No Easy Victories: The 1994 New York Rangers – E60 Review – Premieres 6/4/2024 at 9:00 P.M. on ESPN

Premieres 6/4/2024 at 9:00 P.M. on ESPN with same day streaming on ESPN+

“The waiting is over,” Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen cried out. “The New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup Champions! And this one will last a lifetime!” 

As players spilled onto the ice, ‘The Garden Faithful’ erupted into tears of joy knowing “the curse” was over. And perhaps no one was more elated than Madison Square Garden (MSG) regulars – the McDonald family. In a moment of euphoria that will never be forgotten, there was Steven McDonald and his family in their familiar location at the corner of the rink. This E60 documentary intertwines the story of the New York Rangers legendary Stanley Cup victory in 1994 through the eyes of the McDonald family.

Rangers fans are very familiar with the story of the 1994 Stanley Cup run. From Mark Messier’s guarantee, to Stephane Matteau’s overtime game seven goal to send the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final, to ‘the anthem you never heard’, the Blueshirt faithful know the story. Mark Messier was one of the heroes on the ice, but Steven McDonald was the hero off the ice. This story is spoken through the hearts of the McDonald family with the additions of input from personnel surrounding the 1994 team such as Messier, Adam Graves, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Mike Keenan, and more.

“All of these challenges take a great deal of courage and effort to overcome,” said Richter. “No one can say it better than him [Steven] because he lived it.”

As the story progresses, it becomes quite clear how much the Rangers mean to the McDonald family, and how much the McDonald family mean to the New York Rangers. 

In the opening minutes of the documentary, viewers learn all about the McDonald family and immediately an emotional bond is felt through powerful storytelling of E60 host Jeremy Schaap. The story begins in 1984, when Steven McDonald joined the New York Police Department (NYPD).

“It was a calling for Steven,” said Patti Ann McDonald on why her husband wanted to be a police officer. “He liked helping people and being a police officer was a way of helping people.” 

Steven McDonald was assigned to the Central Park precinct. Everything was going well in the life of the rookie officer and in 1985, the young officer married the love of his life. The young newlyweds dreamed a life of seeing plays on Broadway and visiting museums around New York City. And less than a year after their marriage, they would learn that their family was gaining a member.

But unfortunately the good times would not last and tragedy would strike on a July summer day in 1986. Steven McDonald was shot by a 15-year-old teen three times in the line of duty. He would survive his injuries, but be left as a quadriplegic. At the time of the accident, Patti Ann McDonald was three months pregnant, but luckily for the family, Steven McDonald beat the odds and survived. 

Following Conor McDonald’s baptism after he was born, the family released a statement on Steven McDonald’s behalf. The unthinkable happened and he forgave the young teen less than a year after suffering his injuries. He did not want revenge, he had no life regrets, and he was not worried about how he would live out the rest of his life. He simply forgave.

As discussed in the E60, the father-son duo could not bond as easily as other families. They could not play catch, they were unable to skate, or do any other physical activity together. But perhaps worst of all, a father could not hold his son. A father could not hug his son.

But make no mistake that they formed a special bond and that bond gained legs through Steven McDonald’s love for the New York Rangers. The New York City detective was a die-hard fan before the injury, and his fandom did not falter following the injury. 

“It was God, family and friends, and the New York Rangers,” Conor McDonald chuckled when asked about the most important things in his father’s life. “It was sometimes, God, then the Rangers, then family and friends.”

The father and son became regulars at MSG and they could often be found in the corner of the arena at ice level.

The organization and players took notice and they wanted to do something special for the family. Starting during the 1987-1988 season, the Rangers began an annual tradition awarding ‘The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award’. The award is given to the Rangers’ player who “goes above and beyond the call of duty both on and off the ice.” The award is typically given out during a pregame ceremony during one of the final home games of the season. Jan Erixon won the award in 1988. Vincent Trocheck was the most recent winner in 2024. Adam Graves has won the award a record five times. 

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Newer and younger fans will learn about how fans believed the organization was cursed. Through interviews, you learn just how much ending the drought meant to everyone involved in the organization from the team to the fan base. The story reaches its climax in June of 1994, when the Rangers win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Not just Rangers fans, but the entire hockey community as a whole can take something away from this story. It is an uplifting piece that gives the viewer hope. Whether it is hope for watching the Blueshirts or the hope you need to make a difference in your own personal life.

Steven McDonald tragically passed away in January of 2017. His legacy and impact is something that will never be forgotten. His presence and spirit will always be with the Rangers. 

Conor McDonald followed in his father’s footsteps. Not only with his love for the Rangers on the ice, but by joining the NYPD and becoming a captain on the force.

“He loved his family and he loved the New York Rangers,” Conor McDonald said. “They gave my father and I a chance to be together. It was the best memories I have ever had.”


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