GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It may feel like yesterday to some Ranger fans, but 25 years ago is a long time.
Six of the current Rangers weren’t born yet when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, and two — Boo Nieves and Brady Skjei — were less than six months old when Mark Messier lifted the trophy in Madison Square Garden that night. So, when the Rangers celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Stanley Cup on Friday, a good chunk of their team won’t have any real connection to that moment.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will.
Shattenkirk, who was 5 years old in 1994, grew up in Harrison, N.Y., in Westchester County, and played his youth hockey at Rye Playland, where the Rangers used to practice. He idolized Brian Leetch, and has vivid memories of sticking around after his Saturday and Sunday morning games to watch the Rangers practice, and chasing after pucks that flew out of the rink with all the other kids.
So, to Shattenkirk, who turned 30 last week, getting the chance to see the members of the ’94 team, who will be reunited and feted at an on-ice celebration at 6:30 p.m., before the current Rangers host the Carolina Hurricanes, is a big deal.
“I think anytime you get a chance to meet the alumni and rub elbows with them, it’s amazing, but when a lot of them are your childhood idols and heroes, that doesn’t lose its specialness to me,’’ Shattenkirk said after the Rangers practiced at their MSG Training Center Thursday. “It’s going to be just as fun for me tomorrow as it’s going to be for the Rangers fans that are going to be in attendance.’’
Henrik Lundqvist, the oldest current Ranger, was 12 years old back in Sweden when the Blueshirts won the Cup. He didn’t watch the games live — they were on in the middle of the night over there — but he has gotten to know the players on that team over the years, and really appreciates the significance of that Cup win to the organization. Lundqvist will wear a new mask in Friday’s game, one that replicates the design of Mike Richter’s 1994 mask — with the face of Lady Liberty on the forehead — and has a picture of Richter himself on the side.
“This mask, from '94, is very iconic,’’ said Lundqvist, who got the idea of creating a mask after equipment manager Acacio (“Cass’’) Marques told him a few months ago about Friday’s planned celebration. “I see it a lot — it’s on display here, somewhere. It feels good to give a tribute not only to [Richter], but the team. But of course, he was a big part of it, and as a goalie, I have a lot of respect for what he meant to this organization.’’
“I love it,’’ Lundqvist said of the mask, which he plans to auction off for charity after the game. “And I hope people love it as well.’’
Rangers coach David Quinn, who grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island and was a Bruins fan, began his coaching career by 1994, and was an assistant at Northeastern University. But he felt a connection to the ’94 Rangers because he knew Leetch and Richter from the U.S. Olympic team, having played with them in the pre-tournament schedule.
“I was rooting for the Rangers because I thought it was great for hockey,’’ Quinn said. “When the Rangers are good, it’s good for hockey. To have them win the Cup in ’94, I thought, was good for the game.’’