“STEPAN! IN OVERTIME! THE RANGERS ARE MOVE ON TO TAMPA!”
Those words echo fondly in every New York Rangers fan’s head. Scoring the game seven overtime goal to beat the Washington Capitals in 2014-15 playoffs made Derek Stepan a Rangers legend. Over the summer Stepan, center with the Rangers for seven years, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes. Tonight he returns for an emotional night in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Thank You, Derek Stepan
Drafted 51st overall in 2008 by the Rangers, Stepan had his eyes set on Broadway for life. In his debut game against the Buffalo Sabres on October 9, 2010, he scored a hat-trick. He immediately solidified his importance to the Rangers. In 2011 Stepan competed in the NHL SuperSkills competition after being selected for the NHL All-Star team. Stepan was also a USA hockey mainstay. He represented the United States at the 2011 World Hockey Championships, 2014 Olympics in Sochi and at World Cup of Hockey in 2016. He also won gold at the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships. This all-American boy bled red, white and blue.
In New York, Stepan was easily identifiable as a veteran leader. He scored 360 points with the Rangers, including 128 goals in his seven-year tenure with the Blueshirts. His locker room video series “Stepan Behind the Mic” provided a light-hearted outlet for teammates to chirp each other, providing a jovial atmosphere in an already successful locker room.
Changes Looming on Broadway
However, when a team goes to numerous playoffs and still winds up empty handed, change will always loom on the horizon. Stepan and Antti Raanta were the valuable members to arrive on the Broadway chopping block. Both were traded this summer for Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round draft pick, sending shockwaves throughout the Rangers community. Forward Chris Kreider considered Stepan a brother on the team and that missing presence is clearly being felt on and off the ice for the Blueshirts. Stepan and fellow castoff Dan Girardi have left a hole in the Rangers personality that’s been difficult to fill so far.
While both the Rangers and Coyotes struggle to stay afloat in the league, Stepan still believes in his former team.
“If I’m being honest, I think they’ve got the pieces there. It takes some time, though,” he said to the New York Daily News. “I think some of their young guys will step up. Just give them time.”
Despite the pieces the Rangers currently have on their roster, Stepan will always be warmly remembered at Madison Square Garden. For all of his contributions, the times he became a hero, and the times he made us laugh, Stepan always bled blue.
Thank you, Derek Stepan, for bringing us moments that will last a lifetime of a team that almost went all the way.