1964-1976”), was released before any of the other new books. Oh, and for the sake of not having to type out that title, which is almost as long as my blogs (I kid, I kid), I’ll refer to this book as “We Did Everything But Win”, from here on out.
Before I dive right into it, here are a few plugs for my last few blogs, in case you’ve been working on your tan and sipping Mai Tai’s all summer:
The Latest Rangers & NHL Rumblings: Time for Zucc & McDonagh To Step Up, Pets & Vets, NYR Whack Tanner Glass Like He’s Tommy In “Goodfellas”, Frank Boucher’s Family Reaches Out, Cam Connor, Arizona Rangers, Jagr Watch, Who Gets the “A” on the Jersey, Traverse Tourney, Kelly Talbot’s Efforts in Houston & Much More
The Sixth Delorean Blog: May 12th, 1995, as the Rangers take on the Quebec Nordiques in Game 4! My First Ever Playoff Game, Steve Larmer = the OT Hero, Mike Richter Adds Another Moment to His Legacy After Healy Struggles, Brian Leetch, Matteau Fights, The Lockout, Tons of Free Video, Collective Soul, The Jerky Boys & Much More From a Memorable Playoff Victory
“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”
The Fifth Delorean Trip: The New York Rangers vs The Toronto Maple Leafs from 4/15/1971 in a Playoff Series Ending Game 6! NYR History in Photos, Irving Felt Builds MSG, Captain Bob Nevin Carries the Team to Victory, The GAG Line Brings The Heat, One of Eddie Giacomin’s Best Games Ever, Senile Sather Throws Dukes, The Stemmer, Teddy Irvine, Tons of Videos, Programs & The Ads In Them, Frank Boucher Talk & Much More From 1971
The “LOST YEARS” of the New York Rangers: A Year-by-Year Look at the “86” in the 4-86 Rangers Stanley Cup Record. All 90 Years of NY Ranger Hockey & Key Figures Explored, Explaining Why The Rangers Only Have Four Stanley Cups & Much More in PART ONE (1926-1942)
When I was working on my “LOST YEARS” blog, (linked above) I was briefly flying by seasons. What I was writing, was something that was better suited for the book format, and not a blog, just like I said in “LOST YEARS”. That said, if I ever attempt that book, I might as well skip the years 1964-1976, because George Grimm, the author of “We Did Everything But Win”, did a tremendous job here.
For those who don’t know, and if you don’t, you should just buy this book right away before reading the rest of this review, “The Cat”, Emile Francis, was a former player, coach and general manager of the New York Rangers. Francis, who wasn’t the greatest goaltender of his time, would play 17 seasons among the NHL, AHL, WHL and other leagues. Keep in mind, Francis played in an era where there were only 6 starting goalies in all of the NHL and teams didn’t carry back-up goalies. Would’ve Francis played in today’s NHL, where there are 31 starting jobs, plus 31 back-up jobs? One would have to assume so.
In 1960, when Emile’s playing days came to an end in the western part of Canada & the United States, Emile immediately joined the Rangers organization. Emile was tasked with coaching the Guelph Royals, of the OHA, which were the Rangers farm team. It was there that Francis would first coach New York Ranger legends, Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle. After a short two-year stint in the OHA, Francis would join the big time club in New York, as an assistant coach. By 1965, Francis would wear two hats and become the dual head coach & general manager for the New York Rangers.
For over a decade, no moves were made in the Rangers organization without the approval of Francis. While he would hire coaches during his tenure, Francis would always eventually find himself behind the bench. It wasn’t an ego-trip thing either. It was the fact that the players, that he hand-selected, performed better for him than the other coaches Francis hired.
While dual coaches/general managers were the norm in the Original 6 days, (After all, just think about Lester Patrick, Conn Smythe, Art Ross and Jack Adams.) as time went on, it was tough to be a dual HC/GM. The book delves into this topic, as it was easier to perform both jobs when there were only 6 teams. However, as the league expanded and continued to expand, in addition to the creation of the WHA, Francis felt like he couldn’t do both jobs. If Francis has a biggest regret about his Rangers tenure, it may very well be not finding a head coach that lasted.
As I’ve talked about plenty of times on this blog, I love and am interested in history. While American history will always remain my favorite history, reading about old Ranger & Yankee legends is a pastime of mine. (For some reason, while the NY Giants have a storied history, it seems that baseball and hockey players lived the better life and had the better story to tell.)
When I saw this book was being released, I was very excited to dive into it. I saw excerpts of this book on twitter and while I knew the book would be broken up into sections, with the author talking a little then throwing it to a player or coach, I didn’t realize how much involvement Francis would actually have with this project.
Short end of it – whether you’re a young fan or an old fan, buy the book. The fact that you have the Rangers oldest living legend for 350+ pages, in this book, should sell you right on the spot.
I was impressed. While I knew the book was about a period of time in Rangers history, the Francis era, obviously, I didn’t know how much involvement Francis actually had with the book. After finishing the book, he could’ve got a co-author credit.
I don’t know how many of you readers are familiar with the pro wrestling “shoot interview”, which in the current days, is kinda like a podcast, but reading this book felt like watching a 3 hour interview with Francis. Grimm just left the boring stuff on the cutting room floor!
Even more amazing – this book was just published on September 5th, 2017. To me, that means Grimm must’ve had a May or June deadline, which means he was having his final conversations, about this book, with Francis at the top of 2017. For a guy who was probably 88-89 years old when this book project started and 90 years old when it ended, either Grimm is a great translator or Francis is as sharp as a tack.
Seriously – I was blown away. For 350+ pages, the book talks about everything during “The Cat’s” tenure as GM/HC of NYR. For every story, there is Francis speaking on a subject. While I know I’ve read some of the stuff Francis said before in other books, I’m led to believe he just repeated the same stories to Grimm. In other words, author George Grimm guides you during a period of time, with Francis painting the pictures along the way.
For a Rangers fan, an older fan especially, you will laugh and cry during this book. Grimm talked to anyone he could find for this project, and everyone associated with the Rangers, during the Cat’s era, was discussed. Whether it was a player, a star, a farm system player, a coach, the head of PR, the media; you name it, and that person is talked about in this book. Grimm was also able to interview players & media members for this book and they help assist Francis in giving you the story.
Really – just digest that. Francis was at the helm for over 10 years. That’s a ton of people. From the Sawchuk death (talked about in-depth in my Sawchuk book review) to The Trade (talked about in-depth in my Esposito book review), Francis oversaw many major events in Ranger history.
While it is fun to reminisce and get lost in nostalgia, what may pain old time fans is remembering the only thing that matters. It’s the title of the book – “We Did Everything But Win”.
It is certainly interesting to read about figures from this period of time. As someone who is 35 years old and was 12 years old when the 1994 Cup win happened, only now, can I truly appreciate that 1994 Stanley Cup win. For me, it’s been 23 years without a Rangers Cup. In that time, I’ve seen my Yankees & Giants win multiple championships. These last two seasons, I saw the hated Penguins win two straight Stanley Cups. While I haven’t sat through 54 years (at least not yet, anyway), I truly appreciate what long-time fans went through. I just couldn’t fathom the concept at 12 years old. I’ve talked about this before in the Delorean blogs, so before I start to repeat myself, check those blogs out.
During the Lundswiss era, you can see similarities to the Cat era. The Rangers made the playoffs nearly every year since Lundswiss was deemed untouchable. However, they just could NEVER win. There will always be excuses, no matter what the era. Injuries, a bad call, the circus, coaching, a puck that hit the crossbar, etc, but the common trend from both eras – The Rangers never had a SUPERSTAR, a once in a life time, type of player. If you think Lundswiss is that guy, you’re a fool.
In the era of the Cat, he was dealing with the Montreal powerhouse. You had Punch Imlach’s Leafs. In Chicago, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull dominated. The Bruins, who the Rangers met in a Cup Finals, had the best scorer in Phil Esposito and the best defenseman ever, in Bobby Orr. When those teams got older and started to fade a bit, the NHL hit the expansion era. By the time these previous Cup winners got older, the Flyers introduced a new style to the league and won back-to-back Cups. By the time Francis was out the door, the Canadiens were in the middle of their last great dynasty.
In today’s era, free agency and salary caps are more prevalent than in the era of the Cat. However, just like the Cat, the Rangers never had a true superstar in their prime. While two thirds of the players on the Goal A Game line would become Hall of Famers, defenseman Brad Park would become a Hall of Famer and Eddie Giacomin would become a Hall of Famer, the Rangers just didn’t have their Hull, Orr or Beliveau, that once in a life time player. Just like today, the Rangers have had some great players, but they never had the Sidney Crosby, the Patrick Kane, the Jonathan Toews or even someone who still is cupless today, in three time Hart Winner, Alex Ovechkin.
The book touches this topic and would question if the system of Francis stymied guys like Gilbert, Hadfield and Ratelle. The Rangers opponents of that time, had these generational players that had free reign to create. However, the Rangers, even with the GAG line, were forced to stay in a system, with not much liberty to deviate.
As usual, I’m going to include pages from this book, that I got the most out of. For more pages, you can visit my twitter @NYCTHEMIC.
The following photos come from “We Did Everything But Win”, by George Grimm and published by Sports Publishing.
Note: I’m not posting the pages in chronological order. I’m just posting what entertained me here.
“We Did Everything But Win” has easily moved into my Top 10 list of all-time hockey books. At times, I really felt like I was reading a personal journal from Emile Francis. I thought Grimm did a great job of providing all the information and about all the moving parts from that era of time. As someone who has a quench for the Cup, I liked that both Grimm & Francis never lost sight of the goal, while walking down memory lane.
On this blog, I have shared personal stories with you from my life. I feel as a reader, it helps you connect with the person you’re reading with. Anyone can report press releases, give you black and white stats, make silly charts or copy & paste hand delivered written memos from the Rangers. When I’m reading someone, I like to know who I’m reading as well. For instance, if I’m reading something from Bill Simmons, I know he’s a diehard Boston nut and that he has a raging hard-on for all things NBA. That’s cool. If I’m listening to Mike Francesa, I know he’s that fat little kid from Long Beach, NY, who is obsessed with horses and Mickey Mantle. If I’m reading or listening to Craig Carton, I know that he’s a criminal with a gambling problem. (Look at me staying topical!)
What I also enjoyed in “We Did Everything But Win” was George Grimm himself. I’ve heard his name before. I’ve read some of his articles before. But I never really knew the person behind the text. In this book, Grimm shares personal stories and recollects his memories about not only the Rangers, but his family himself. It’s real. While Francis & the Rangers obviously will get the most buzz out of this book, I really enjoyed hearing from Grimm himself. We are fans from different eras and we probably remember things differently, but I got a lot out of his stories. I really understood what Grimm was coming from and what he was experiencing. I hope other readers of this book feel the same way.
While I know many of you are used to me reviewing a book that dropped in price on Amazon.com, I bought this book new for $19.00. In a few years from now, it will be $2-$3 on Amazon. However, it is worth your $19.00. What else are you going to spend $19 on? Tier tickets?
You can order the book directly here: https://www.amazon.com/Did-Everything-But-Win-1964-1976/dp/1510722300
I’m sure the book is available at book stores, but I don’t even know if book stores exist anymore. While I’m old school at heart, I’m a millennial when it comes to e-commerce. Isn’t it funny? When I was growing up, we were told to never to go into cars with strangers or give out our credit card number over the phone. Now we use our phone to ask strangers to drive us around with Uber. What a world.
Overall, stick taps all around and a book I couldn’t put down.
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