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Fan favorite Eddie Giacomin recalls adoring reception he got at MSG when he returned as a Red Wing

Detroit Red Wings' Ed Giacomin receives an ovation

Detroit Red Wings' Ed Giacomin receives an ovation frome the crowd of hockey fans at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Nov. 2, 1975 prior playing against the New York Rangers. Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

It happened 45 years ago, and it remains one of the iconic moments in Rangers history.

Eddie Giacomin was skating around the ice at Madison Square Garden on the night of Nov. 2, 1975, but he was wearing a red jersey instead of a white one  — red being the color of his new team, the visiting Detroit Red Wings.

After Giacomin's 10 years with the Rangers, it was a shocking sight.

Two days earlier, he had been placed on waivers by the Rangers, and the next day, he’d been claimed by the hapless Red Wings.

Now, before anyone had time to truly process what had just happened, he was back. And no one had any idea what kind of reaction his return would draw from the Garden fans.

It turned out to be nothing but pure love. The reception was like nothing ever before — or since — for a visiting player.

“Ed-die! Ed-die!’’ the fans chanted. There were signs all around the Garden. Lots of them. Giacomin, who had just met his new teammates that day and unexpectedly found himself starting in goal that night, waved to the crowd during the national anthem and wiped away tears.

“The whole Garden cheered for us that game,’ ’’ he recalled in a recent telephone interview with Newsday. “After the first period, we had a 4-0 lead and Dan Maloney [no relation to future Rangers Dave and Don Maloney] turned around and said, ‘Look, guys, we don’t get this reception at home . . . Come on, let’s make good use of it.’ ’’

The Red Wings hung on to win the game, 6-4. Rangers fans booed their own team when they scored against Giacomin. But he recalled that as the Rangers started to mount a comeback, the crowd slowly began to root for the home team.

“It was a very emotional game,’’ he said. “They were in Montreal the night before, the Ranger players. And all of a sudden, now they’ve got to face me. I don’t know what went through their minds, but all I know is it was a very hard game to play.’’

During the game, players who scored against Giacomin apologized for doing so. Giacomin recalled that Rangers defenseman Brad Park, who was traded to Boston five days later, would circle back to his own blue line when he got the puck, apparently uncomfortable attacking his former teammate.

After the game, Giacomin returned to his home in Manhasset, where he was met by his former teammates, who hung out with him all night.

“We partied until about 8 o’clock in the morning,’’ said Giacomin, 80. “They had to leave because they were going out West. And that’s when Brad Park got traded [with Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi] for Phil Esposito [and Carol Vadnais].’’

Giacomin’s departure  — to open the door for young star John Davidson to take over as the No. 1 goalie — signaled the end of an era for the Rangers. For 10 years, under coach Emile Francis, they had been one of the league’s best and most entertaining teams, making the playoffs for nine straight seasons and reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1972 before losing to Bobby Orr's Bruins.

“We should have won a couple of Cups,’’ Giacomin said.

But 1975 was the end of the run. After a brief rebuild, the Davidson-era Rangers were back in the playoffs in 1978 and reached the Cup Final in '79 before losing to the Canadiens.

Giacomin played parts of three seasons with Detroit, retiring early in the 1977-78 season at age 39. He interviewed with Rangers general manager John Ferguson for the head-coaching job that eventually went to Fred Shero in 1978.

A close friend of Islanders coach Al Arbour, Giacomin was a broadcaster with the Islanders in ’78-79. He owned a bar and coached high school hockey in Detroit before returning to the Rangers as goaltending coach for three seasons from 1986-89. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rangers retired his No. 1 in 1989. It was the second number retired by the franchise, after Rod Gilbert’s No. 7.

Giacomin has been out of hockey since, living in Florida and Utah before settling in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, near where his daughter and her family lives. Brought back into the Rangers' family by former President and general manager Glen Sather, he makes four trips to New York every season to see games and greet fans.

Giacomin is staying at home these days, social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is healthy and feels good, he said.

“I know that [the coronavirus] definitely will come after the older people, and I’m considered in that bracket,’’ he said. “But they’re not gonna get me.’’

Steady Eddie

Eddie Giacomin's career stats:

REGULAR SEASON

Years Team GP GS W L T GAA Save % Shutouts

1965-66 NYR 36 34 8 20 6 3.69 .886 0

1966-67 NYR 68 66 30 27 11 2.61 .917 9

1967-68 NYR 66 66 36 20 10 2.44 .915 8

1968-69 NYR 70 70 38 23 7 2.56 .911 7

1969-70 NYR 70 70 35 21 14 2.36 .915 6

1970-71 NYR 45 44 27 10 7 2.16 .922 8

1971-72 NYR 44 44 24 10 9 2.71 .901 1

1972-73 NYR 43 43 26 11 6 2.91 .898 4

1973-74 NYR 56 54 30 15 10 3.07 .890 5

1974-75 NYR 37 36 13 12 8 3.49 .870 1

1975-76 NYR 4 4 0 3 1 4.75 .806 0

1975-76 DET 29 29 12 14 3 3.46 .890 2

1976-77 DET 33 30 8 18 3 3.59 .872 3

1977-78 DET 9 9 3 5 1 3.14 .893 0

Totals --- 610 599 290 209 96 2.82 .902 54

PLAYOFFS

Years Team GP GS W L GAA Save % Shutouts

1966-67 NYR 4 4 0 4 3.43 .895 0

1967-68 NYR 6 6 2 4 3.02 .911 0

1968-69 NYR 3 3 0 3 3.35 .853 0

1969-70 NYR 5 5 2 3 4.15 .858 0

1970-71 NYR 12 12 7 5 2.22 .912 0

1971-72 NYR 10 10 6 4 2.72 .902 0

1972-73 NYR 10 10 5 4 2.57 .903 1

1973-74 NYR 13 13 7 6 2.83 .895 0

1974-75 NYR 2 1 0 2 2.82 .867 0

Totals --- 65 64 29 35 2.83 .897 1

SOURCE: nhl.com

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