The 1978-79 season saw the New York Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Finals led by a rookie left winger named Don Maloney.
The 1978-79 New York Rangers began their season by hiring Fred Shero away from the Philadelphia Flyers and signing two Swedish players in Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg.
But a mid-season call up was the move that bolted them through the playoffs. Don Maloney, the kid brother of captain Dave Maloney, proved to be the season’s most impressive roster improvement.
Maloney played for the Kitchener Rangers before New York selected him in the second round (No. 26 overall) of the 1978 NHL Amature Draft.
The Rangers called him up and he took the ice in his first NHL game against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 14. Dave’s brother scored on his very first shot and also added an assist in the 5-1 victory. Don went on to record 26 points in 28 games that season, playing alongside Phil Esposito and Don Murdoch.
“I was lucky enough to score on that first shot, you know, anytime you’re a young player, you score, you know, that’s to be a shot of confidence and energy,” as was told in the book “Before 94” by Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin.
It was a special NHL debut for Maloney. He was playing with his brother and captain of the team for the first time as professionals. Their parents, aunt, and uncle were in attendance to witness the goal at the world’s most famous arena.
In the playoffs that year, he recorded 20 points, setting a then-NHL rookie record. The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens where their hopes at a championship fell short with a 4-1 series defeat.
The following season, Maloney appeared in 79 games and experienced arguably his best season with the Blueshirts. He netted 25 goals and 48 assists (team-high) for 73 points and began a run of five straight campaigns where he scored 20 or more goals.
Great numbers as a Blueshirt
Maloney stacked up some incredible numbers while playing on Broadway, including nine game-winning goals and five shorthanded goals in the 1980-81 season. He holds the record for the fastest hat trick in franchise history (2.5 minutes). This feat came against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 21, 1981.
He was named to two NHL All-Star Games in his career. The first one was in 1983 in a matchup held at the Nassau Coliseum, in which he recorded one goal. Brendan Byrne Arena at the New Jersey Meadowlands hosted the second one in 1984, where he scored one goal, added three assists, and took home the MVP award.
A most memorable goal
Maloney will always be best remembered for scoring the last-second goal in Game 5 of the 1984 opening playoff round against the New York Islanders.
Don swung at the puck off a rebound shot taken by Mark Pavelich. Islanders goalie Billy Smith believed the puck was batted with an illegal high stick, but the goal was allowed. The Rangers would lose the game 3-2 in overtime.
The end of an era
Maloney played 11 seasons with the Rangers before New York traded him to the Hartford Whalers in December 1988.
He wound end his career a member of the Islanders, having retired after the 1990-91 season.
Maloney began a new career on the business side of hockey unlike his brother Dave, who is now a member of the MSG Network team.
All in all, Don’s resume even after his playing career is heavily intriguing.
- He was the Islanders’ general manager from 1992-95. He also served as the Rangers vice president of player personnel and was the assistant general manager behind Glen Sather from 1996-2007.
- On May 28, 2007, the Phoenix Coyotes named him their general manager.
- On June 2, 2010, the league named Maloney the General Manager of the Year. He was the first to ever win the award.
- On August 17, 2016, the Calgary Flames hired Maloney to fill a professional scouting role after the Coyotes parted ways with him. A year later, the Flames named him vice president of hockey operations.
What a brilliant on-ice career it was for Maloney. His blue-collar way of completing the job made him a fan favorite from the get-go.