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The New York Rangers; a team with a legacy enveloped in tradition dating back to the days of the Original Six. They have done everything there is to do in the NHL, well, almost. They may have led the league in every on-ice stat at least once in the last 90 plus years, but there is an unseen and unusual category off the ice, that they find themselves dead last in. To elaborate, let’s bring things back to September 24, 2018. The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their newest member of the team. A large and in-charge monster with wild eyes and a personality to match. Gritty, the Flyers new mascot, turned The Rangers into the very last NHL team without a mascot.
Mascots in the modern NHL are more than guys in costumes. they have become ambassadors to their respective teams. Whenever they are seen out and about, it’s publicity and recognition, regardless if it’s in or out of the arena. Its almost customary now to feature a mascot in all major North American sports. But it feels like hockey took the longest to acclimate. These days, even the most stubborn NHL teams that had previous failures with mascots are giving it another go. But one team just sticks out for the opposite reason.
The New York Rangers have never had a solid mascot in franchise history. No man in a large, seemingly scary costume high-fiving the younger fans at games. But the sentiment of a mascot has not been lost in New York. While they have never embraced the traditional man in suit, the Rangers have actually seen live animals take to the ice. Two animals to be exact. One, a stray cat during the teams inaugural season, the other, an energetic puppy sponsored by the franchise. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Story has it, in 1927, a black cat that lived within Madison Square Garden was found by arena management, and symbolically adopted by Rangers’ captain, William Cook as a pseudo mascot. Ranger the cat was born, and with her as a good luck charm, the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup that very season. She continued her lucky ways until her death circa 1930. With the cat gone, the Rangers actually lost 5 of their next 8 games, and tied the other 3. The team decided they needed another cat, and found one closer than expected. Before the cat’s passing, she gave birth to a litter of kittens, one of which bore a striking resemblance to the original.
Probably not the actual cat.
This cat, Ranger III, picked up where her mother left off, motivating the Rangers to two more Cup wins. Alas, after the Rangers 1939-40 cup win, the cat disappeared and was never seen again. Coincidentally, the team wouldn’t see another championship for over half a century. much like burning the Garden’s mortgage in the cup cursed their cup hopes, perhaps the disappearance of Ranger the cat has lead to the teams mascot woes.
Decades later, in 2018, The Rangers promoted Ranger, a golden retriever pup sponsored by the team to receive training as a service animal for mentally ill children. Ranger attended many home games in the 2018-19 season, as well as multiple team practices and functions. In July 2019, Ranger the pup was adopted by a loving family, likely ending the teams usage of the dog as a “mascot”. This brings us to here and now. To date, there has not been a single attempt to display a man in suit mascot in the garden. But why? Is the team so “no nonsense” that they refuse to stoop to this level? Have they just not found the right fit? As the Rangers focus on an incredibly fast and strong rebuild, maybe it’s worth a thought. With all of these roster additions, doesn’t a mascot just feel, right?
Mascots in hockey have always seemed unnecessary to me, but I’ve since assimilated to the trend. And it feels like the Rangers may need to find the same mindset. Within a league where they are the last to budge, they feel like a crotchety old man who claims to be hip, but can’t get with the times to relate to the younger crowd. But perhaps it sin’t their fault. Perhaps they are too focused on giving the fans a good team, to distract them with a colorful character. Maybe they just haven’t thought of it. What do you think?