Tag: Neil Smith

Neil Smith

Architect of Rangers ’94 Cup team: Don’t trade for Rick Nash


Neil Smith — the general manager that built New York’s 1994 Stanley Cup-winning team — said the current Rangers shouldn’t make a deadline deal for Columbus captain Rick Nash.

He also doesn’t think the Blue Jackets should be trading him.

“I wouldn’t trade for a huge player at this point when you’re sitting where the Rangers are,” Smith told the New York Daily News. “I wouldn’t trade Rick Nash if I was in Columbus. And the reason is, those [top-tier] guys, you only get a shot at those kind of guys once in a decade, if that.”

Smith is still working with the Rangers organization as the president and GM of their ECHL affiliate in Greenville. In addition to being familiar with the organization, Smith is familiar with swinging big at the deadline as he made five trades prior to the 1994 trade deadline:

— Todd Marchant to Edmonton for Craig MacTavish

— Mike Gartner to Toronto for Glenn Anderson, Scott Malone and a fourth-round pick

— Tony Amonte and Matt Oates to Chicago for Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan

— Phil Bourque to Ottawa for future considerations

— Peter Andersson to Florida for a ninth-round pick

As you can see, these were no small deals (Fun fact: Smith made all five deals on deadline day.)

Gartner was the team’s second-leading goalscorer that season while Marchant (20 years old at the time) and Amonte (23) were good young prospects — but the players netted in return were absolutely crucial to New York’s success. Noonan ended up being the Rangers’ fifth-leading playoff scorer, Anderson and MacTavish provided invaluable experience and Matteau scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history:

In light of this, it’s funny to hear Smith telling the Rangers to stand pat — though he did state that, with MVP candidate and All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist turning 30, the time to win might be now.

“You’ve got to calculate all those different factors when you’re thinking about when is the right time to go for it — you always go for it — but when you would risk more than other years,” Smith said. “I think because of Lundqvist’s age and where he is in his career this late, it’s a time when they want to try to think that they’ve got a chance to do it now rather than wait.”

Looking back at the beginning of fantasy hockey

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game Two

While the origins of fantasy baseball have become well-documented, there hasn’t been much attention paid to where hockey’s version of the hobby originated. NHL.com took an interesting look back at fantasy hockey, tracing its roots to a group that included Neil Smith, a guy who would eventually become an actual general manager of the New York Rangers.

Tal Pinchevsky details a 10-person group who formed the “Off Ice Hockey League” in 1981. On one hand, it was very simple, as the OIHL tracked goals alone and its only other requirements were that a team included a rookie and two defensemen. That being said, it became enough of an obsession that Smith reportedly even made a letter head for the imaginary league.

The league included an eclectic group of people associated with the game, including Smith, broadcaster Sam Rosen (pictured), sons of some famous hockey minds and more.

“We had great times. We had our draft set up and dinner was brought in at the press room at Madison Square Garden,” said Sam Rosen, the Rangers’ play-by-play announcer and another OIHL participant. “We had a night where WWF [World Wrestling Federation] had 20,000 people screaming in the building and we’d be in our press room conducting our OIHL draft.”

With Smith as the league’s lone NHL insider, the OIHL included a number of people working in hockey. Former Rangers administrative director John Gentile helped found the league, which included Jay Arbour, son of then-Islanders coach Al Arbour, as well as Rich Torrey, son of then-Islanders GM Bill Torrey, and current Islanders TV announcer Howie Rose. Other OIHL participants included the Islanders’ head of public relations and even the person who operated Madison Square Garden’s scoreboard.

“It was a diverse group of guys who saw each other before the hockey games, during the hockey games in the press box, and after the hockey game in the locker room,” Rosen said. “We might be in the locker room and all of a sudden one guy would ask, ‘Are you interested in trading so-and-so?'”

Smith’s scouting gave him an edge in certain situations, as former Vancouver Canucks rookie Tony Tanti scored 41 goals to help him win the 1984 title while Smith drafted Peter Klima, who ended up scoring 32 goals in his first year. Smith seems fairly convinced that the OIHL was the first league of its kind.

“If there is somebody who did it before 1981, which is when we started, I’d be happy to hand them the crown,” he said.

PHT will certainly keep an eye on stories that will affect the game Smith’s group may or may not have started as the season approaches.