Today in History: Remembering the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup Parade

Sean Hartnett
June 17, 2020 - 10:47 am

In mid-June of 1994, the eyes of the sports world were focused on New York City. The Rangers had ascended hockey’s mountaintop by claiming their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years; their Madison Square Garden roommates, the Knicks, were locked in a combative NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets; and, just across the river, the 1994 World Cup was preparing the Meadowlands as one of the host sites.

On June 17, 1994, though, the city, and for a time the country, belonged to the Rangers. The Canyon of Heroes hosted a celebration unlike any other, where everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the big, silver chalice that is Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Some fans gathered as early as 6 a.m. Parents called out of work, children skipped school. Many brought homemade Stanley Cups and hand-painted signs. In all, an estimated crowd of 1.5 million gathered along the parade route. That tripled the projection of 500,000 spectators.

As the Rangers traveled from Battery Park to City Hall, the parade route was a sea of blue, red, and white. Confetti, streamers, and computer paper rained down on Lower Manhattan. Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Adam Graves and company took turns holding the Stanley Cup aloft, and despite the 90-degree heat, the unflappable Messier looked comfortable – sporting a pair of sunglasses and a wide grin.

Broadcast duo John Davidson and Sam Rosen were summoned from the MSG studios by NYPD members and were given a police escort to arrive in time for the team’s arrival at City Hall.

Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch and teammates received the key to the city from mayor Rudy Giuliani. Head coach Mike Keenan, Messier, and others addressed the crowd.

“We’re indebted to you and we appreciate the fact that New York City, you the fans, love the New York Rangers,” Keenan told the crowd. “We’ll always remember this day forever. The one thing that we mentioned to the players was that if you win this trophy, you win this Cup, you’ll walk together forever – and they will. Walk together forever with you, New York City.”

Ed Olczyk led chants of the team’s rallying cry: “Heave-ho, heave-ho!”

Messier received an enormous ovation when he was introduced by Giuliani.

“Mike Keenan said that you win this, and we’ll walk together for the rest of our lives,” Messier told the crowd. “Having experienced this before, I can honestly tell you, that’s the honest truth, that we will walk together for the rest of our lives.”

Later in the day, the attention of New Yorkers shifted to the police chase of O.J. Simpson and Game 5 of the NBA Finals. A packed afternoon also saw the World Cup kick off in Chicago and Dallas (Giants Stadium would see its first game the next day) and Arnold Palmer play his final U.S. Open, and all of these events were captured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary: June 17, 1994.

Before the chaos of all those events intertwining in the hours that followed, though the Rangers basked in the warm sun and soaked up the adoration from millions of New Yorkers. The city was theirs.

Follow Sean on Twitter: @HartnettHockey