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NHL's NY Rangers Coach Steps Down - 2004-02-26

The National (ice) Hockey League's New York Rangers are making changes as it appears they will fail to reach the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.

Glen Sather stepped down as head coach of the New York Rangers Wednesday, abandoning one of his three titles. He has vowed to remain as the team's president and general manager for the remaining three years of his contract.

For more than a month, chants of "Fire Sather" have echoed at Rangers games in Madison Square Garden, and they appear to be a factor in Sather resigning as coach. He said the chanting was distracting for the players and that they seemed to get uptight.

The Rangers have the highest payroll in the NHL at nearly $81.5 million, yet their record this season is below .500, with 22 wins 33 losses and seven ties.

Sather says he was unable to get his team to perform at a high level.

“I think it's fun and enthusiastic being around the players,” he said. “I enjoyed them. They worked hard. They just didn't work hard all the time. And in this League today you've got to work hard every night and you've got to be smart how you work hard.”

The New York Rangers have been losing despite being stacked with some pretty high profile players like Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros.

The 60-year-old Sather is used to dealing with star players. He led the Edmonton Oilers to five Stanley Cup championships from 1984 to 1990 with teams that included Wayne Gretzky.

Sather was hired in New York as the Rangers' president and general manager before the 2000 season, though he had just assumed the New York Rangers coaching duties late last season, as the team continued its struggles of recent seasons.

“I don't think I got any dumber over the last few years because I haven't coached for a while, and I've coached a lot in this league,” Sather said. “So I know the league and I know the players, and I know what makes them tick. But it just seems for some reason we couldn't get them all going every night here.”

Taking over for Glen Sather is one of the Rangers assistant coaches Tom Renny. Renny says this change should serve as a wake-up call for the entire organization.

“What I think has happened should address the consistency point of view for sure,” he said. “It should address a number of things in terms of commitments and work habits and attention to detail on behalf of all of us. I'm not excluding the coaching staff from this at all. I think that we all have to take a good hard look at what's happened here and do everything we possibly can to do something about it.”

The NHL trading deadline is March 9 and the New York Rangers could try to deal any number of their high-price veterans, because with only about one month left in the season they are not likely to make the playoffs.