Rangers & Islanders: A Rivalry for NYC Supremacy

The rivalry between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers continues in the 2021-22 season. The Rangers won the first matchup at UBS Arena last Wednesday, 4-1. There have been many moments that have added to the animosity between the state rivals. Let’s take a look at some of the moments that have lived on, contributing to the ongoing conflict through the 49 years the franchises have competed with each other.

‘Potvin Sucks’ Chant

During a game between the Rangers and Islanders on Feb. 25, 1979, Blueshirts forward Ulf Nilsson was the recipient of a hit from Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin. The Rangers forward suffered a broken ankle, and he was out for the remainder of the season. Not only did the hostility further increase between the franchises after the incident, but the Rangers fanbase has never forgotten what happened during that game over 40 years later.

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Younger Rangers fans will need to google what happened to understand the origin of the chant that occurs at every Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. To remember an incident such as this is a testament to how deep the conflict runs between the two organizations that battle for dominance among the New York fanbase. Nilsson believes the hit from Potvin was legal.

“Living in the New York area then, you had the Yankees and Red Sox and you had Rangers-Islanders. So I understood where all those emotions came from. Ulf got hurt and they blamed me. Then we went on and won four straight Cups, and every year it seemed like we went through the Garden to get there,” said Potvin (from ‘Potvin Sucks’: The origins of the chant synonymous with Rangers-Islanders, The Athletic, 6/23/2020).

“It wasn’t just anybody they were chanting about. He was such a great player, the leader of the best team, and Ranger fans maybe saw their best chance to win a Cup go away when I got hurt,” Nilsson said (from ‘Potvin Sucks’: The origins of the chant synonymous with Rangers-Islanders, The Athletic, 6/23/2020).

Denis Potvin New York Islanders
Denis Potvin of the New York Islanders skates against the Montreal Canadiens in the 1980’s at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

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 through the 1983-84 seasons, the Blueshirts were defeated by the Islanders in consecutive postseason series. 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’ chant may be outdated to some fans, this incident will never be forgotten amongst the many moments that define the rivalry.

Ken Morrow’s Goal Sends Isles to 1984 Patrick Division Finals

During the postseason of the 1983-84 season, the Rangers and Islanders squared off in a Prince of Wales Conference Division Semifinal series. The best-of-five series was tied 2-2 heading toward a deciding fifth game between the two adversaries. Game 5 was a highly contested game between the Blueshirts and Islanders that would go into overtime in order to crown the winner of the series.

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The game was tied 2-2 heading into overtime, and the crowd at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, was eagerly anticipating the deciding goal to conclude the series. Defenseman Ken Morrow was the hero who tallied the game-winning goal for the Islanders to clinch 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 Final and Conference Final series 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 the Rangers’ regular-season games were scheduled at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. One of the two games was against the Islanders, which took place on the evening of Jan. 29, 2014. The rivalry would continue in an unfamiliar outdoor environment.

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The game remained close between the two teams, as the score was tied 1-1 in the third period. Forward Dan Carcillo would break the tie in the Rangers’ favor, as he notched the game-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.

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The Rangers-Islanders rivalry is unlike any other in the four major sports in 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 each other in a handful of games during a 162-game schedule. The New York Giants and New York Jets play in different conferences in the National Football League (NFL) and play each other once every four years during the regular season. The Brooklyn Nets were known as the New Jersey Nets before 2012, and their rivalry with the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is still fresh in terms of two teams in the same sport sharing the sports market of New York City.

The Rangers and Islanders have been battling with each other for decades to claim their position as the top team in New York in the NHL. There have been many great moments between the Rangers and Islanders over the decades the two teams have played one another. 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!

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