Alumni Q&A: John Ogrodnick
John Ogrodnick played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, including five years with the Rangers between 1987-88 and 1991-92, when he helped the Blueshirts win the Presidents Trophy his final season on Broadway. He scored 402 goals in his NHL career, netting 43 as a Ranger in 1989-90 and 55 as a Detroit Red Wing in 1984-85.
Known for the chemistry he had with usual linemates Kelly Kisio and Brian Mullen, Ogrodnick was a key player on the Rangers teams that just preceded the eventual Stanley Cup champions in 1994.
Recently John Ogrodnick chatted with Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com from his home in Michigan about his career in New York.
BSU: After so many great years in Detroit, you played one season in Quebec in 1986-87 and asked to be traded thereafter. So how did you end up in New York?
JO: My agent notified me after the request that I had two options, either Pittsburgh or New York. I had always really enjoyed New York City in the past and I thought playing there would be very, very exciting, so we chose New York. Of course I'll admit New York can be intimidating, and it was in the beginning. But as time went on I became more comfortable and really enjoyed the excitement of Manhattan, and was treated really special while I was there. It ended up being quite the experience being there.
BSU: You scored 22 goals your first season with the Rangers, then dipped to 13 your second year before two big seasons in 1989-90 and 1990-91. Did you find it hard to fit in right away?
JO: When Quebec finally traded me, quite honestly I wasn't in the right frame of mind and hadn't been training properly. As a result I did not play up to my potential those first couple of years, and I felt really bad about it---especially letting (coach) Michel Bergeron down. I had just lost my confidence there for a while. But then the Rangers brought in Roger Neilson as head coach and he basically told me, "I'm going to give you ten games. Show me what you can do." Fortunately for me he put me on a line that gelled really well and really quickly---me and Brian Mullen and Kelly Kisio---and it took off from there.
BSU: Tell us about the chemistry the three of you shared.
JO: On the ice we were a very good cycling line, and all three of us moved the puck quickly and didn't do too much on the individual side. We did a lot of give-and-gos, and we started clicking right away. And then my confidence came back and I was on my way to a 41-goal year. I really owe a lot to Brian Mullen and Kelly Kisio for getting me back on track
BSU: How much did it help that you, Brian, and Kelly were such good friends off of the ice, too?
JO: There's no question that played a big part, too. We were all decent, down-to-earth people and got along so well. And another thing is (the Rangers) were playing pretty well at the time, and when a team is winning everyone gets along better. When a team is losing, like for example some of the lean years we had in Detroit, it creates some animosity in the dressing room. But with Kelly and Brian and me, win or lose, we got along great.
BSU: You also got to play on a line with a pair of future Hall-of-Famers---Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne---with the Rangers. What was that like?
JO: They called us the OLD Line---Ogrodnick, Lafleur and Dionne---and I was in awe playing with Guy Lafleur because I watched him as a kid growing up, a very talented guy playing with those great Montreal Canadiens teams. Playing with him, and Marcel, brought back memories of being a kid for me. It was special and exciting, for sure.
BSU: You also played with future Blueshirt legends Brian Leetch and Mike Richter at the earliest stages of their careers in New York. What do you remember of them breaking into the NHL?
JO: It was a combination of skill and personality when I think of Mike Richter and Brian Leetch. Skill-wise and personality-wise, just great people, great players. First-class, really nice people. And add Adam Graves into that mix, as well, after he arrived my last year in New York. Pure class.
BSU: What were you thinking when you watched the Rangers win the Cup in '94?
JO: I was happy to see the Rangers win the Cup in 1994, which was a great thing for the fans and the organization. And for Brian Leetch---a great guy, Adam Graves---a super guy...I was happy for all those guys. And it was great for the league to have an Original Six win the Stanley Cup. And those fans just love their Rangers, so they deserved that.
BSU: Tell us about your relationship with the Blueshirts Faithful.
JO: Like Wayne Gretzky said once, "Every hockey player should have the chance to play in New York City." I totally agree. The fans were interesting, for sure! But they really supported us, and we had some pretty good teams when I was there. Unfortunately we never got by the second round. It was unfortunate we could not win a Stanley Cup when I was there. The fans, though, were there for us all the time
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