Mike Keenan: Rangers exit was ‘heartbreaking’

Mike Keenan wanted more. He knew the Rangers were built for it, too. 

After winning the 1993-94 Stanley Cup, the former Rangers coach had his sights on repeating that year’s success, on building a dynasty with a core that included Mark Messier, Sergei Zubov and Brian Leetch. 

He didn’t get that chance, however, as that season ended up as his only in charge of the Blueshirts. 

“That is, and probably was, the biggest disappointment in my career,” Keenan said on the latest ‘Up In The Blue Seats’ podcast. “Because I felt that we had assembled a group that grew together, that really cared for each other, had the leadership, had all the talent-base that we needed to succeed again. I’m not egotistical enough to say, ‘Maybe I could’ve helped that group again win a Cup.’ … So that was a major disappointment for sure.”

Just one month after lifting the Cup, Keenan announced in a news conference that he was no longer the Rangers’ coach, claiming the team breached its contract with him.

The team announced shortly after in a statement that the accused breach was a minor one-day delay in the payment of a bonus, a claim Keenan later refuted. Keenan’s relationship with general manager Neil Smith had reportedly broken down late in the season, and Keenan later accused Smith of attempting to drive him away from the team in a series of moves beforehand. 

Mike Keenan holds the Stanley Cup along with the 1993-94 Rangers.
NHLI via Getty Images

Keenan was suspended by the NHL for 60 days for signing a contract with the Blues to be their coach and general manager while he was still under contract with the Rangers. 

“I’m not getting into all the details of how it transpired,” Keenan said. “It’s still a disappointment because I enjoyed that group, it took a lot of work to get to where we were and what we did, and then it was just heartbreaking to tell you the truth that I ended up leaving.”

The 1993-94 Stanley Cup was the Rangers’ first since 1940, and the team has not added another since. After the Blues, Keenan had stints with the Canucks, Bruins, Panthers and Flames before retiring in 2009. He has the 14th-most wins of any coach all-time.