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The Halligan Archive: George "Red" Sullivan

John Halligan, the longtime Rangers and NHL executive who passed away in January 2010, was arguably the greatest of all team historians and wrote several books about the team. A great friend to newyorkrangers.com during the last several years of his life, Halligan authored numerous pieces for the site, focusing on the Blueshirts' rich history and the many characters who had worn the uniform. As part of our 85th anniversary season, the Rangers will be re-publishing some of Halligan's newyorkrangers.com pieces during the 2010-11 season. The series continues with Halligan's look back at former Rangers captainGeorge "Red" Sullivan.

George "Red" Sullivan is shown here with Rangers General Manager Emile Francis in 1965 as he renewed his contract to coach the team. Sullivan, the head coach from December 1962 to December 1965, was also a team captain from 1957 to 1961.
Only four men in the 78-year history of the New York Rangers have served the team in the three capacities of player, captain and coach. One of them is George "Red" Sullivan. The others were: Bill Cook, Neil Colville and Phil Esposito.

Sullivan was a sparkplug center for the team from 1956 to 1961, a pesky and determined leader whose gritty style of play inspired teammates and fans alike. He was chosen captain of the team in only his second season in New York (1957-58) and he succeeded teammate and close friend Harry Howell in that capacity.

One of only five men in the history of the Rangers to wear uniform number seven before it was permanently retired in Rod Gilbert’s honor on March 9, 1977, Sullivan scored 59 goals and 150 assists for 209 points, along with 300 penalty minutes in 322 career games as a Ranger. He was a standout penalty killer with a stellar poke check.

Red’s best offensive season was 1958-59, when he scored 21 goals and 42 assists for 63 points, second only to Andy Bathgate on the team’s scoring list. He was the co-winner with Andy Hebenton of the West Side Association of Commerce Players’ Player Award that season, the first time that trophy was awarded.

“I really enjoyed my time in New York,” Sullivan recalled years later. “The city has so much to offer. My only regret was not being able to spend more time there.”

Prior to joining the Rangers, Red played for the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. He appeared in five NHL All-Star Games, including three straight, representing the Rangers from 1958 to 1960.

Following his playing career, Sullivan coached briefly with the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League, and then succeeded Muzz Patrick as coach of the Rangers midway through the 1962-63 season. He coached the team for three years, winning only 38 of 196 games behind the bench.

In 1967, Sullivan became the first coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and recruited no less than 11 former Rangers to staff the Pens’ expansion effort. He also briefly guided the Washington Capitals in their inaugural season of 1974-75. Currently retired in Ontario, Sullivan has remained active in the affairs of the Rangers Alumni Association and was most recently at The Garden for the Legendary Blue ceremony on Feb. 22, 2009, when Howell's No. 3 and Andy Bathgate's No. 9 were retired.