An E-mail Interview with New York Rangers Writer and Author George Grimm
By Patrick Hoffman
As you folks are well aware of by now, I grew up as a big fan of the New York Rangers.
I went to well over one hundred games with my father and ended up loving everything about them through thick and thin. While I consider myself more of a hockey fan than a Rangers' fan, the team will always hold a special place in my heart.
I am proud to present to you an e-mail interview that I conducted with Rangers' writer and author George Grimm. George recently wrote a Rangers-related book titled We Did Everything But Win: Former New York Rangers Remember the Emile Francis Era (1964-1976).
George was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he became Blueshirts fan, how he came to cover the team, how he came up with the idea for his book, and much, much more.
PH: Growing up, how did you get into hockey?
GG: My father took me to my first Ranger game in the old Madison Square Garden in the early 1960s when I was about 10 years old. In those days it was a dark smoky place with a lot of steps. Following the game he took me down by the ice and showed me the player’s benches and penalty boxes. He showed me where the press box was and made me feel comfortable in the Garden, all the while imparting on me that THIS WAS OUR TEAM!
So I immediately fell in love with the Rangers and hockey and started reading everything I could get my hands on about hockey.
Of course, except for 1994, the Rangers have caused me a lot of grief, but they have also been very good to me. In my youth they gave me that all-important connection with my father, They gave me an outlet for my creative interests and later on in life I met my wife Theresa in an old AOL Ranger-related chat room.
PH: Who is your favorite team/player?
GG: Ed Giacomin and Brad Park during the Emile Francis era. But my all time favorite is Adam Graves. I always said that if I had a son, I’d like him to be like Adam Graves.
PH: Considering The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave is filled with tons and tons of hockey memorabilia, what is your favorite piece of hockey memorabilia that you own?
GG: I really don’t have a lot of memorabilia. I have consecutive Ranger Blue Books from 1963 until they stopped publishing hard copies and a ton of programs, which I use for research. I also have official team press notes from Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals. I recently sold an authentic Giacomin jersey that I had made up at Gerry Cosby’s in the early 1970’s.
PH: How did you get into hockey writing?
GG: In the early 80’s I wrote a story about Eddie Giacomin that was published in Rebound, the newsletter of the International Goaltenders Union, an organization run by a man named Lee Schappell in Reading, Pennsylvania. To be honest, I enjoyed seeing my work in print and a few years later In 1988 I started to publish SportStat… The Rangers Report, which was a bi-weekly newsletter that I mailed to about 300 subscribers across the US and Canada. I was a one-man shop, I wrote and edited it, sold advertising, brought it to the printer and lugged it to the post office.
I sent copies to the Rangers PR department and they liked it. They published one of my stories in the Rangers Game Night program and gave me a press pass.
I also gained the support of John Halligan who was formerly the Rangers PR director and was working for the NHL at the time. He would answer my quizzes and told me how much he enjoyed the newsletter. But after five years the pressure of producing a newsletter every two weeks while holding down a full time job became too much. So I closed SportStat and wrote the Blue Seat Point of View column for the Blueshirt Bulletin for a number of years.
However after awhile I was getting discouraged that my writing career wasn’t going anywhere. But then John Halligan asked me to contribute an essay to a book he was working on. Unfortunately John passed away before the book was completed but his encouragement spurred me on to bigger and better things. In fact my book We Did Everything But Win, is dedicated to my father who introduced me to the Rangers so many years ago and John who encouraged me to write about them.
I then moved online, and currently write the Retro Rangers column for Insidehockey.com. My work has also appeared in the LOHUD Ranger Report blog and 201 (NJ) magazine.
PH: Tell us about your new book. How did you come up with the idea?
GG: We Did Everything But Win is a tribute to the Emile Francis Era New York Rangers that I grew up watching. I had the idea for the book for quite a while and then when I retired, I finally had the time to work on it.
Those guys were my idols and to have the opportunity to interview them was quite an experience. They all made me feel like an old friend. And I can’t say enough about Emile Francis. He was extremely good to me and very generous with his time. He’s got a lot of stories and I love hearing them.
PH: What are you trying to inform/tell readers with your book?
GG: In 1964 Emile Francis took over a floundering Ranger franchise that had not qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in five years and proceeded to rebuild it from the ground up. He reorganized the minor league system and scouting staff. At the time the Rangers were the smallest team in the league and Emile set out to acquire the kind of players that had the skill and size to bring the team back to respectability. He restored pride in the franchise, worked tirelessly to promote the game of hockey in New York and beginning in 1966-67 the Rangers reached the post-season for nine consecutive seasons. In the eyes of many hockey observers, they were the best team to never win a Stanley Cup.
The book traces those Emile Francis years, the highs and the lows. The inspiring victories, the devastating defeats and the funny moments along the way. I also have a chapter about the Ranger broadcasters of that era, the guys that brought the Blueshirts into our homes, Marv Albert and Sal Messina, Win Elliot, Bob Wolff, Jim Gordon and Bill Chadwick.
PH: Do you have any books in the pipeline?
GG: I’m currently working on a book tracing the history of Ranger goaltenders - all 87 of them. Besides the well-known names I find it interesting to research the emergency goaltenders that were used in the days before teams were required to carry two goaltenders. Guys like Dave Dryden, Bruce Gamble, Harry Lumley among others all played at least a few minutes for the Rangers before they went on to fame elsewhere. There were also times when the Rangers were forced to use the opposing team’s trainer in net. It’s going to be an interesting read.
PH: What are your thoughts on this year's Rangers team?
GG: They’re very inconsistent. Too many players take too many nights off. I think they lack leadership.
PH: Anything else you'd like to share with us puckheads?
GG: Don’t be afraid to find your passion and follow your dreams.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.