Troy Mallette was a very popular rough-and-tumble player over his two seasons with the Rangers, but his long-standing legacy with the organization came upon his departure in the summer of 1991. Mallette left the Rangers for the Edmonton Oilers as compensation for New York signing an Edmonton free agent by the name of Adam Graves, the very same heart-and-soul Blueshirt who would help the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1994 and whose No. 9 sweater hangs from the rafters at Madison Square Garden today.
Mallette left his mark with the Blueshirt Faithful, though, making the team as a 19 year-old rookie in 1989-90 and racking up a team-high 305 penalty minutes to go along with 13 goals, 16 assists, and 29 points over 79 games, and then following that season up with 12 goals, 22 points, and 252 penalty minutes as an NHL sophomore in 1990-91.
Now a firefighter back home in Ontario, Mallette recently reminisced with Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com about his days wearing the Blueshirt.
BSU: What was it like to make it to the NHL as a 19 year-old rookie fresh out of Sault Ste. Marie in the fall of 1989?
TM: To be honest when I went to (training) camp I read the papers just like anyone else and saw that (the Rangers) needed a physical left winger. I came out of junior as center who could put up points, but they had that position filled, so I basically turned myself into what the Rangers needed. And the game really became fun because when you are playing a lot and with high emotion the physical aspect of the game just comes out naturally and your drive to succeed offensively becomes natural. So it was just a good fit for a guy who was just trying to maintain staying in the league at 19 years old.
BSU: Coming from a small hometown, how did you adapt to New York and being in the NHL at such a young age?
TM: I think one of the reasons why I succeeded is that I was a little bit naive of where I was and what was out there. I came from a town of a couple thousand and I played my junior career for the Sault Greyhounds which wasn't an overly big city, so to jump into Manhattan, I just didn't know enough about the world to get too caught up in the New York thing. I was basically there to succeed with the team and to fulfill my childhood dream of playing in the NHL.
BSU: Were there any veterans that took you under their wing during your rookie season?
TM: I have to be honest, that team was just fantastic. It was a great group of guys who were so helpful. From Ron Greschner to Chris Nilan to Lindy Ruff, right to the coaching staff led by Roger Neilson. They just made me feel comfortable in doing the basics of the game and letting everything else take off. I could go through that whole list of players that I played with that year and there's not one guy that I could say really didn't help me out.
BSU: Your two years in New York you got an up close look at a pair of young Rangers who would go on to become Blueshirt legends in Mike Richter and Brian Leetch. What was it like playing with them in the early stages of their respective careers?
TM: We had Bobby Froese and John Vanbiesbrouck and Richter was biding his time as the No. 3 goalie, and Mike's character as a third-line goalie and gradually working his way in and then eventually taking over the second spot and then further down the road the No. 1 spot just shows the perseverence he had. And Brian Leetch, being the All Star player he was even at a younger age, that speaks for itself. I was priviledged to play with these two guys. And what makes them such good guys and good players is basically they were just great people. When they succeed and win a championship it makes you feel good because they are such great people.
BSU: You missed out by three seasons on that 1994 Stanley Cup-winning team in New York. What were your emotions the night the Rangers won the Cup that year?
TM: I still knew Mike Richter and Brian Leetch, and was so happy for them, but to be quite honest the people I was happiest for were the people at the top of the building. Those fans waited a long time and were real diehards. I was real happy for them that they finally saw the boys carry the Cup around. I was a little bit jealous, obviously being compensation for Adam Graves and then he's such a big part of that Stanley Cup win. I look back and probably couldn't have scored like he did, but I like to think I could have been a piece somewhere else on that team if things had been different.
BSU: How did you feel when you found out that you would be the compensation for the Adam Graves signing and would be leaving New York?
TM: I was disappointed, but excited all in one because as a child I saw the Edmonton Oilers win all of those Stanley Cups. So to play for a team I cheered for---I was like any Canadian kid jumping on the bandwagon---was appealing. After two years in New York my confidence was high, but I went into a situation where Edmonton had no plans for me and they were disappointed with who they got for Adam Graves. Basically I had to bide my time there until I got moved to New Jersey. To be quite honest I had a hard time recovering from that setback.
BSU: What is your favorite memory of being a New York Ranger?
TM: When you say MSG I think of the Blueshirts Faithful at the top of the building and them cheering for every hit and every play I made. One of my favorite memories of playing hockey is having played for those people.
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