“What if” scenarios have always intrigued me, especially in sports. It’s always interesting to imagine how the history of the Ranger franchise as well as some of its players would have been changed had different trades been made over the years. Below are three excerpts from my interviews with Emile Francis where he describes deals that could have changed the course of Ranger history, but could not be made, each for their own unique reason.
First Emile told me about a trade that he didn’t make but regretted later.
“We had a lot of good prospects coming along but we always had a problem with our protected list over the years. The first year you get an exemption and the second year you had to protect them or they were gone. Andre Dupont fell into that category, where we couldn’t protect everybody. So I traded Dupont to St Louis with Jack Egers and Mike Murphy for Gene Carr, who was a first round pick with Jim Lorentz and Wayne Connelly. Now when I made a deal with St, Louis it was always under the condition that you can’t trade them to anyone else unless you offer them back to me. It was like I had another farm club. But Dupont got a real bad concussion in St Louis. Now in those days concussions were rare. And he hadn’t played for two months. So they call me and tell me that they’ve got a deal for Dupont, do you want him back? I tell them give me 24 hours to think about it. So I checked with the doctors and I said go ahead and trade him, They traded him to Philadelphia and he never had another concussion and he played great and he could have helped us in the playoffs against the Flyers because he was a real tough defenseman. So that’s the one I regret.”
Johnny Bucyk for Earl Ingerfield? It almost happened.
“It was my second year with the Rangers and they always used to kid that the Rangers and Boston were playing for the Patrick trophy, who would end up in last place. The Bruins hired a General Manager by the name of Hap Emms. So the first trip into New York I grabbed him and spent four hours with him before the game. And when I was finished with him I had made a deal. At that time I was looking for a guy to put with Ratelle and Gilbert. So I made a deal for John Bucyk. And I was gonna trade him Earl Ingerfield. They needed a center and I needed a left winger. So we shook hands on it, but he said, as far as I’m concerned I made a deal with you to trade John Bucyk for Earl Ingerfield. I’ll call you tomorrow at noon. I’m new here, I’ve only been here a month but if Westin Adams turns this deal down I promise you that I’ll quit at the end of the year. In other words he was saying that his word’s no good. I went home that night and couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking If I could put Bucyk on the line with Ratelle and Gilbert, would I have a powerhouse or what? And he called me the next day at noon and the owner turned the deal down and he quit at the end of the year. Now if I ever got Bucyk to play with Ratelle and Gilbert, Boston never would have won a Stanley Cup I’ll tell you that.”
I had heard that Emile tried to deal for Bernie Parent, so I asked him about it.
“Parent was brought up in the Boston Bruin organization and then he went to Philadelphia in the expansion draft and then after 2 –3 season’s they traded him to Toronto. Then in 1972 the WHA came along and he signed with the Miami Screaming Eagles, who never got off the ground. So he played one year for the Philadelphia Blazers and then became a free agent, but Toronto owned his NHL rights. That’s when I started negotiating with Toronto because I always liked Bernie Parent. I’d seen him as a junior. At the time I had Eddie Giacomin but Eddie wasn’t really that successful in the playoffs up to that point. But the odds were against us getting Parent because he had met a guy in Philadelphia who was his agent and I’m sure that agent was paid off to get Parent back to Philadelphia. So Toronto was forced to make a deal with Philadelphia. Because I had offered Toronto a better deal than what they got. I offered them four players off the Rangers roster. But Toronto’s hand was forced.”
So what do you think? Would Andre Dupont have had the same impact on the Rangers as he did in Philly? If Hap Emms was allowed to trade Johnny Bucyk, would he have developed chemistry with Ratelle and Gilbert and what kind of NHL career would Vic Hadfield have had? Would Hadfield have remained just a tough guy or found his scoring touch on another line or another team? Would that #1 jersey hanging from the Garden’s rafters have Parent’s name on it instead of Giacomin’s? And would chants of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” have replaced “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie?”
Unfortunately we’ll never know. But there’s no guarantee that even with the players above, the same kind of injuries and bad luck that always sidetracked the Rangers wouldn’t have kept them from their elusive prize again. Some things are just not meant to be.
I’ll have more from Emile in upcoming editions of Retro Rangers. Stay tuned.