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From the Archives: Rangers Hypnotist Ruled 'Offside'

With the 1950-51 New York Rangers struggling to perform on the ice, they did the next logical thing to turn things around: they hired a hypnotist.
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When your NHL club hasn't won in a dozen tries, there are several "solutions" for curing the slump.

You can fire the coach; you can restructure the roster or simply make trades. But when the 1950-51 New York Rangers went oh-for-12, manager Frank Boucher tried a more novel approach.

He hired a shrink. Or as the mind maestro, Dr. David Tracy, called himself, a "psychologist and hypnotist."

The good doctor wasn't kidding himself -- nor others for that matter e-- since he already had experience working with slumping teams in other sports. His first success was a defeat-riddled St. Francis College (Brooklyn) basketball team.

"I not only got them to win," boasted Dr. Tracy, "but they almost won a championship."

His next case -- or challenge if you will -- was the 1951 edition of baseball's St.Louis Browns, traditionally an American League loser.

The burly brainstormer showed up at the Brownies training base and tossed all sorts of knuckle-eyes at them.

After a loss-pocked Brownies start, Dr, Tracy got his walking papers and it was not to first base either. Granted that he was a goner but still determined to find new patients.

An avid puck fan, the doc and his wife attended a Sunday afternoon amateur hockey doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. The Tracy's then had dinner and returned to MSG to see the Rangers play -- and lose again.

Eureka! The next morning Dr. Tracy phoned Rangers publicist Herb Goren -- a former baseball writer with the New York Sun -- and sold Herbie a bill of icy-hot goods -- he could cure the Blueshirts blues.

In his autobiography, "When The Rangers Were Young," Boucher picked up on the story at the point where Goren came into Frank's office:

"Herbie was convinced Dr. Tracy could help us if he had permission to do a little work with the players. Herbie was excited about the idea.

"'Dammit, Frank, it can't do any harm,' Herb said. 'Let's try it; it'd be good ink'

"So I said, why not? It was crazy, but I genuinely believed that something as offbeat as a session with this Dr. Tracy might get our players untracked or at least relax them if nothing else."

Enthused, Goren got on his horse and did what any good press agent would do; he contacted the sports editor of all seven New York dailies and they, in turn, put their hockey writers on the story.

Typical was the New York Daily News' reaction. Crack sportswriter Hy Turkin jumped on it and produced the story and headline shown here: RANGERS NEED VICTORY -- GET DR. TRACY INSTEAD.

The photo caption read: RANGERS GET THEIR MAN-IA.

Turkin noted: "Dr. Tracy's excursion into applied psychology last spring failed to spring the St.Louis Browns out of the American League's second division."

Nonetheless, the News writer explained how the shrink would handle the stickhandlers. "Dr. Tracy will meet the Rangers collectively and individually. They'll get large doses of autosuggestion and even direct hypnotism."

Hockey fans, distraught over the Rangers 1-7-6 record, saw hope in Dr. Tracy's eyes and his promises. And after a morning session with the players, the doc met them again before the game.

Boucher: "He was a burly jowly man with sleek black hair, beautifully tailored clothes and he had a peculiar eye. There was a white dot in it that made him look very odd indeed.

"He was particularly attentive to (forward) Tony Leswck at the beginning, staring into his eyes and talking quietly while (forwards) Pentti Lund, Alex Kaleta and Buddy O'Connor sat in front of their neighboring lockers, listening closely."

One Ranger, forward Nick Mickoski, wouldn't cooperate. When Dr. Tracy summoned Nick, the tall Rangers center fled the room, fearful that he would, in fact, be hypnotized.

The accompanying photo depicts the shrink in action with Rangers (left to right) forwards Tony Leswick, Ed Slowinski, goalie Chuck Rayner and forward Edgar Laprade.

Goren's publicity offensive worked, inspiring one of the largest -- and very curious -- crowds of the season. I was vice president of the Rangers Fan Club at the time and as hopeful any of the Blueshirt Faithful.

For more than two-and-a-half periods, the Rangers kept pace with the Bostonians. "We played a great game," said Boucher. And so they did, tied 3-3 into the final minute.

Then, Bruins defenseman Bill Quackenbush broke the spell. His long shot took a crazy bounce over goalie Rayner's stick and the Rangers wound up losing 4-3.

Pressed by the media horde post-game, Dr. Tracy explained that he should never have accepted the assignment "at the moment of the Rangers 13th game without a victory."

That bit of hokum-bunkum didn't suit the press so the shrink went right to the problem's core with these precise words: "The ghoulie was not paying attention."

Boucher was asked if he'd give Dr.Tracy another chance. The embattled manager paused, thought for a moment and then concluded:

"I thought the players responded pretty well. But when Dr. Tracy couldn't get us past our 13th hurdle, I concluded the experiment. Tracy couldn't put the puck in the net or keep it out any better than I could!"

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