NHL Playoffs 2012: Why the New York Rangers Will Win the Stanley Cup

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NHL Playoffs 2012: Why the New York Rangers Will Win the Stanley Cup
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Say what you will about their fans and accents, Boston is a great sports city.

Despite the success of the Celtics (and at times the Bruins), Boston was known for its tortured but passionate Red Sox fans for decades. Then, in February 2002, the Patriots won a highly improbable Super Bowl when they were 14-point underdogs, and a boy named Brady became famous.

Besides launching Tom Brady into Australian sheep shoe fame, that Super Bowl win for the Patriots started a historic run of Boston dominance in major sports.

From 2002 through the present, there have been 40 champions crowned across the four major US sports (11 in the NFL because the Super Bowl is in February and nine in the NHL because of the ‘05 lockout). Boston teams have won seven out of the 40, roughly 18 percent. This is a staggering success rate.

To give some perspective on how dominant Boston has been, New York City (and New Jersey) teams have only won four championships over that same span, despite having nine teams to Boston’s four. All four Boston teams won championships, as well as BC and BU winning four out of the last five Frozen Fours.

So, why the sustained success streak in the land of Sawx?

Coaches and athletes would probably credit conditioning, their teammates and a little luck, but I have an alternative hypothesis: Having friends who are champions provides that little extra motivation needed to achieve similar success.

The theory is that pro athletes hang out with pro athletes, and most guys who play pro sports are used to being the biggest deal around. Once someone else steals their thunder, they are highly motivated to return to their throne as top dog.

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Before 2002, the Patriots were the red-headed stepchild of Boston (and given its immigration history, Boston must have its fair share of red-headed stepchildren). The Patriots had never won a Super Bowl; in fact, they’d never won more than 11 games. Then, they won the big one against all odds and somehow the chants of “NINETEEN-EIGHTEEN” grew louder when the Sox were playing.

Admittedly, I wasn’t there to witness the turning point in Boston, but I like to imagine it happened at a long wooden table in a secret bunker built during the Revolutionary War with Brady sitting at the head being fanned by models, while Rodney Harrison paced around the room nodding his head and cracking his knuckles. That meeting concluded with Trot Nixon and Kevin Millar committing their facial hair to the devil for a World Series ring. Johnny Damon licensed his image upstairs.

Whether a secret meeting of all Boston athletes took place above or below ground is moot. The fact is the Patriots won two titles over three years, and months after their second, the Red Sox won a championship.

The Red Sox won two titles over three years, and months after their second, the Celtics won a championship. The Celtics nearly kept the exact same streak going, but lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals two years after hoisting their first banner since 1986.

The Bruins must have read the box score incorrectly because they won the next Stanley Cup.

While the dominance in Boston is the best evidence of the Friends with Champions theory, they are not the only city that can produce multi-sport success. In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup about five months after the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII. It was the Steelers' second Super Bowl win in four years.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Celtics in 2008

So, what does any of this have to do with the Rangers?

The Blueshirts were mediocre for the last decade. They produced a couple of playoff appearances here and there, but they never got further than the conference semifinals.

As for their friends in Gotham, the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008, and then the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Then, two-and-a-half years passed before the Giants' most recent Super Bowl triumph.

While this doesn’t follow the same easily identifiable pattern we saw in Boston, we did see Justin Tuck going crazy behind the Rangers' bench after they beat the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semis. If the captain of the Super Bowl champs is a friend, the Rangers should reap the benefits.

The timing is right for New York franchises to go on a run.

Of course, the Giants do play in New Jersey.

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