Daniel Mahoney: The Most Wonderful Times: Memories of New York Rangers Alumni

By Trotsnj · Sep 6, 2020 · Updated Sep 7, 2020
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  1. Trotsnj Registered User

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    Daniel Mahoney: The Most Wonderful Times: Memories of New York Rangers Alumni

    About the Book:

    This book contains ten interviews the author conducted with New York Rangers Alumni in the mid-1980s. Always interested in the history of the Rangers, the author actively sought out some of the original Rangers from the 1926-27 team to get their memories of playing during the early days of the NHL and New York hockey.

    In most cases, the interviews were conducted over the telephone for purposes of writing articles for the Rangers Alumni Newsletter. In addition to original Rangers, the author spoke with a few others from Rangers history he felt deserved attention and to have their stories told.

    Alumni interviewed include:

    Bill Cook
    Bun Cook
    Butch Keeling
    Murray Murdoch
    Ken McAuley
    (goalie in Rangers 15-0 loss to Detroit)
    Alf Pike
    Bill Beveridge
    Harry Howell
    Fred Shero
    Chuck Rayner

    Inspiration for the collection came when the author came across an old folder with transcripts of the interviews he conducted. These interviews, including audio tapes, were donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the mid-1990s for historical purposes. When the author noticed some of the interviews being used in Hockey Hall of Fame website articles, he decided to present these in book form so that more scholars could enjoy them and use quotes, at will, in their own projects.

    The actual interviews are presented in transcript form, so that the reader can, hopefully, feel that they are listening in on the conversations. Short overviews of the players are given before each interview to provide background information for non-hockey historians.

    Photos of Bill Cook receiving his Rangers Alumni award are included, as well as copies of letters the author received from Bill Beveridge and Chuck Rayner.

    An additional purpose behind the collection was to ensure that these players are not forgotten by Rangers fans – by reading their actual words, it is hoped that they become more than footnotes and statistics for the reader. By publishing them via Amazon, it is hoped that the book can always be printed on-demand – for future generations.

    The Fred Shero interview, specifically, is included to show a different side of the man to what is usually presented in print. Without going into all the stories that were written about him after his time as Rangers coach, this interview, it is hoped, presents a view of an intelligent well-spoken man who, above all, loved the game of hockey.

    The opening of the book details how the author was able to gain access to the players and cover the New York Rangers team from 1983-1988. Anecdotes of his interaction with players from that day are included, with stories of Herb Brooks, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Williams and, surprisingly, Walter Cronkite.

    These are included to show that sometimes cherished memories can happen just by answering a short ad at the back of a magazine.

    The book is available on all Amazon sites for print on-demand. It is a small book, approximately 130 pages. Various countries allow the reader to view sections of the book before purchasing.

    Link for book:

    https://tinyurl.com/y68kbbyn


    View attachment 366212

    Example anecdote:

    Guy LaFleur

    I was covering the New Jersey Devils game on December 20, 1983 when the Montreal Canadiens came to town. It was a memorable game for two career milestones.

    Steve Shutt scored his 400th career goal that night but nobody wanted to talk to him after the game because Guy LaFleur scored his 500th in the third period.

    There was a huge crowd of reporters surrounding LaFleur, all peppering him with questions in both French and English. LaFleur took his time, politely answering all of them, in French or English, depending on the reporter’s language.

    Larry Robinson (Montreal’s Hall of Fame defenseman) kept circling around, telling Guy the team had a plane to catch at Newark airport that they did not want to miss. This went on for about five minutes.

    Finally, one English reporter asked Guy “Do any of the 500 goals stand out?” When Guy started to answer “Well, I remember the first one” Larry Robinson shouted out “Oh, shit. He’s going to describe them all!”

    Example interview responses:

    The players’ words in the book are presented in bold and italicized for easy reading.

    Bill Cook Excerpt:

    The following interview was conducted July 5, 1984 via telephone.

    Well, it all started on the old homestead in the west. That was after I came back from overseas and Russia. I started to play hockey first in the Soo, Canada (Sault Ste. Marie) for two years and then I went out to play in Saskatoon under Newsy Lalonde.

    Then I got word from Conn Smythe to meet him in Winnipeg. I went down to Winnipeg and they gave me a contract which I didn’t take at the time, but which was much better than what I was getting in Saskatoon. But it wasn’t as much as I thought should have come, in regards to New York hockey. So, we stood off, and he said he’d give me two or three or four days until he got in touch. So, he did, and I got what I asked for. It wasn’t a terrible lot in comparison to what they’re getting today, but a little better than what I was already getting.

    So, then he inquired about other players. He was interested in Bunny
    (Cook). Then I told him about Ching Johnson. I had played against Johnson when I was with the Soo team in Canada. He had played with Eveleth (Minnesota), and was a helluva good player.

    Bun Cook Excerpt:

    The following interview was conducted July 3, 1984 via telephone.

    Ching (Johnson) had a firm jaw on him; he’d always be playing with a smile. He was a very firm stick player. When he handed out a body check, you really were shook up.

    When they ran into Taffy
    (Abel), they bounced off of him like a rubber ball. They were colorful.

    Of course, Tex Rickard was the manager of the Garden. He was a great fight promoter. He wanted lots of color and he got it in Ching and Taffy.

    Lester went along with it too because he was quite a promoter from his western days. He certainly had lots of publicity, but he was a hard worker. He was a tough guy. I talked with him when I was with the Soo Greyhounds. He was quite interesting then. Hockey was in his blood. He was a great man for hockey.

    It wasn’t like hockey today; we had lots of idle time. We had to practice up in the garden rink
    (the old Madison Square Garden had an additional skating rink on its top floor); it was a skating rink for figure skating. We travelled by coach, so there was a lot of time to get acquainted and we were together, about seven or eight of us, for eight or nine years. There weren’t too many changes. We were successful because we had played as a line for about eight years straight. About the ninth year we were broken up.

    Fred Shero Excerpt:

    The following interview was conducted April 1, 1984 in The New Jersey Devils press room. I had asked Fred about the Flyers’ goon reputation.

    I’ve said this before, and I mean it honestly, if you can find one player I’ve ever coached who can claim I ever asked him to fight, I’ll give you a million dollars. That stands! I’d say at the start of every season, “If I ever ask you to fight, I want you to break that stick over my head!”

    I believe you coach with the material you have. You say, “Why did you fight?” We had to because that’s all we had. We weren’t the toughest team in hockey – Boston was the toughest team in hockey, but they had the talent and that’s why they didn’t have to fight as much.

    And a super team was the Canadiens in those days, but how are you going to fight with them? They had the biggest team in hockey. They had Larry Robinson, they had Serge Savard, Guy LaPointe, all between 215 and 220 pounds. We couldn’t outmuscle them, but we had the muscle to win our games, to stay in the race.

    I coached a lot of teams that you might say were sort of chicken, but I still won with them because they were talented. In other words, you coach according to the material you have, and you’ve got to be blessed with people who are abrasive by nature.



    About the Author:

    Daniel Mahoney is a retired ex-banker who has been a New York Rangers fan since 1965. While working for the bank, he also moonlighted for five years in the mid-1980s, helping to cover the Rangers for the Hockey News.

    An avid collector of memorabilia from all periods of Rangers history, the author prides himself on being able to converse at ease with their alumni – often remembering details of their careers they have forgotten. He has been a season ticket holder for over twenty years.
     
  2. Theokritos Moderator

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    Thanks for joining us! Looks like a very interesting book.
     
  3. Theokritos Moderator

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    First question: When you interviewed Bill Cook in the 1980s, how well-know was he to Rangers fans in general and how well-regarded was he? I'm wondering because his number was never retired, which is truly puzzling.
     
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  4. Trotsnj Registered User

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    Most fans really just know the players on the current team. If they've been fans for a while they remember the players from the previous years they watched. Not many really care about the history.

    That's been my experience through the years. When they gave Cook his alumni award, between the first and second periods of a game, the vast majority of people were not in the stands. The reporters who interviewed him before the game in the press room had no idea what to ask him. He was just a few-line filler at the end of a column.

    It holds true today. When they retired Adam Graves number, there were lots of people in the stands. A few weeks later, it was empty for the Howell- Bathgate retirement. The Ratelle ceremony was better, but Hadfield's was empty.

    A player like Giacomin is still well known today because he comes to 5-6 games a year. Gilbert is at every game. But some of their teammates, say Kurtenbach or Donnie Marshall, would not be known.

    They've retired all of the GAG lines' numbers. It would be very easy to do the same for the Boucher-Cook Brothers.

    So, fans in the 1980s may have been a little more aware of Bill Cook than today's crowd, but very few would have known his story. Just my observation!
     
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  5. Theokritos Moderator

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    You know, for someone who is interested in history it's a little sad to realize this, but at the same time I find it hard to blame the average fan for not paying much thought to guys who played decades ago. But the New York Rangers organization? How can you not retire the numbers of a legendary trio that was instrumental in 50% of the Stanley Cup wins in franchise history? Cook-Boucher-Cook should have a group of statues or something like that. And by extension, if the club did put more effort into honoring their legends and keeping the memories alive, the average fan today would have a little more awareness.
     
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  6. Trotsnj Registered User

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    I agree. The Garden used to have a Hall of Fame, but not sure it exists anymore. I know they "inducted" Frank Boucher into it, but I don't think they did the Cooks. I was at the ceremony, luncheon really, when they inducted Harry Howell into it in the 1980s and it did not receive a lot of attention.

    Larry Brooks has written a few times that they should have some space set off for a Rangers history room, but no word on that ever happening.

    To correlate them to Yankees history, Ruth and Gehrig, of course, are well-known, but I'm sure the average fan couldn't tell you who Joe Dugan was.

    I understand people not recognizing the name of Keeling, but I think fans should know who Bill Cook was in the same way as Ruth. Stanley Cup winning goal, plus captain of two Cup teams!

    When I was a kid, through my twenties, the story of Patrick going into the nets was fairly well known. Now, most fans I speak to have never heard of it.

    I do my best. I've given away copies of the book to little kids in my neighborhood who like the Rangers. I've also given them cards of the Cooks and Boucher from that Original Six set with it so they have a photo to know who they were.

    When I go to alumni gatherings as a season ticket holder, I always get extra autographs inscribed to the kids, so they will at least know who guys like Greschner and Stemkowski are.

    But, you know, I gave copies to a few fans in their forties and they did not even know who Fred Shero was!

    I'm sure there are Rangers fans out there who share our interest, but they are hard to find.
     
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  7. Theokritos Moderator

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    Any anecdote you're particularly fond of or a favouite interview you did? @Trotsnj
     
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  8. Trotsnj Registered User

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    The two Cook Brothers are my favorites. Sometimes I think back and find it hard to believe I actually spoke with them. Bill was 88 at the time; when I met him he was just shy of 90 and sharp.

    I also like the Shero one. It's the longest interview. When he was doing Devils broadcasts, I would sit with him for lunch / dinner and just listen to him talk. For some reason, I was the only one at his table. He and his wife, a lovely woman, both called me Danny. Reading that one after 33 years brought back a lot of nice memories.

    I tried to keep the anecdotes humorous, like that ending article in every SIHR newsletter. That's the section I usually read first. Telling Wayne Gretzky "Wayne Gretzky jokes" from the National Lampoon is funny - still don't know why I did that!

    Friends who have read the book, though, feel the story of Tiger Williams cursing me out in the Canucks locker room to be the funniest.
     
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  9. nabby12 Registered User

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    Any old Rangers players that you wish you talked to but never got the chance?

    I would have loved to have a chat with the great Bryan Hextall.
     
  10. Trotsnj Registered User

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    I had Hextall's phone number but he died a week before I was going to call him.

    I would have liked to speak with Boucher. All the players I spoke to seemed to love him.

    Cecil Dillon would have been nice, as Bill Cook, especially, praised him.

    Ching Johnson would have been fun as well.

    I guess the list could go on and on!
     
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  11. Trotsnj Registered User

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    @nabby12 thought you might like the following story. It's not in the book.

    During Ron Hextall's rookie season, Fred Shero and I were discussing his "combative nature." I don't think anyone would be offended by that description of his play.

    Fred then said, "you know, Danny, Bryan Hextall was the meanest player I ever saw."

    I told him that that surprised me, because I always thought Dennis was a more feisty player than Bryan.

    He said, "no, I'm talking about the grandfather."

    When I asked for an example, he said there were always dirtier players but Bryan was mean and he didn't have to be because he was so good.

    Things like hitting guys after the whistle behind the play, or spearing guys behind their knees. Those were the sort of things Fred said Bryan would do.
     
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  12. Theokritos Moderator

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    Daniel, what do you think is the main reason the New York Rangers (who were always among the more financially potent teams in the league, right?) have only won the SC one single time since 1940?
     
  13. Trotsnj Registered User

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    @Theokritos
    In any 80 year period, it's difficult to pick one reason. I think that 1940 team would have won more cups but they were decimated by WW II. After the war those players came back and were past their prime.

    They could have won in 1950, but lost after being up 3-2 in the finals.

    After that, there were a number of reasons.

    Bad decisions on trades; I've always wondered about the Allan Stanley trade. Kelly Miller AND Ridley for Bobby Carpenter? Then trade him for a past-prime Dionne? Middleton for Hodge?

    Bad coaches - Phil Watson, as an example. Ted Sator - Beck, Pavelich and Ruotsalainen all quit because of him.

    Emile Francis came closest to being a success. A lot of fans think they would have won in 72 if Ratelle had not been injured, but I'm not sure he would have offset Orr's play in that final.

    In the modern draft era, they've made a number of bad draft choices (Brendl), some unlucky (Cherepanov). I won't even mention Hugh Jessiman. In 2005, they were one of the 4 teams with 3 balls in the lottery yet, somehow, fell to 16th. They traded that and their second to move up to 12th.

    Their management has either been reactionary ("Trader Phil" Esposito) or money-mad (Sather's early years) with unwise contracts.

    Through it all, though, they have had some good teams, but, as Harry Howell told me, there always seemed to be one team that was better.

    So, sorry for the long-winded discourse, but there have been many reasons, depending on the era.

    Not like the Leafs, where you can point to one reason - the "Curse of Stemkowski." Jokingly, Stemkowski has told me that he told Imlach the Leafs would never win another Cup after they traded him to Detroit in 1967.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  14. Trotsnj Registered User

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    @Theokritos just as an aside. When I was covering the Rangers, Ratelle was an assistant coach for Boston. I spoke with him on a few occasions and always thought he was a nice gentleman. One time we spoke about the injury in 1972.

    I asked him if he saw Rolfe's shot coming. This was about 1987 or so. He told me I was the only one who ever asked him that question. He said he did and raised his leg. That's why the puck hit him in the ankle, instead of the leg. I told him that news didn't make me feel any better.
     
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  15. Theokritos Moderator

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    So suboptimal roster & asset managment seems to be something of a common thread here.
     
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  16. Trotsnj Registered User

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    Nice executive summary! :) @Theokritos
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  17. nabby12 Registered User

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    Thanks for the story!

    Did Fred Shero ever talk about growing up in the North End of Winnipeg? Or knowing Bill Mosienko as they were neighbours growing up?
     
  18. Trotsnj Registered User

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    @nabby12 I remember he mentioned Winnipeg and knowing Mosienko, but I don't recall anything memorable that he said.
     
  19. mrhockey193195 Registered User

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    Amazing stuff @Trotsnj ! I just purchased the book and can't wait to read it, but your answers in this thread have been gripping on their own!
     
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  20. Trotsnj Registered User

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    @mrhockey193195. Thanks. It's a small book, as I mention above. Really just wanted more people to be able to see the interviews. Hope you enjoy it.
     
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  21. Theokritos Moderator

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    Which brings us to another attribute of this book: it's really inexpensive to buy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2020
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  22. Trotsnj Registered User

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    Yes, I kept the price low. It's almost the price of a magazine. I wanted to gather the interviews together for myself and friends, but, really, to provide the first hand source material for SIHR members to read and use in their projects.

    Thanks for pointing this out @Theokritos !!
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2020
  23. Theokritos Moderator

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    It's unfortunate that Frank Boucher passed away a few years before you made your interviews. What did his former teammates say about him?
     
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  24. Trotsnj Registered User

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    Bill Cook speaks of his great play and what a great pal he was. He's the one who wanted him as center, even though Boston held his rights. He mentioned how the three of them all shared a house together in Queens while playing.

    I asked him about any hard feelings he may have had when Frank had to fire him as Rangers coach in the 1950s. He didn't remember any, even though Boucher's book mentions it. I didn't press him on it. Didn't think it was necessary to get him to recall a bad memory. I was always cognizant that I was speaking to an 88 year old man.

    Bun Cook said that Bill was very driven and would criticize him if he was not playing well, but Frank would stand up for him in the locker room, telling Bill to go easy on him.

    Keeling confirms that story of getting drunk and bursting into Patrick's room thinking it was a toilet - this was written in Boucher's book as well. Keeling laughed while he told me and how he would, jokingly, curse Boucher out after that book was published.

    Even when you get to someone he coached, like McAuley. They all seemed to have such respect for Boucher and Patrick as well. According to
    McAuley, you never had to have anything in writing with them. Their word and handshake was all that was required. All bonuses were paid in full just on their word.

    Just seemed that he was a nice man, with a great Irish sense of humor. So, it would have been fun to speak with him.
     
  25. Theokritos Moderator

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    Interesting. Do you know if Bun Cook also stood up to his older brother by himself or did he take in the criticism as something he had to endure? After all, Bill was his senior by quite a few years.
     
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