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1993-1994:  Leftwinger Adam Graves of the New York Rangers looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreeal Forum in Montreal, Quebec.  Mandatory Credit: Robert Laberge  /Allsport


What the What? Mike Keenan Wanted Denis Potvin on the ’94 Rangers.

There are certain things that every Rangers fan knows. One of those things is that the 1993-94 squad was a special group that gave the franchise its first Stanley Cup win in 54 years. And another is that Islanders legend Denis Potvin is considered a villain, regardless of whether they all know why and despite the fact that Ulf Nilsson says the Potvin hit that injured him in 1979 was clean. So with that in mind, we don't really know what to do with the following information, which is sort of buried in this New York Times blog post: Mike Keenan wanted Potvin on the 1994 Rangers.

From that Times post:

“In ’94 he figured he had a championship team he was putting together, and he needed a real quarterback for the power play,” Potvin said. “Brian Leetch was there, but he asked if I would be interested in coming back.”

Keenan famously had a big influence on that year's roster, and the Rangers got rid of players that he didn't like while bringing in others that he did. But we'd never heard this story before.

Forget for a moment that the top defensive pair on the power play was a total strength for that year's Rangers team, despite what Keenan apparently told Potvin. Leetch was an excellent power-play quarterback and had already won his first Norris Trophy, and his partner on the blue line with the man advantage, Sergei Zubov, led the team in scoring that year. (A few years back, the Times referred to them as "one of the most offensively dangerous blue-line partnerships in N.H.L. history.")

By 1994, Potvin was 42 years old and had been retired for six years, on top of being, shall we say, unpopular at Madison Square Garden. He says Keenan believed he'd be able to come back in a "a month or two" because he'd stayed in shape, and he gave it some thought. From the Times:

“At first I thought he was joking,” he said. “And then all of a sudden when I realized he was serious, I thought, ‘Oh my god, can I do this?’ So I went out skating, and I thought, ‘Nope, I can’t do this.’”

We now can't help but imagine two alternate outcomes for that season from a world in which Potvin actually signed with the Rangers. One of them involves Denis Potvin skating around Madison Square Garden with the Stanley Cup, which just seems wrong. The other involves the Rangers falling short of the Cup that year in part because they gave ice time to a 42-year-old who, despite a legendary career, hadn't played in the NHL in six years, thus causing Rangers fans to come up with something much, much meaner than "Potvin sucks" to chant a dozen times a night.

Update: It looks like this story isn’t totally new. Stan Fischler tweeted a bit about it a few weeks ago, and George Vecsey mentioned it in a column back in March of 1994. In any case, you may now return to being weirded out by that photo-illustration.

Photo-Illustration: Robert Laberge/Getty