#9: New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders

Dennis Potvin’s hit on Ulf Nilsson upgraded this Rivalry from a Battle to a War

Most people in my generation remember the intense Devils / Rangers rivalry in the mid to late 1990’s. When the Rangers and Devils faced off in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, it went down as one of the greatest series in NHL history. The Blue Shirts went on the defeat the Devils in seven games ending with Rangers’ forward Stephane Matteau scoring in overtime to win the series. But in the following season, the Devils would bounce back and win a Cup of their own.

The Devils/Rangers rivalry was one of the greatest rivalries in hockey, but it doesn’t even compare to the historic Rangers/Islanders rivalry dating back to 1975. Even though the Islanders franchise has had the reputation as one of the worst teams in the NHL since 1996, this New York hockey rivalry remains strong to this day. The Islanders franchise was established in 1972, but they were the laughing stock of the NHL in their first three seasons. In 1975, they made the playoffs for the first time and faced the heavily favored Rangers in the first round. The series would go to a third and decisive game at the Garden and overtime, Isles’ forward J.P Parise (son of Devils star Zach Parise) would score the series-clinching goal to oust the Rangers. The Islanders advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, but eventually would lose to the Flyers. Nonetheless, the “Battle of New York” officially ignited.

The two teams would meet again in the playoffs in 1979, this time the Islanders being the heavy favorites. But the Blue Shirts stunned the Isles by eliminating them in six games. In the 1980’s, the Islanders would gain their vengeance on the Rangers by simply dominating the rivalry. The Isles would go on to play the Rangers in the playoffs every year from 1981-1984 and win every series. During this time, the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups (one more than the Rangers’ three at the time). In the 90’s the Rangers finally had bragging rights by defeating the Islanders in 1990 and 1994, and of course winning the Cup in ’94 as well.

Ken Morrow’s OT Goal vs. the Rangers in the 1984 playoffs was ranked the most famous goal in New York Hockey History

The one player in the center of this heated rivalry from 1975-1994 was the Islanders’ Hall of Fame defenseman Dennis Potvin. In 1979, Potvin put a hard hit on Rangers’ center Ulf Nilsson, which Rangers fans claim was one of the dirtiest hits in hockey (apparently it was a clean hit). After the hit, Nilsson was never the same player again. The Battle of New York was also home to some of the grittiest fights in hockey history. Who can forget the classic fights between Clark Gillies and Ed Hospodar?

Today the Battle of New York  is still in full bloom as the Garden continues to chant “Potvin Sucks” during any games of the season. With the Islanders improving, let’s look forward to this rivalry to gain even more heat in the next few years.

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One Response to “#9: New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders”

  1. The Rangers didn’t sweep the Islanders in 1990, the Islanders won game 3 at home. The Rangers won the series in five games.

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