If the game had been on June 13 instead of June 14, then the past 25 years might have been completely different.

But a quarter-century later, the Rangers and their fans get to look back on Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final as the day The Curse was broken, the moment when 54 years without a championship came to an end. But without that second, extra day off coming back from a Game 6 loss in Vancouver — which followed a Game 5 loss in the Garden, making a 3-1 series lead evaporate — things might not have turned out how they did.

“I think momentum always plays a big role in any playoff series,” Mark Messier, captain of that Rangers team, recently told The Post. “I just think it gave us a chance to reset. I think we all agreed it was best to stay right at home and absorb it all, and not try to deflect that energy that was coming our way and use it to our advantage. And I think that’s what we did, and it helped.”

Adam Graves specifically remembered how nice the weather was on that day off, and how the energy in the city was palpable, with the Knicks in the NBA Finals, also taking a day off between Games 3 and 4 of their series against the Rockets.

“No matter where you went, whether you were getting up in the morning to get a coffee or to stop and put in gas in the car, the energy was just on the top of everyone’s mind,” Graves said. “You just felt like you had everyone behind you. You just had this groundswell of energy and support that I’ve never quite felt before.”

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The Rangers were able to relax for that one day, regroup from the consecutive losses and refocus on the task at hand. They knew history was going to be written with that final game of the season, and it was going to define them as a team. It was a moment the entire organization, along with the suffering fan base, had imagined for more than half a century. They were either going to rise to the occasion or wilt like so many teams before them.

“This is what you do as a kid in the driveway — Game 7, last minute, you have the puck on your stick,” Mike Richter said. “That’s spectacular. That’s the type of stuff you live for as a fan and you prepare for your whole life as a player.”


The regular season had already been ripe with anticipation, as the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the league’s best record. Brian Leetch was arguably the best defenseman in the league, Graves had set a then-franchise record in scoring 52 goals, goalie Richter was an All-Star with his acrobatics in nets and Messier was the undisputed leader after coming in three years earlier following five Stanley Cup victories in Edmonton.

“The mindset and the culture, and kind of why we were there, changed when Mark came in in ’91,” Graves said. “Before that, it was like, ‘Oh, we don’t really want to talk about the Cup and what happened.’ We’re playing, and we’re trying to win. But he came in and said, ‘No, we’re here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to win.’ It changed the whole mindset.”

Once in the playoffs, the Rangers swept the Islanders in the first round by an aggregate score of 22-3, then dropped only one game to the Capitals in the second round. That set up the epic Eastern Conference final against the Devils, which was highlighted by Messier’s “guarantee” of victory before Game 6, when he registered a hat trick.

Stanley CupNew York PostNew York Post

“The magnitude of what I was saying paled in comparison to the message I was trying to portray to the team,” Messier said. “At that point, all the cards are on the table. Everything was wide open. It reinstalled the confidence we had shown all year. The consequence of not winning just didn’t distract us at that point. It was too big at that point.

“Personally, I didn’t really care.”

Stephane Matteau then scored in double-overtime of Game 7 — thus allowing radio man Howie Rose to turn his last name into a triplet — sending the Blueshirts on to the Cup final, where the Canucks were waiting with the likes of Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden up front, and Kirk McLean in nets. The Rangers quickly took a 3-1 series lead, which included Richter’s iconic stop of Bure on a penalty shot in Game 4 in Vancouver on June 7.

“There are always these things that define a game or a series,” Richter said. “That was a big moment.”

The presence of the Stanley Cup was then necessary in the Garden for Game 5, and with it came all of the pressure and anxiety of history. The Blueshirts didn’t play great, lost 6-3, then flew across the continent to lose Game 6 in Vancouver, 4-1. The feelings of missed opportunity were starting to build.

“I guess the flight back from Vancouver, we were down,” Leetch said. “We had missed a couple opportunities to win the Cup, now we’re having to fly back to New York and play, so it wasn’t like we were looking forward so much to being back.

“But after the two-day break, that’s where some of the optimism came back.”

Leetch also recalled how the team had read the newspapers and saw that the Canucks were openly talking about the difficulty of trying to beat a team three times in a row in the playoffs — and especially winning three games at the Garden.

“You knew they were feeling the pressure of being in that position to win the Cup,” Leetch said, “and having to do it on the road.”

By the time Game 7 started, the energy in the city had stirred the Garden into a froth of excitement, and the national anthem, sung by John Amirante, was one for the ages.

“I loved listening to him sing the national anthem, and what a great tradition that was,” Graves said of Amirante, who died in April 2018. “But that particular night, it was like he was lip-synching. You couldn’t hear it. You could not hear.

“And then you’re on the ice, and you have Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York,’ along with [the fans chanting] ‘We Want the Cup!’ It was just bananas.”

At 11:02 of the first period, Leetch scored his 11th goal of the playoffs from a sharp angle to make it 1-0. Graves added one on the power play at 14:45 to take a 2-0 lead into the second period.

Mark MessierMark Messier holds the Stanley CupGeorge Kalinsky

But Linden scored his first of two on the night, shorthanded, to make it 2-1 early in the second period. Soon thereafter, Messier was credited with a goal that he might not have touched to take a 3-1 lead into the third, before Linden scored again on the power play at 4:50 to cut the lead to 3-2. Vancouver forward Martin Gelinas then hit the outside of post on a chance that would have tied the game, and the memory of that play — with Richter diving and losing his glove — still sticks out to Leetch. Richter, somehow, didn’t seem fazed by it.

“Sometimes you shake your head and go, ‘I was nowhere near it.’ I felt that one, I was in the right place,” Richter said. “But look, sometimes those things are good because it keeps you focused.”

The game clock seemingly came to a slow crawl over the final two minutes, as the Rangers were forced to take three face-offs in their own end. The famous spoked ceiling of the Garden was threatening to blow off with all the rising tension. An icing was called with 1.1 seconds remaining, and there was a slight delay with the officials picking toilet paper off the ice and resetting the clock to 1.6 seconds.

“After 54 years,” Graves said, laughing, “that’s the only way it could have ended.”

Rangers coach Mike Keenan sent helmetless veteran Craig MacTavish out for the final face-off, and when he won it backwards, longtime television voice Sam Rosen let out his iconic phrase: “This one will last a lifetime!”

“You can feel a lot of that energy start to drain out of you and just have that relief that you’ve achieved a goal that you set out to be a part of, you got to do it in New York,” Leetch said. “Then it’s just a daze.”


The party began at the Garden. Leetch had won the Conn Smythe Trophy after three months of spectacular hockey, and by the time he finished some interviews and got back into the locker room, it was a zoo. So he went straight to the trainer’s room.

“With still all my gear on,” he said, “just sat there and had a beer.”

Eventually everyone cleared out, the players showered and met family and friends for a reception at the Play by Play inside the Garden. Richter guessed they didn’t leave there until 2 a.m., but eventually the team and the Cup made its way to the Upper East Side, to a bar owned by a friend called The Auction House. The NYPD closed 89th Street between First and Second Avenues, and many people partied until the sun came up. Leetch wasn’t one of them.

Brian LeetchBrian LeetchREUTERS

“I told my parents, ‘I’m going back to bed. I need to go get some sleep,’ ” he said. “So I actually did, I went back to my apartment and went back to sleep. Then I woke up the next morning like it was Christmas morning. I don’t think I slept for a couple weeks after that.”


Much of the next 25 years was spent with those players — especially Messier, Graves, Leetch and Richter — hearing about how much they meant to so many fans. People stop to thank them on the streets, in airports, at events all over the country, like the one the four of them will attend at iPlay America in Freehold, N.J., on June 30. The fans want to share their experience of that one game, that one moment when the Rangers finally won.

More importantly, the players from that team know they didn’t just win the Stanley Cup for themselves, but for everyone who cared about that team over decades and generations of fandom. It is a victory that is starting to seem like a long time ago now that it stands as the organization’s only championship since 1940, but it is one that still resonates deeply.

“It was special because the Cup was symbolic of such a love for that jersey,” Graves said. “Not just for those of us who were all so fortunate to play, but I think for everyone in the building and for Rangers fans.”

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