While every sport has plenty of traditions and superstitions, the NHL takes things to the next level. For whatever reason, hockey teams tend not to tempt fate; that means growing a playoff beard, refusing to touch the conference championship trophy, and plenty of additional rituals. In recent years, though, the New York Rangers have followed a much more sentimental routine.
In last year’s NHL draft, the lottery worked in the Rangers favor, giving them the second-overall pick; on Monday night, they struck gold again, scoring the first-overall pick in the 2020 draft. In both cases, the club may have received an assist from a dearly departed fan.
The New York Rangers recent success in the NHL Draft Lottery
As any sports fan can tell you, drafting well is usually the key to long-term success. While the New York Rangers haven’t always made the best picks, they’ve been pretty lucky in recent years.
The NHL, like the NFL, relies on a lottery to determine the draft order. While there are pros and cons to the system—a lottery theoretically prevents teams from tanking, but, by the token, it means that the most ‘deserving’ team doesn’t always end up with the top pick—the New York Rangers won’t be complaining.
Last year, the Rangers managed to move up several spots, securing the second-overall pick; they went on to select Kaapo Kakko, who showed plenty of potential during his rookie year. On Tuesday night, they struck gold again. While the odds said New York would probably end up with the 10th or 11th overall-pick, fate intervened. The Rangers won the lottery, giving them the 1st overall-pick this October.
Remembering the late Steven McDonald
While hockey may not be the most popular sport in the world, the New York Rangers still have a pretty sizable fan base. Among that community, though, the name Steven McDonald still stands tall.
On July 12, 1986, McDonald, an officer of the New York City Police Department, and his partner approached a group of boys loitering in Central Park. “Officer McDonald began speaking with one of the boys, Shavod Jones,” the New York Times explained. “Seconds later, Mr. Jones pulled out a handgun and shot him three times.”
While McDonald survived the shooting, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He didn’t retreat into the background, though; instead, he remained in the public eye, speaking about his Catholic faith and the importance of forgiveness.
The police officer also became a part of the New York sports scene. At the end of the 1987 NHL season, the New York Rangers gave out the first Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award; McDonald and his family became a fixture at Madison Square Garden, taking in games and, every spring, bestowing the trophy on that year’s recipient. While McDonald died in January 2017, no Blueshirts fan will forget him anytime soon.
Steven McDonald gave the Rangers an assist at the NHL Draft Lottery
While Steven McDonald isn’t around to watch the New York Rangers anymore, he’s still giving the club a boost in the NHL Draft Lottery.
Heading into the 2019 lottery, Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton brought McDonald’s police badge with him as a good luck charm; the ping pong balls bounced in his favor, giving New York the second-overall pick. On Monday night, Gorton had the badge with him again, and, this time, McDonald one-upped himself, helping the Rangers score the top spot in the draft.
“I have Steven McDonald’s badge with me that his wife, Patti Ann, let us use again,” Gorton said, according to Dan Rosen of NHL.com. “Last year it worked, so we reached out again. … Good luck charm, I don’t know, I’m starting to believe in them.”
Whether Stephen McDonald provided the New York Rangers with another NHL Draft Lottery assist, one thing is clear: the life-long Blueshirts fan would be pretty happy with the results.