Throughout the illustrious 86-year history of the New York Rangers franchise, there have been 25 different captains.
On September 12, 2011, Callahan was named the 26th captain in the history of the New York Rangers. In doing so, Callahan became the fifth youngest captain in team history, and the first homegrown player to be named captain since Brian Leetch.
Mark Messier is the only Ranger to have had two stints as captain. The history goes as far back to Bill Cook becoming the first captain in 1926, up until the most recent departing captain Chris Drury. All of these great men are forever linked to this illustrious lineage of captains.
They were leaders, icons and men who were looked up too for leadership and guidance. Some were homegrown talents like Brian Leetch, Vic Hadfield, and Dave Maloney. Others like Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury inherited this role due to their NHL experience and character after assimilating into the Rangers culture after a season or two.
However, there is a new sheriff in town who has more than earned his stripes and spurts. He is a warrior, a leader and is adored by the many fans of the Blueshirt Brotherhood. This man is Ryan Callahan.
Callahan truly personifies what it means to be a New York Ranger. He leads by example and leaves it all on the ice. He pours out his effort and ability into every shift and sets the tone of the team.
The 26-year-old Rochester native has been described as the heartbeat and pulse of the New York Rangers by fans. There was a noticeable difference in the Rangers’ play after Callahan suffered a season-ending broken ankle against Boston.
It appeared that the Rangers had lost their fire, their spark, and it was apparent that they had lost their leader.
If you were to ask anyone who the leader of the New York Rangers was last year, they would say Ryan Callahan almost 90 percent of the time. Chris Drury was out for a significant portion of last season, and Callahan truly stepped up to the plate in his absence.
Wether it was addressing the media during pre- and postgame, running informal practices this offseason or confronting work ethic issues in the locker room, Callahan, with a C sewn to his heart, acted like the captain even though he still had an “A” stitched to his sweater.
However, in the grand scheme of things, how does Ryan Callahan match up when compared to the 25 other captains in team history? I am 19 years old and do not have a comprehensive knowledge on all of the captains in the team’s history.
It is safe to assume that neither does Ryan Callahan. In order to create a fair comparison that many people will be familiar with, I will use Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury as primary examples, as Callahan identified with the past two captains the most.
Callahan has been an alternate captain for the past two seasons. In this tenure he has shown great leadership abilities. This sentiment has been echoed by the many writers around the league who expressed their approval when his captaincy was announced.
Callahan’s work ethic and ability to lead puts him in the company with a select number of captain’s in the league. The best comparison to use for Callahan is Chris Drury, who was the team captain from 2008-2011. Callahan was his right-hand man from the 2009 season up until Drury’s departure.
When I look at Ryan Callahan, I see a striking comparison to Chris Drury. Both are American-born players who had roots within their communities. Callahan was from Rochester and Drury from Trumbull, CT.
Growing up, Chris Drury was a player I watched closely. He was a clutch performer, a hard worker and led by example. He wasn’t above the game by any means. He could put up 50 to 55 points a season but would still kill penalties and put his body on the line, blocking shots night in and night out.
When Callahan was named team captain, he had the nicest compliments and comments about Chris Drury. Callahan proudly stated:
“ I think he was a big part of the player I’ve become and part of the reason why I guess I am a leader today. He was so professional on and off the ice, the way he carried himself. He never got too high, never got too low, and he was always in the room with an even keel, and at times, if he needed to be emotional with the team, he would be. He approached the game the same way every night.”
Callahan carries himself the same way. When healthy, Callahan can easily score 25 to 30 goals a season. He is also a top shot blocker and plays a very physical game by throwing body checks left and right.
Callahan echoed a similar statement about Jagr, as he said that he learned a lot from Jagr as a player on and off the ice. When I look at Jagr’s captaincy, he was a player who got it. When Messier retired, Jagr didn’t become captain immediately. He wanted to earn it.
Jagr certainly earned it with an incredible 2005-06 season, leading a team that hadn't played a postseason game since May 1997 to a first-round appearance against the New Jersey Devils. They did make the playoffs but were swept in the first round.
Regardless, Jagr had came through on his promise, and the fans respected him for that. As captain Jagr led the team by example and was a big generator of offense. His Ranger single-season records attest to that. Many fans have a sour taste in their mouth when it comes to how Jagr left New York, but overall many were happy with the job he did there.
Coming back to Callahan, it is hard to compare him to the other great men who wore the “C." Each played in a different era of the game. However, each man led by example and upheld the integrity and dignity associated with the Rangers captaincy.
Looking at Callahan, he could one day be associated with the great captains of Messier, Bathgate, Howell, Hadfield, Maloney, Leetch, etc. If I were to rank Ryan Callahan right now, I think he would be between 15th and 10th overall. He has displayed so much character and promise in the few years that he has been a Ranger. There is no reason that he won’t continue the attitude he had when he wore an “A."
This final quote and statement by Callahan is one that proves he was right for the job and that Rangers fans are in good hands if and when he is called to come receive the Stanley Cup.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to wear a "C" on a team, but the way I’m going to approach it, I’m going to approach it the same as wearing an "A." The things I do on the ice and off the ice, there’s a reason I feel I got the ‘A’ and I’ve continued on, and now with the ‘C.’ Obviously, there comes with it a little more of a leadership role and some more responsibilities, but at the same time, I have to continue to do what I do and not let a letter on my sweater affect my game or how I approach a game.”
Where do you think Callahan could end up ranking all-time in the long lineage of Rangers captains?
Leave a comment in the section below to get the conversation going.
Tom Urtz is an NHL Featured Columnist and New York Rangers Featured Columnist.
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