Bobby Lemaire, Sports Editor
If you don’t know who is writing this article, I bet this will help you: I am the guy walking around campus in either a New York Rangers or an Oakland Raiders jersey. While I do love the Raiders, hockey is my favorite sport and the Rangers are my favorite team. While most sports fans’ favorite players are either an all-star or a future Hall of Famer, my favorite has never scored more than 30 goals in a season and has never made an all-star team.
Ryan Callahan was taken by the Rangers with the 127th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut on December 1, 2006 and spent the remainder of that season being juggled between the Rangers and their minor league affiliate. One year later he joined the Rangers for good and made an immediate impact. He became one of the team’s best penalty killers, willing to risk his health and body in order to block a shot from going on net.
The Rangers management took notice and on September 12, 2011, Callahan was named the 26th captain in Rangers history. With the added responsibility, along with more minutes on the top offensive lines and the power play, Callahan refused to change his game and continued to put the team first. On February 26, 2013, “Captain Cally” was put on the penalty kill against the Winnipeg Jets. In a span of 24 seconds, he broke his stick, blocked two shots and laid a huge hit on Jets defenseman Zach Bagosian, igniting a huge roar from the crowd. Winnipeg ended up scoring after Callahan left the ice, but that still remains my favorite Callahan moment.
Callahan was also named to two Winter Olympic Games for Team USA. His solid forechecking helped the United States win a silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Games and a fourth place finish in 2014. While I was disappointed in the overall effort of the men’s team, I still remained impressed with Callahan. In the third place game against Finland, the United States came out flat. But while trailing 4-0 in the third period and the game out of hand, Callahan still put his body on the line, blocking more shots. It didn’t matter what the score was, he was going to give 100 percent.
But this rough style of play has its downsides. He has been labeled as injury prone, constantly missing games. He missed the 2011 playoffs when he fractured his leg blocking a shot by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. He missed the beginning of the 2013-2014 season after undergoing shoulder surgery the previous summer. It was reported by Rangers General Manager Glen Sather that he separated his shoulder “eight or nine times,” but refused to miss any playoff games.
The 2013-2014 was the last season of Callahan’s contract. He originally stated that he wanted a seven-year contract worth seven million dollars a season. No matter how much I love Cally, that was too long a contract and too high of a price for someone who plays that hard-nosed of a style. It seemed like both Callahan and the Rangers might get a deal done but on the day of the trade deadline the Rangers traded Callahan, a 2015 first round pick and a 2014 second round pick, for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis.
While I was upset by the trade, I still think the Rangers made the right move. St. Louis is one of the most talented scorers in the game, who can add extra offense to a team desperate for it. I wrote this article to tell people how much I appreciated the effort Callahan put in for the Broadway Blueshirts. Since the 2004-2005 lockout, there is no doubt that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is the face of the franchise. But Ryan Callahan was the heart of the team. His “team first” attitude was refreshing in an era of selfish athletes who care, only about fame or personal stats.
Cally, I wish you nothing but the best in the future and it was a pleasure watching you play for the last eight seasons.