Toronto fans must have experienced the worst case of déjà vu. On the exact same date (April 13) seven years apart (in 1933 and 1940), the New York Rangers took the Stanley Cup with an overtime win at Maple Leaf Gardens.
At the end of the 1932-33 regular season, both the Maple Leafs and the Rangers finished with 54 points. However, that was enough to put Toronto in first for the Canadian Division but sink New York to third in the American. Based on those rankings, the defending champions only had to defeat the Boston Bruins (3-2) to make the finals. The Rangers had to knock out first the Montreal Canadiens (1-0-1) and then the Detroit Red Wings (2-0).
When the Leafs and Rangers met on April 13, the latter had won the first two games in the best-of-five finals on their home ice. The third game moved the series over to Toronto, who won 3-2. In the fourth game, according to the New York Daily News, “Play started at a fast clip, but the opposing defense men broke up every thrust before it became especially dangerous.” That held true throughout the game as it ended null all. During the overtime session, “after three minutes of wide open attacking by both teams, they settled back to stricter checking at mid-ice.” Then about seven and a half minutes in, the Rangers’ Butch “Keeling broke up the game at the next face-off, passing to Bill Cook who scored with a neat corner shot from close in.” The Rangers’ veteran captain and future hall-of-famer won the Stanley Cup for the second time in their franchise’s history.
Seven years later, New York and Toronto finished the 1939-40 season ranked second (with 64 points) and third (with 56 points), respectively. This time, it was the Rangers who knocked out the Bruins (4-2) while the Leafs eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks then the Red Wings (2-0 each). The first two games of the best-in-seven finals were held at New York, and the Rangers won both. After the series moved to Toronto, the Leafs won the next two games but lost the fifth. The first and the fifth game had ended in overtime.
With 14,894 gathered at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 13, the home team scored in each of the first two periods to lead 2-0. The Rangers finally joined the party at 8:08 of the third period. The New York Daily News recapped, “Neil Colville shook Red Horner out of his hair and made it 2-1. One minute 54 seconds later in the third period Alf Pike feinted Goalie Broda out of position and delivered the tying goal.” With the game tied, at 17:14 the Rangers ganged up on Turk Broda, and “there was a big pile-up with Broda on the bottom. The red light flashed, but Stewart ruled it no goal although the Rangers protested long and loudly.” Like with seven years prior, the game went into overtime. This time, it only took until 2:07 for New York’s Bryan Hextall, another destined for the Hockey Hall of Fame, to score the winning goal. With that, the Rangers won their third Stanley Cup almost exactly like they had won their second.
The Rangers would have to hold tight to the memories from those two championships to sustain them through the next 54 years, the longest drought in Stanley Cup history. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs won five championships just during the 1940s.
- “Bill Cook’s Goal Gives Rangers Stanley Cup,” New York Daily News, 14 April 1933, p. 55.
- Gene Ward, “Rangers Win, Take Cup,” New York Daily News, 14 April 1940, p. 84.