The Maven's Haven

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    An Ode to Don Raleigh

    One of the outstanding Rangers playoff heroes of the post-WWII era has died at the age of 86. Don “Bones” Raleigh scored two of the most spectacular goals in Blueshirts playoff history during the 1950 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings.

    Raleigh's game resembled the smarts we see now in Brad Richards. Plus, "Bones" centered one of the NHL's best lines, doling smooth passes to left wing Ed Slowinski and Pentti Lund.

    In addition, Raleigh captained the New York sextet and holds the distinction of being one of the few players who played professional hockey in Brooklyn. As a 16 year-old Rangers prospect, Raleigh skated for the Brooklyn Crescents in the old Eastern Hockey League when Brooklyn was a Rangers' farm team.

    In those days, Brooklyn actually had its own home arena. Raleigh played his home games at the Ice Palace on Atlantic Avenue between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues. Ironically, the site is a slapshot away from the new Barclays Center where an exhibition game between the Islanders and Devils has been slated for early October.

    Raleigh gradually worked his way to the big club and emerged as one of New York’s most popular athletes. He was considered something of an oddball since he lived on Staten Island and commuted to The Old Garden on the Staten Island Ferry. The center was “mod” 20 years before his time. He lived alone on the remote New York borough of Staten Island; wrote poetry; grew a moustache; and always gave the impression that one more turn on the ice would be his last.

    The 1950 Stanley Cup Final had been a particularly grueling series for Raleigh. In those days, the old Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets gave way to the circus in April. Because of that the Rangers played five games of the Final at Detroit's Olympia Stadium and two "home" games at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Ergo: all even games on the road!

    Raleigh was on the ice as the clock passed the eight-minute mark of the first sudden-death period in the fourth game of the Finals which the Rangers trailed Detroit, 2-1. He took a pass from bulky linemate Ed Slowinski and, as he was falling, swiped the puck past a beaten goalie, Harry Lumley. The Rangers had tied the series at two apiece.

    Now, the Red Wings were reeling. They fell behind, 1-0, in the fifth game and appeared to be doomed to a Chuck Rayner shutout when Ted Lindsay tied the score with less than two minutes remaining in the third period.

    Once again it was time for sudden death -- and Bones Raleigh.

    An unlikely hero if there ever was one, Raleigh wasted little time in his second dramatic sudden death effort. Only a minute and a half had elapsed when he took a pass from Slowinski and beat Lumley with a 10-foot drive. But it was all to no avail, as the Rangers lost the Final.

    Raleigh got his nickname from the New York Journal-American -- American hockey writer Barney Kremenko. As it happened, Kremenko won some money at Belmont race track betting on a horse named Bag of Bones. That night, Raleigh had a big game and Kremenko decided to call him after his winning horse, shortening it simply to “Bones”. And that’s how the lightweight Ranger was known until he retired in 1956.

    A fan favorite throughout his all-Rangers career, Raleigh was well-remembered by those who viewed his exploits.

    I knew Raleigh well and admired his skill and smarts on the ice and his warm, humorous personality away from the rink. In fact the only time he ever disappointed me was when I got us tickets for a Broadway comedy. 

    I thought it was a riot; Bones left after the intermission.

    A sportsman, gentleman, scholar, devoted Ranger -- Don Raleigh!

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