LOS ANGELES — Some of the greats who created the most memorable moments in New York hockey history were formally etched into the annals of the National Hockey League Friday night. Four members of the Islanders’ four Stanley Cup championship teams and two key players on the Rangers’ 1994 title squad were among those named among the 100 greatest ever in the league.
The NHL named the Top 100, voted on by a blue-ribbon panel, in conjunction with the league’s centennial year. The first 33 players, from the Original Six era, had been revealed earlier at an outdoor game. The remaining 67 were announced Friday night as part of All-Star weekend, which will culminate with the game featuring current standouts Sunday afternoon.
“It’s pretty cool. When you’re surrounded by greatness it always makes you feel a little taller, a little stronger,” said Mike Bossy, who was named on the list along with four-time title teammates and Hockey Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin and Billy Smith.
As he stood on the stage amid players from all different eras, Bossy reflected on the fact that he once was happy just to have a place in the NHL. “Listen, it always starts like that. You never think of things like this,” he said.
Also honored were Mark Messier and Brian Leetch, who led the Rangers to the Cup in 1994, their first in 54 years. “It’s the best,” Leetch said. “I just feel so fortunate to be here with everybody. It’s the same camaraderie with the guys you played with and against, and with guys you met for the first time. It’s a really cool thing so I’m really honored.”
The honor was described as “almost surreal” by Pat LaFontaine, who joined the Islanders for their fifth consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup final and finished his Hall of Fame career with the Rangers. He works for the NHL now and was summoned recently to the office of Gary Bettman, so he figured it was a business-related matter. Bettman told him that, no, it was a hockey matter. LaFontaine had been selected among the top 100 of all time.
“I told him, obviously, I was really honored, thank you so much. It didn’t hit me until later what transpired. I got a little emotional taking the train back,” LaFontaine said of his trip back to Long Island from the Manhattan office. “I had to email him back that it kind of hit me.”
The list of former Rangers honored in the ceremony Friday also included Wayne Gretzky, Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Phil Esposito, Mike Gartner, Marcel Dionne, Eric Lindros, Jari Kurri, Pavel Bure, Guy Lafleur, Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr and Luc Robitaille.