Yeah November 7,1975 is a date that I will never forget. I know exactly where I was when I found out about it. It was in the afternoon and I was in my backyard throwing the football around with a buddy and my Mom started banging on the kitchen window to get my attention. I thought,"what the hell does she want because we didn't hit the house with the ball."
Anyway, I walked over and she opened the window and said,"grab the phone, your father is on the line and just spoke with Richie and has something to tell you." Richie was my cousin who worked for the Rangers! I grab the phone and the old man bellowed that Park and Ratelle was traded to Boston for that SOB Esposito and that as*hole Vadnais!
Now we knew from Richie a few weeks prior that Francis was livid with the Rangers and how they had responded coming out of the gate after losing that heartbreaking 3rd game the previous playoff to the Islanders.
Park, the team captain, was fat and overweight at around 220 lbs and the team was really in a major funk! Sanderson was out of control and really being a bad influence on the younger players like Middleton and Greschner and guys like Tkaczuk and Stemkowski were also out of shape!
Giacomin and Villemure were also old and the team was breaking in Davidson to the Big Apple! The team also lost what little grit it had with the Davidson deal when Irvine, Butler, and Wilson went to St Louis! Wayne Dillon showed early on that he was soft and lazy and Pat Hickey was learning the league and with injuries forcing veterans like Dale Rolfe and Bobby Rousseau to retire, the team was totally mixed up and void of leadership and a veteran defense. Gillies Marotte and Nick Beverley were suppossed to supply veteran backline play but they stunk and Park was fat and Greschner was brutal in his second year and Larry Sacharuk and John Bednarski were AHL players trying to be NHL defenseman!
Greg Polis was overrated and Steve Vickers wasn't a leader at left wing with the youngster Hickey and Billy Fairbairn had a bad back and was playing hurt all the time at right wing with party boy Middleton and another non-leader in Rod Gilbert.
Ratelle was playing ok with Gilbert offensively but not defensively and as mentioned Tkaczuk, Stemkowski, and Sanderson were all playing lazy uninspired hockey up the middle!
This 1975/76 team was brutal and needed a major explosion and that is what happened. Park was off to a brutal start and the published reports was his knee but the reality was his gut and the Rangers played Vancouver at home and won 8-1 with Park playing his first good game and declared we are fine and just watch us!
Well I watched all right and was pissed right up there with Francis and all Ranger fans! What happened?
After the 8-1 win, the Rangers played Buffalo, the Islanders, and the Flyers and lost 9-1, 7-1, and 7-2. The first two games were on the road and the Flyer game was at home and we saw Richie after the game and he told my Dad and I that Francis was fed up and major changes would be coming. That game was on 10/26 and I still have my stub.
Anyway, on 10/28, Villemure went to Chicago for an over the hill Doug Jarrett. On 10/30-bye bye Sanderson to the Blues, the next night was the waiving of Giacomin, and the parting shot was the Park/Ratelle deal to Boston.
Over the course of 10 days, Villemure, Sanderson, Giacomin, Park, and Ratelle were sent packing and the only reason that Tkaczuk, Polis, and Stemkowski weren't was they were making BIG BUCKS!
Now before the Park deal, what sealed his fate? The Rangers ironically played Giacomin and Detroit two days after his being waived and the Rangers came out playing the most ***** gutless hockey one could ever endure and fell behind Detroit 4-0 in the first period as the crown chanted "Eddie, Eddie and lost the game 6-4 with a late rally as Giacomin was exhausted from all the emotion and folded late in the game! I wasn't there and listened to it on radio and was so disgusted with the Rangers.
Evidently so was Francis and he saw that Park was a poor Captain and Gilbert was no Captain and felt making a big splash would inject life into team.
What he failed to gauge was that Esposito hated NY initially and was miserable and that he still had Gilbert who had his cronies in the old Rangers left and Espo had the ear of the young Rangers and the team was split into factions.
Espo also was shocked at the Rangers lack of fire and passion as he met the team in California and they were joking before the game and acting like who gives a sh*t. Espo and Boston were in Vancouver when the deal was made so he went to meet the Rangers in Oakland and Ratelle and Park went to meet Boston. Vadnais was holding out as F since 65 indicated.
Espo scored 2 goals and 4 points that night against the Seals but Gary Sabourin scored 4 goals that night against Davidson for a 7-5 loss and the team was laughing afterward like no big deal! The next night in LA, Espo hurt his ankle that would bother him the rest of the year and this fractured team of misfits would cost Francis his job on January 6, 1976 replaced by one John Bowie Ferguson who almost choked on his cigar as he read the contracts and all the money being paid out for sh*t and his hated former opposing winger in Rod Gilbert being a jackoff splitting the team with no leadership!
Fergie would go about drafting and building a young defense with Farrish, McEwen, Marois joining youngsters Maloney and Greschner with the veteran Vadnais and drafting young forwards in Murdoch, DeBlois, Duguay, and signing free agents like: Nick Fotiu
, Ulf Nilsson, and Anders Hedberg and Fergie was building a young team with some talent. In 1978 after the team made the playoffs, what was Fergie's reward? He was canned for one Fred FOG Shero who took Fergie's players and brought the team to the 1979 finals!