The rivalry between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers continues into the 2021-22 season. Rangers won the first matchup at UBS Arena last Wednesday, 4-1. There have been many moments that have increased the enmity between the state rivals. Let’s take a look at some of the moments that have lived on and contributed to the ongoing conflict through the 49 years the franchises have been competing with each other.
Chant ‘Potvin sucks’
During a match between Rangers and Islanders on February 25, 1979, Blueshirts striker Ulf Nilsson received a hit from Islanders defender Denis Potvin. The Rangers striker got a broken ankle and he was out for the rest of the season. Not only did the hostility increase further between the franchises after the incident, but the Rangers fan base has never forgotten what happened during that game over 40 years later.
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Younger Rangers fans will have to google what happened to understand the origins of the song that occurs at every Rangers game in Madison Square Garden. Remembering an incident like this is a testament to how deep the conflict runs between the two organizations fighting for dominance among the New York fan base. Nilsson believes the hit from Potvin was legal.
“When you lived in the New York area, you had the Yankees and the Red Sox, and you had the Rangers-Islanders. So I understood where all those feelings came from. Ulf got hurt, and they blamed me. So we went on and on. won four trophies in a row and every year it seemed like we were walking through the garden to get there, ”said Potvin (from ‘Potvin Sucks’: The Origin of the Song Synonymous with Rangers-Islanders, Athletics23/6/2020).
“It was not just anyone they sang about. He was such a great player, the leader of the best team, and Ranger fans saw perhaps their best chance of winning a Cup disappear when I got injured,” said Nilsson (from ‘Potvin Sucks’: The origin of the song synonymous with Rangers-Islanders, Athletics23/6/2020).
The Rangers defeated the Islanders in the semifinals, 4-2, later that year in the postseason, but would lose to the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1, in the Stanley Cup final. During the 1980-81 seasons through the 1983-84 seasons, Blueshirts were defeated by the Islanders in successive series after the season. The Islanders would advance to the Stanley Cup final and win three Cups in each of the four seasons they defeated the Rangers in the playoffs. It is a fair assessment to make that the Rangers-Islanders rivalry was cemented during this four-year period. While the ‘Potvin Sucks’ song may be outdated for some fans, this incident will never be forgotten among the many moments that define the rivalry.
Ken Morrow’s goal sends the Isles to the 1984 Patrick Division Finals
During the offseason of the 1983-84 season, the Rangers and Islanders were in a semifinal series in the Prince of Wales Conference Division. The best-of-five series was a 2-2 draw on the way to a decisive fifth match between the two opponents. Match 5 was a very controversial match between Blueshirts and Islanders who would go into overtime to crown the winner of the series.
The match was a 2-2 draw on the way into overtime, and the crowd at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, eagerly awaited the decisive goal to end the series. Defender Ken Morrow was the hero who scored the battle-winning goal for the Islanders to win the 3-2 Game 5 victory for his team. The Islanders defeated the Rangers once again in the playoffs by winning the series 3-2. They would go on to win their division finals and conference finals against the Washington Capitals and Canadiens, respectively, before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup final.
Rangers play Islanders at Yankee Stadium
During the 2013-14 season, two of Rangers’ regular season games were scheduled at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. One of the two matches was against the Islanders, which took place on the evening of January 29, 2014. The rivalry would continue in an unfamiliar outdoor environment.
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The match remained close between the two teams as the score was a 1-1 draw in the third period. Striker Dan Carcillo would break the position in Rangers’ favor as he scored the battle-winning goal for the Blueshirts in the final period. The Rangers would go on to defeat their arch-rival, 2-1, and secure another victory in the battle for New York.
Rangers-Islanders rivalry is unlike any other in the four major sports between New York-based teams. The New York Yankees and New York Mets play in different leagues in Major League Baseball (MLB), even though they play against each other in a handful of games during a 162 game. The New York Giants and New York Jets play in various conferences in the National Football League (NFL) and play against each other once every four years in the regular season. The Brooklyn Nets were known as the New Jersey Nets before 2012, and their rivalry with the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) is still fresh in the form of two teams in the same sport sharing the sports market in New York City.
The Rangers and Islanders have struggled with each other for decades to assert their position as the top team in New York in the NHL. There have been many great moments between Rangers and Islanders over the decades the two teams have played against each other. The teams will look to establish more memories during the 2021-22 season.
What are some of your favorite moments between the Rangers-Islanders rivalry? Write your favorite moments in the comments section below!
Matt covers the New York Rangers, contributes Rangers Weekly and Rangers Daily Download pieces, and has previously contributed content, including news and rumors about the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Visit his portfolio to see more of Matt’s authorship. Stay tuned for interview and podcast requests Matt on Twitter which appears at the end of his articles.