Former New York Rangers head coach Mike Keenan reflects on coaching Brian Leetch and Mark Messier during the 1994 Stanley Cup season.
New York Rangers fans were able to hear what former coach Mike Keenan had to say about two Stanley Cup champions on “MSG 150 Stay at Home” Tuesday night.
“They were actually easy to coach. They were so self-motivated. Their preparation, professionalism, their love for the game, their passion to play comes out every clearly,” Keenan said. “It wasn’t the stars that were difficult. All you have to do is make sure you give them the ice time they deserve and they worked for it. Mess was exceptional as everyone knows, in terms of what he could contribute every night, on and off the ice. Brian Leetch was an exceptionally talented player that could really ignite the team. And a position and player that you need on every championship team. You need a top defenseman.”
Keenan was hired by the organization prior to the beginning of the 1993-94 season. His blunt way of coaching was like no other during his lone season with the Blueshirts. He, along with Messier, never shied away from talking about winning the Stanley Cup. Prior to their first training camp, he even showed the team what a championship parade at the could look like by showing a video of the Canyon of Heroes in New York City.
The Rangers had an outstanding season, compiling a record of 52-24-8. Yet the year didn’t go without its adversity. Keenan was not afraid to bench players to get his point across. He even benched Leetch during a game in the Eastern Conference Finals to show his displeasure with how he felt the defenseman was playing.
Keenan was also asked about how he felt he would have handled the current situation with the leagued paused due to the COVID-19 situation.
“The players can prepare themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally by training,” Keenan explained. “In most cases, they have their own individual gyms or they’re at home with opportunities. But these athletes today look out for themselves nutritionally and then of course physically. I would think that most of the players are keeping their fitness and preparation in terms of a comeback opportunity.”
Following the team’s first Stanley Cup win in 54 years, he decided to leave the club for different reasons in a messy split just a month after his tremendous accomplishment.
Keenan also mentioned the “All-in Challenge” where the club is helping raise money through a partnership with sports apparel company Fanatics. The company is trying to raise over $100 million in support of national COVID relief efforts.