The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have more in common than their quest for the 2014 Stanley Cup. These storied franchises shared some of the greatest figures in NHL history.
From Wayne Gretzky to coach Roger Neilson, the Rangers and Kings have kept the company of eight Hockey Hall of Famers whose personalities and careers changed the culture of the game.
Wayne Gretzky, considered the greatest hockey player of all time, has six Stanley Cup Finals appearances and four championships to his name. The Great One changed the NHL when the Edmonton Oilers traded him to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.
Gretzky brought a winning culture to Los Angeles and led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1993. Gretzky ended his legendary career with the New York Rangers from 1996-99. Reunited with Mark Messier in his first season in New York, Gretzky helped the Rangers advance to the conference finals. But Messier's departure after the season contributed to two non-playoff seasons for the Rangers, and Gretzky retired in 1999.
Luc Robitaille evolved from a standout rookie 1986-87 to "one of the most dominant left wingers in history,” according to the Hockey Hall of Fame's website. Robitaille's career with the Kings exemplified his work ethic. Paired with the Great One in 1988, Robitaille and Gretzky lead the Kings to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 1992-93 season.
Trades sent Robitaille first to Pittsburgh and then New York in 1995. He spent two seasons with the Rangers before being reacquired by the Kings in 1997. Though Robitaille won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, he ended his career in his third stretch with the Kings in 2006 and is now a team executive.
Jari Kurri, the thrilling Finnish scorer, spent 1991-96 with the Kings. Reunited with his Edmonton linemate, Wayne Gretzky, Kurri helped lead
the Kings to a Stanley Cup Final against Montreal in 1993. The Kings traded Kurri to the Rangers in March 1996, where he spent only three months.
"They treat you very well,” Kurri said of New York in an interview with the Hockey Hall of Fame. "I had a good time in my three months there."
Tired of the Detroit Red Wings, Dionne signed with Los Angeles in June 1975 as a free agent. Dionne's production skyrocketed in L.A., but the Kings never made a Stanley Cup appearance in his 12 seasons with the team.
Mismanagement and a salary dispute caused Dionne to want a change of scenery, and in March 1987 he was traded to the Rangers. As the Rangers fumbled toward the end of Dionne’s career, he retired after the 1988-89 as one of the greatest scorers in NHL history.
Harry Howell debuted in the NHL during the 1952-53 season with the Rangers, and he endured 17 frustrating years and floundering teams in New York. But Howell earned a prestigious individual award in 1966-67 by taking home the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman.
The Rangers traded him to the Seals in 1969. He played one season with Oakland, before the Kings bought his contract. He skated for three seasons in Los Angeles to finish his NHL career, although he continued with three more in the WHA.
The Los Angeles Kings selected a legend in the net, Terry Sawchuk, in June 1967 expansion draft. After one season with the Kings, Sawchuk ended his NHL career with the New York Rangers in 1968-69. Sawchuk played just eight games in his final season, but recorded his record setting 103rd regular-season shutout. A brawl in the summer of 1970 with former Rangers teammate, Ron Stewart, killed the legendary goalkeeper. In honor of his death Sawchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971.
Known for his fiercely competitive nature on the ice, which only heightened during the playoffs, Dick Duff captured six Stanley Cup championships (four with the Canadiens and two with the Maple Leafs.) His short stints with the Rangers (Feb.- Dec. 1964) and Kings (1970-72) were merely road bumps in his 17-season NHL career. However, Duff’s competitive presence was no doubt a lift for both teams in the time he spent with the Kings and the Rangers.
Neilson had an inventive coaching style. Neilson's tactics involved "nontraditional methods in trying to gain an edge over his opponents,” according to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s website. In 1984 Neilson broke down video for the Los Angeles Kings to help with game strategy against opponents. That earned him the nickname Captain Video. As Rangers head coach for three and a half seasons, Neilson was runner up as the NHL’s coach of the year in 1991-92. Though Neilson's tenure ended in the 1992-93 season, his coaching helped build the base for the Rangers' Stanley Cup victory in 1994.
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