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History of the New York Rangers

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HistoryEdit

Early yearsEdit

In 1925, the New York Americans joined the National Hockey League, playing in Madison Square Garden. The Amerks proved to be an even greater success than expected, leading Garden president Tex Rickard to go after a team for the Garden despite promising the Amerks that they would be the only hockey team to play there.

Rickard was granted a franchise, which he originally planned to name the New York Giants. However, the New York press soon nicknamed his team "Tex's Rangers," and the new name stuck. Rickard managed to get future legendary Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe to assemble the team. However, Smythe had a falling-out with Rickard's hockey man, Col. John S. Hammond, and was fired as manager-coach on the eve of the first season — he was paid a then-hefty $2500 to leave the Big Apple. Smythe was replaced by Pacific Coast Hockey Association co-founder Lester Patrick, but kept all of the players Smythe had assembled. The new team turned out to be a winner. The Rangers won the American Division title their first year but lost to the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. To this day, these Rangers were one of the most successful teams in the history of the NHL. The team's early success led to players becoming minor celebrities and fixtures in New York City's Roaring 20's nightlife.

1927-28 Stanley CupEdit

In only their second season, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Montreal Maroons three games to two. One of the most memorable stories that emerged from the Finals involved Patrick suiting up in goal at the ripe age of 44. At the time, teams were not required to dress a backup goaltender so when the Rangers' regular goaltender, Lorne Chabot, went down with an eye injury, Maroons head coach Eddie Gerard vetoed his original choice for a replacement (who was Alex Connell, another NHL goalie of the old Ottawa Senators, who was in attendance for the game). An angry Patrick lined up between the pipes for two periods in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals, allowing one goal to Maroons' center Nels Stewart. Frank Boucher would score the game-winner in overtime to seal victory for New York. An expansion team would not come this far this fast in North American professional sports until the Philadelphia Atoms won the North American Soccer League title in their first year of existence.

1932-33 Stanley CupEdit

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The 1932-33 New York Rangers team picture autographed by Lester Patrick

After a loss to the Bruins in the 1928-29 finals and a few mediocre seasons in the early 1930s, the Rangers, led by brothers Bill and Bun Cook on the right and left wings, respectively, and Frank Boucher at center, would defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1932-33 best-of-five finals, three games to one, to win their second Stanley Cup, exacting revenge on the Leafs' "Kid line" of Busher Jackson, Joe Primeau, and Charlie Conacher. The Rangers would spend the rest of the 1930s playing close to .500 hockey until their next Cup win. Lester Patrick stepped down as Head Coach and handed the reins to Frank Boucher.

1939-40 Stanley CupEdit

In 1939-40, the Rangers finished the regular season in second place behind the Boston Bruins. The two teams would square off in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins gained a two-games-to-one series lead from the Rangers until they stormed back winning three straight games to hold off the first-place Bruins. The Rangers eventually won the best-of-seven series, four games to two. Their first-round victory gave the Rangers a bye until the finals. The Detroit Red Wings disposed of the New York Americans in their first round best-of-three series two games to one (even as the Americans had analytical and notorious ex-Bruins star Eddie Shore) and the Toronto Maple Leafs ousted the Chicago Black Hawks two games to none. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings would play a best-of-three series to determine who would go on to play the Rangers in the Cup finals. The Maple Leafs swept the Red Wings and the Finals match-up was determined. The 1939-40 Stanley Cup Finals started in Madison Square Garden in New York. The first two games went to the Rangers. In game one the Rangers needed overtime to gain a 1-0 series lead and won game two quite handily with a 6-2 victory. The series then headed north to Toronto with the Maple Leafs winning the next two games on home ice, thereby tying the series 2-2. In games five and six the Rangers won both contests in overtime and won the series four games to two over the Maple Leafs to earn their third Stanley Cup.

The Rangers would collapse by the mid-1940s, losing games by as much as 15-0 and having one goaltender with a 6.20 goals-against average. They would miss the playoffs for five consecutive seasons before squeaking into the fourth and final playoff spot in 1948. They lost the first round and would miss the playoffs again in 1949. In the 1950 finals the Rangers were forced to play all of their games on the road (home games in Toronto) while the circus was at the Garden. They would end up losing to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime in the seventh game of the finals, despite a stellar first-round performance as underdogs to the Montreal Canadiens.

During this time, Red Wings owner James E. Norris became the largest stockholder in the Garden. However, he did not buy controlling interest in the arena, which would have violated the NHL's rule against one person owning more than one team. Nonetheless, he had enough support on the board to exercise de facto control.

The post-Original Six eraEdit

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New York Rangers logo (used 1935-48)

The Rangers remained a mark of futility in the NHL for several years, missing the playoffs in 12 of the next 16 years. However, the team was rejuvenated in the late 1960s, symbolized by moving into a newly-rebuilt Madison Square Garden in 1968. A year earlier, they made the playoffs for the first time in five years on the strength of rookie goaltender Eddie Giacomin, and acquired 1950s Montreal Canadiens star right wing Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.

The Blueshirts made the Finals twice in the 1970s, but lost both times to two '70s powerhouses; the Boston Bruins in 1972, in six games, who were led by such stars as Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Johnny Bucyk and Wayne Cashman; and in 1979, in five games to the Habs, who had Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Guy Lapointe, and Serge Savard. This time the Blueshirts had “Espo”, but it didn't matter; the Habs looked clearly dominant.

By 1972, the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup finals despite losing high-scoring center Jean Ratelle (who had been on track over Bruin Phil Esposito to become the first Ranger since Bryan Hextall in 1942 to lead the NHL in scoring) to injury during the stretch drive of the regular season. The strength of people like Brad Park, Ratelle, Vic Hadfield, and Rod Gilbert (the last three constructing the famed "GAG line", meaning "goal-a-game") would still carry them through the playoffs. They would defeat the defending champion Canadiens in the first round and the Chicago Blackhawks in the second, but lost to Boston in the finals.

The Rangers played a legendary semifinal series with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1973-74 playoffs. This series was noted for a game seven fight between Dave Schultz of the Flyers and Dale Rolfe of the Rangers. Schultz pummeled Rolfe without anyone on the Rangers lifting a finger to protect him (the GAG line was on the ice at the time). This led to the belief that the Rangers of that period were soft - especially when taking into account the bullying endured by the Rangers during the 1972 finals. One example is Rod Gilbert's beating at the hands of Derek Sanderson of the Bruins.

Their new rivals, the New York Islanders, who entered the league in 1972 after paying a huge territorial fee — some $4 million — to the Rangers, were their first-round opponent in 1975. After splitting the first two games, the Islanders defeated the more established Rangers, eleven seconds into overtime of the deciding game three, establishing a rivalry that continued to grow for years after.

After some off years in the mid-to-late 1970s, they picked up Esposito and Carol Vadnais from the Bruins for Park, Ratelle and Joe Zanussi in 1975. Swedish stars Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson jumped to the Rangers from the maverick World Hockey Association. And in 1979 they defeated the surging Islanders in the semi-finals and would return to the finals again before bowing out to the Canadiens. The Islanders got their revenge however, eliminating the Rangers in four consecutive playoff series' starting in 1981 en route to their second of four consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

The Rangers stayed competitive through the 1980s and early 1990s, making the playoffs each year except for one but never going very far. An exception was 1985-86, when the Rangers, behind rookie goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, upended the Patrick Division winner Philadelphia Flyers in a decisive fifth game followed by a six-game win over the Washington Capitals in the Patrick Division Finals. Montreal disposed of the Rangers in the Wales Conference Finals behind a rookie goaltender of their own, Patrick Roy. The Blueshirts acquired superstar center Marcel Dionne after almost 12 years as a Los Angeles King the next year. In 1988, Dionne moved into third place in career goals scored (since bettered by Brett Hull). But Dionne's always-churning legs started to slow the next year, thereby ensuring that his goals came further and further apart. “Because you love the game so much, you think it will never end,” said Dionne, who spent nine games in the minors before retiring in 1989. He would only played 49 playoff games in 17 seasons with the Rangers, Kings and Detroit Red Wings.

Still, the many playoff failures convinced Rangers fans that this was a manifestation of the Curse of 1940, which is said to either have begun when the Rangers' management burnt the mortgage to Madison Square Garden in the bowl of the Stanley Cup after the 1940 victory, or by Red Dutton following the collapse of the New York Americans franchise. In the early 1980s, Islander fans began chanting "1940! 1940!" to taunt the Rangers. Fans in other cities soon picked up the chant.

Frustration was at its peak when the 1991-92 squad captured the Presidents' Trophy. They took a 2-1 series lead on the defending champ Pittsburgh Penguins and then faltered in three straight (most observers note a Ron Francis slapshot from the blue line that eluded Mike Richter as the series' turning point). The following year a 1-11 finish landed the Rangers in the Patrick Division cellar. Coach Roger Neilson did not finish the season. The off-season hiring of controversial head coach Mike Keenan was criticized by many who pointed out Keenan's 0-3 record in the finals.

1993-94 Stanley Cup: 1940 is historyEdit

1993-94 was a magical season for Rangers fans, as Keenan led the Rangers to its first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years. Two years previous, they picked up center Mark Messier, who was an integral part of the Edmonton Oilers' Cup winning teams. Adam Graves who also defected from the Oilers, joined the Rangers as well. Other ex-Oilers on the Blueshirts included trade deadline acquisitions Craig MacTavish (now Oilers head coach) and Glenn Anderson. Brian Leetch and rookie Sergei Zubov were a solid 1-2 punch on defence. In fact, Zubov led the team in scoring that season with 89 points, and continued to be an all-star defenceman throughout his career. Graves would set a team record with 52 goals, breaking the old record of 50 held by Vic Hadfield. This record would later be broken by Jaromir Jagr on April 8, 2006 against Boston.

NewYorkRangersA

Main logo for third alternate jersey

After clinching the Presidents' Trophy by finishing with the best record in the NHL (52-24-8 and a franchise-record 112 points) the Rangers were pitted against their arch-rivals, the 8th-seeded Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. The Isles proved to be no match, as they were swept in four games by an aggregate score of 22-3. Rangers goaltender Mike Richter earned a pair of playoff shutouts in the series, while supposed Isle "upgrade" Ron Hextall had a 5.50 GAA to Richter's 0.75. In the second round, the Washington Capitals were dismissed in five games and it set the stage for a matchup with the New Jersey Devils in the Conference Finals. Despite a 6-0 regular season record against New Jersey, the Devils took the Rangers to a full seven games. The series was highlighted by three dramatic multiple overtime games, in which the Rangers were victorious in two. Stephane Matteau scored both of those overtime goals, one of which ended Game 3 at 6:13 of the second overtime period. Still, after the fifth game, the Rangers trailed in the series 3-2 and facing elimination, captain Messier boldly guaranteed a victory in Game 6 back at the Meadowlands in New Jersey —

"We know we are going to win Game Six and bring it back to the Garden,"
he said.

Halfway through the game the Rangers trailed 2-0 before Messier set up Alexei Kovalev late in the second period to bring them to within a goal of tying the game. In what is now considered one of the greatest individual performances in sports history, Messier delivered a hat trick in the third period to give the Rangers a 4-2 win and it sent the series to a decisive seventh game back at Madison Square Garden. In that seventh game a Leetch goal midway through the second period stood until Valeri Zelepukin tied the game for the Devils by stuffing the puck under Richter's pads with 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation. It appeared once again that the Curse of 1940 would undo the Rangers. Surprisingly, Matteau's second overtime winner would clinch the series for the Blueshirts, coming at 4:24 in the second overtime period of Game 7. Rangers' announcer Howie Rose called the play in dramatic fashion shouting simply, "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!"

The Stanley Cup Finals pitted the Rangers against the upstart Vancouver Canucks who were the seventh seed in the Western Conference. After dropping game one in overtime 3-2, largely due to Canucks' goaltender Kirk McLean's 52-save performance, the Rangers came back to win the next three games to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Rangers lost Game 5 in New York and then Game 6 in Vancouver 4-1, forcing another seventh game at Madison Square Garden. There, the Rangers would finally prevail. Goals from Leetch, Graves and Messier outset Vancouver captain Trevor Linden's pair of markers and sealed the seventh game with a 3-2 victory and the Rangers' first Cup in 54 years. Leetch became the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, the first non-Canadian to win it, and Messier became the first Ranger captain to hoist the Cup on Garden ice, as well as the first player in NHL history to captain two different teams to a Stanley Cup.

1994-2004: expensive acquisitionsEdit

Despite having coached the Rangers to a regular season first place finish and the Stanley Cup, head coach Mike Keenan left after a dispute with General Manager Neil Smith. During the 1994-95 lockout shortened season, the Rangers struggled to find their form and lost in the second round of the playofs. They snuck in with the 8th seed and defeated Quebec in the first round, but they were swept by Philadelphia in the 2nd round. Succeeding Rangers coach Colin Campbell orchestrated a deal that sent Sergei Zubov and center Petr Nedved to Pittsburgh in exchange for undisciplined defenceman Ulf Samuelsson and left winger Luc Robitaille in the summer of 1995.

NYRteamphoto99

The 1998-99 Rangers pose with Wayne Gretzky after his last NHL game.

The Rangers landed an aging Wayne Gretzky in 1996, but even with The Great One, they would fizzle out. Their 1994 stars were aging and many retired or dropped off in performance. Gretzky's greatest accomplishment was leading them to the 1997 Eastern Conference finals, where they lost 4-1 to the Eric Lindros-led Philadelphia Flyers. After General Manager Neil Smith ran Messier, a former Oiler teammate of Gretzky's, out of town in the summer of 1997 and failed in a bid to replace him with Colorado Avalanche superstar Joe Sakic, the Rangers began a streak of seven seasons without making the playoffs, despite routinely having the highest payroll in the league.

In March 2000, Smith was fired along with head coach John Muckler, and that summer James Dolan hired Glen Sather to replace him. By the end of the 2000-01 season, the Rangers had landed a lot of star power. Theoren Fleury joined the Rangers after spending most of his career with the Calgary Flames, Eric Lindros joined the Rangers from the Philadelphia Flyers for blue-liner Kim Johnsson, and they acquired Pavel Bure late in the 2001-02 season from the Florida Panthers. It was the rookie season of goalie Dan Blackburn, who made the NHL All-Rookie Team despite the Rangers falling back to last-place status. Despite these high-priced acquisitions the Rangers still finished out of the playoffs. Later years saw other stars such as Alexei Kovalev, Jaromir Jagr, Anson Carter and Bobby Holik, as well as a growing Jamie Lundmark added, but in 2002-03 and 2003-04, the team again missed the playoffs. Blackburn started strongly in 2002-03, but burned out after 17 games. He missed 2003-04 due to mononucleosis and a damaged nerve in his left shoulder. Blackburn could not rehabilitate the damaged nerve, and was forced to retire prematurely.

2005-present: post lockoutEdit

Towards the end of the 2003-04 season Sather finally gave in to a rebuilding process by trading away Leetch, Kovalev, and eight others for numerous prospects and draft picks. Bure, Messier, and Blackburn are now retired and Lindros returned home to sign with the Maple Leafs prior to the start of the 2005-06 season. Leetch finished out the 2003-04 season with Toronto and then played with Boston in the 2005-06 season (in which he played his first game at Madison Square Garden since being traded in an emotional Ranger win). Leetch has since officially announced his retirement in June 2007.

The post-lockout Rangers, under new head coach Tom Renney, have seen the team move away from high-priced veterans towards a group of talented young players such as Petr Prucha, Dominic Moore, and Blair Betts, but the focus of the team remains on veteran superstar |Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers were expected to struggle during the 2005-06 season for their eighth consecutive season out of the postseason (Sports Illustrated declared them the worst team in the league in their season preview), but behind stellar performances by Swedish rookie goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Straka, Prucha, and Jagr, the Rangers finished the season with their best record since 1993-94 (44-26-12).

Jaromir Jagr broke the Rangers' single-season points record with a first-period assist in a 5-1 win against the New York Islanders on March 29, 2006. The assist gave him 110 points on the season, breaking Jean Ratelle's record. Less than two weeks later, on April 8, Jagr scored his 53rd goal of the season against the Boston Bruins, breaking the club record previously held by Adam Graves. Finally, on April 4 the Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout 3-2 to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the 1996-97 season. On April 19, the Rangers lost to the Ottawa Senators 5-1 and due to wins by division rivals New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers fell back to third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference to end the season. In the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals the Rangers drew a matchup with the Devils and were defeated in a four-game sweep. In the process they were outscored 17-4, as New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur took two shutouts and a 1.00 goals-against average to Lundqvist's 4.25. In the first game of the series Jagr suffered an undisclosed injury to his left shoulder, diminishing his usefulness as the series went on. Jagr missed Game 2 of the series and was back in the lineup for game 3. He was held to 1 shot on net. On his first shift of Game 4, Jagr re-injured his shoulder and was unable to return.

Jagr failed to win his sixth Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 2005-06 (the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton claimed the award, his first, with 125 points over Jagr's 123) but he won his third Pearson Award (players' choice as outstanding player). He has thus tied Guy Lafleur in third, and needs one more to tie his ex-centerman, Mario Lemieux, in second and two more to tie Wayne Gretzky in first. Ironically, Jagr, while playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, ended the final game of Gretzky's career with an overtime goal on April 18, 1999. On opening night of the 2006-07 season, Jagr was named the first team captain since Messier's retirement.

With the Rangers doing so well in 2005-06, expectations were raised for the 2006-07 season. Realizing that the team had trouble scoring goals in the '05-'06 campaign, the Rangers went out and signed long time Red Wing and now 600 goal scorer Brendan Shanahan to a one-year contract. However, the organization remains committed to its rebuilding program despite the signing of the 37 year old winger.

Though the Rangers started a bit slow in the first half of the 2006-2007 season, the second half was dominated by the near-unbeatable goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. The acquisition of Sean Avery brought new life to the team, and the Rangers finished ahead of Tampa Bay and the Islanders to face Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs. The Rangers swept the series thanks to play from all around the ice. However, the Rangers lost the next round to Buffalo 2-4 in a hard fought series.

At the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers chose Alexei Cherepanov 17th overall, Cherepanov had been ranked by Central Scouting as the no. 1 European skater and was considered to be a top five pick leading up to the draft. The 2007 free agency season started with a bang for the Rangers signing two high profile centerman, Scott Gomez from the New Jersey Devils for a seven year, $51.5 million dollar contract as well as Chris Drury from the Buffalo Sabres for a five year deal worth $35.25 million.

TraditionsEdit

The fans of the New York Rangers have several traditions that are part of the experience of watching a home game at Madison Square Garden.

Let's go Rangers chantEdit

Rangers fans created a special "Let's go Rangers" chant. This refrain is followed by 5 rhythmic claps. The chant is used by the fans to either motivate the team, or respond to a positive on-ice play. At the conclusion of Game 4 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs first round series between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils at MSG, the Rangers players were serenaded off the ice for the last time with a rousing rendition of "Let's Go Rangers" despite being swept in the series.

Goal SongEdit

When the Rangers score a goal at Madison Square Garden the Slapshot (aka The New York Rangers goal song) song is played . The song made its debut on January 20th, 1995, the night the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Banner was raised to the rafters. It was written by Ray Castoldi, the Music Director at Madison Square Garden. The song can be heard here.

Victory SongEdit

After every home victory the New York Rangers victory song is played. It was written in 1940 by J. Fred Coots (an avid Rangers fan and New Yorker) to pay tribute to the then-Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. The music for the song can be heard here.

"Potvin sucks!" chantEdit

On February 25, 1979, in a game between the Rangers and rival New York Islanders, Denis Potvin of the Islanders delivered a hip check to Rangers' center Ulf Nilsson. Nilsson suffered a broken ankle on the play, which sidelined him for the season. The play is generally regarded as clean. Rangers coach Fred Shero said of the hit, "It was a hard check, but you can't penalize a guy for hitting hard."[1]

Regardless, Rangers fans never forgave Potvin for it and created the "Potvin sucks" chant, wherein they punctuate the song "Let's Go Band" with "Potvin sucks!" Initially, the fans responded when the song was played on the Garden organ, but since the mid-1980s, Garden management has refused to play it. As a result, the fans whistle or hum the tune themselves to set up the chant.[2][3] Rangers fans engage in the chant multiple times at every home game regardless of the opponent.

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Rangers saluting the crowd at MSG

Salute the crowd Edit

After every Rangers home win, the team gathers at center ice and raise their sticks in the air to salute the Rangers supporters. The salute was the idea of defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and the tradition began in the early part of the 2005-06 season, it has proved extremely popular with both the players and fans alike. Specifically, after the Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in the longest shootout game in its short history in the NHL, the team gathered at center ice to salute their fans.

The salute to the fans is typically done only after home victories. However, at conclusion of the 2006 playoffs -- in which the Rangers lost four games to none -- the fans' cheers at the conclusion of an otherwise outstanding breakout season caused the players to stay on the ice after the loss and give the fans one final salute for 2005-2006. The Rangers also did the salute in the second round of the 2006-07 Stanley Cup Playoffs after losing Game 6, and the series, to the Buffalo Sabres.

Though not very popular in the National Hockey League, this tradition is common European ice hockey.

Sweet Caroline Edit

At the start of the 2005/2006 season, Rangers coach Tom Renney unveiled the popular Neil Diamond song, "Sweet Caroline" as the club's theme song for the year. This song is one of Jaromir Jagr's favorites and since he became captain, the song has been played in the Rangers locker room following each victory. Eventually the fans caught wind of this, and the song was played over the MSG PA system during games in which the Rangers were winning with 5 minutes left to go in the game. Rangers fans enjoy singing the song when it is played at the Garden.

The Blue Seats Edit

In Rangers fan lore, one of the most traditional, as well as one of the rowdiest sections of The Garden is the blue seats, up in the 400 level. The nickname comes from the color of the old seats in the Garden, and the cheapest seats being the blue ones up top. In the 1970's, Blue Seaters would heckle opposing players, and also heckle the "Red Seaters", down below. The generally working to middle-class Ranger fans upstairs would poke fun at corporate, and business-type people in the more expensive seats of the 100 level. Blue Seaters would also come up with the popular Garden chants such as "Potvin Sucks", "Beat Your Wife Denny" (both of those chants pertain to former New York Islanders defenseman, Denis Potvin), and "Shoot The Puck Barry" (started for Barry Beck, a former New York Ranger in the 1970s).

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. NY Times, 2/26/79
  2. For Nearly 28 Years at Garden, Frustration’s Name Is Potvin. New York Times. Retrieved on December 19, 2006.
  3. Road Trip. Sportsnet.ca. Retrieved on February 5, 2007.

External linksEdit

New York Rangers
Team FranchisePlayersCoachesGMsSeasonsRecordsDraft picksHistory
Madison Square Garden
Stanley Cups 1928, 1933, 1940, 1994
Affiliates Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL)

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