|Five Things You Should Know About The 1934-35 Season
Welcome Back, Col. Hammond
Col John S. Hammond, who had resigned as Rangers president during the 1932-33 season, came back to the team on May 2, 1934. His second stint in charge of the Blueshirts would be much shorter than his first, however. It would also be much uglier. Hammond managed to get back into a leadership position in 1934 by organizing a group of investors who bought a controlling interest in Madison Square Garden for $546,000. His first act after re-installing himself as president was to purchase the Philadelphia Arrows farm team of the Canadian-American League. Ironically, his last act in his previous administration had been to disband the Springfield franchise, and the Rangers had not owned a top-tier affiliate at any point in his absence.
Hammond loved hockey, and was a major reason the Rangers franchise had come into existence, but he would last only one more season the second time around, as 1934-35 would be his absolute final year of involvement with the team. Reportedly, Hammond’s leadership style caused tension with one of MSG’s other primary stockholders and directors, Col. John Reed Kilpatrick. On Sept. 8, 1935, Kilpatrick sent a letter to other shareholders to express concerns that Hammond was planning a coup at the upcoming shareholder meeting on Sept. 24, 1935. Kilpatrick believed Hammond was going to use a proxy vote to kick out Kilpatrick and restructure the board.
Kilpatrick’s letter did not sit well with Hammond, who believed he had a deal in which he already controlled certain votes that Kilpatrick was trying to sway. Five days before the big meeting, Hammond sued to prevent any of these votes from being counted against him. He dropped that suit on Sept. 23, deciding to let his fight go all the way to a vote rather than risk alienating additional shareholders. On Sept. 24, the shareholders voted against the Hammond plan by a slim margin. Hammond demanded a recount, but the vote held up on Sept. 27, with Kilpatrick winning 143,921-129,387. With the shareholders behind him, Kilpatrick ousted Hammond that day. Six months later, the remainder of Hammond’s personal MSG stock was bought out for roughly $350,000.
Training Camp at Winnipeg
Perhaps the most significant Rangers change in 1934 was the decision to relocate training camp to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This coincided with the establishment of the Lester Patrick Hockey School in that city, which would become the proving ground for an entire generation of Rangers players. Teen-agers would come to the Patrick School and essentially try out for spots in the organization. If Patrick and the Rangers scouts liked them, they would be signed and would often end up playing with the New York Rovers – an amateur team that also performed at the Garden. This is one reason that so many great players from the city of Winnipeg, including Andy Bathgate, ended up playing for the Blueshirts. The Rangers’ main training camp tended to follow the Lester Patrick School tryouts, and the team would call Winnipeg its off-season/training camp home for the next 13 years.
An Even Lower Salary Cap
The Great Depression was still taking its toll on the hockey world in 1934 – so much so that the league was again forced to reduce its salary cap. When the cap came into existence two years earlier, it was set at $70,000. It was then reduced to $6,500 for 1933-34. Prior to the start of the 1934-35 season, the NHL cut the cap down to $62,500 and also lowered the maximum individual player salary from $7,500 to $7,000. This once again caused issues for the Rangers. Hall of Fame defensemen Earl Seibert, who had held out twice before, and Ching Johnson, who had also held out in the past, both announced they would not play for what Lester Patrick was offering them in early October 1934. This time around, the differences were worked out before the start of the season, but not until the players had missed several days of training camp. Seibert signed his new contract on Oct. 25, and Johnson followed suit five days later. Both players were ready to go for the Nov. 10 opener at St. Louis.
The First Jewish Rangers Player
On April 11, 1934, the Rangers bought the rights to Alex Levinsky from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Levinsky was a 24-year-old defenseman from Syracuse, N.Y., who had earned the nickname “Mine Boy” during his years playing amateur hockey in Toronto because his proud father used to point to him from the stands and yell “That’s Mine Boy!” Playing for the Maple Leafs, Levinsky had already made history as the first Jewish NHL player, and given New York’s large Jewish population, he was a popular addition to the Rangers. A Nov. 1, 1934, Associated Press article in The New York Times noted as much: "Levinsky, in addition to being a heavy and capable hoister, will provide the blue shirts with a long sought drawing card, a Jewish star." Unfortunately, Levinsky’s career as a Blueshirt would last only 20 games before he was traded to Chicago on Jan. 16, 1935. The trade that sent Levinsky out of New York came just over a month after the most important Rangers trade of the 1934-35 season – if not the decade. On Dec. 14, 1934, the Rangers obtained goaltender Dave Kerr from the Montreal Maroons. That trade was a major reason the Blueshirts went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1940.
An Amazing Unbeaten Streak
On Jan. 3, 1935, the Rangers beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at Madison Square Garden. Over the next five weeks, they would go a remarkable 10-0-3 for a then-record 13-game unbeaten streak. The streak ended on Feb. 7 at MSG, when the Rangers fell to the rival New York Americans in front of 13,000 fans. Without that 10-0-3 run, the Blueshirts would not have made the playoffs in 1935, since their record in the 35 other games was eight games under .500 at 12-20-3. During the streak, the Rangers went 2-0-0 vs. Detroit, the Canadiens and Toronto, 2-0-1 vs. the Americans, 1-0-1 vs. the Montreal Maroons, 1-0-0 vs. St. Louis, and 0-0-1 vs. Chicago. Between Dec. 25, 1934, and Feb. 3, 1935, the Rangers were unbeaten in 12 consecutive games at MSG, going 8-0-4. The consecutive home and overall unbeaten streaks stood for the next five years until the 1939-40 Stanley Cup championship team obliterated them. Both streaks were sparked by the goaltending of Dave Kerr.