The Islanders–Rangers rivalry, also known as the Battle of New York, is a local sports rivalry between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. Both teams play in New York City, with the Rangers in the borough of Manhattan, and the Islanders in the borough of Brooklyn and on Long Island. They are two of the three teams that play in the New York metropolitan area, the other being the New Jersey Devils who play in Newark, New Jersey. The rivalry is an intra-city rivalry, similar to the Mets–Yankees rivalry in Major League Baseball and join the recent Knicks–Nets rivalry and the historical Dodgers–Giants rivalry as professional sports rivalries between teams based in New York City's most populous borough, Brooklyn, and the location of most of New York's corporate headquarters and shopping districts, Manhattan.
|First meeting||October 21, 1972|
|Latest meeting||January 12, 2019|
|Next meeting||January 13, 2020|
|All-time series||146–135–19–9 (NYR)|
|Regular season series||127–115–19–9 (NYR)|
|Postseason results||20–19 (NYI)|
|Largest victory||NYI 10–2 NYR|
April 3, 1976
|Longest win streak||NYI W8|
|Current win streak||NYR W1|
Like the Knicks–Nets rivalry and the old Dodgers–Giants rivalry, the two teams are in the same division and thus play several matches together each season. In contrast, Major League Baseball's New York Yankees and New York Mets are in different leagues while the National Football League's New York Jets and New York Giants are in different conferences, and as such those teams only meet rarely, during inter league or championship games.
The Islanders and Rangers play each other four times each regular season, with each team hosting two games. Since 2001, the Pat LaFontaine Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the Rangers-Islanders regular season series. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the rivalry was mostly one-sided in favor of the dominant Islanders, who ultimately won four Stanley Cup championships in a row during that time. Since 1994, however, the rivalry has shifted more towards the Rangers. The Rangers won their fourth Stanley Cup in 1994 and have experienced much playoff success since, including four appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1997, 2012, 2014, and 2015 (where they lost to two of their biggest rivals other than the Islanders, the Philadelphia Flyers (in 1997) and New Jersey Devils (in 2012)), as well as a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. The Islanders, meanwhile, did not win a playoff series after 1993 until their victory over the Florida Panthers in 2016. However, since the 2015–16 season the Islanders have won 13 of the last 16 games between the two teams, and at one point had won eight in a row, making the rivalry one-sided in favor of the Islanders as of late.
In 1975, the Islanders made their first trip to the NHL playoffs, facing the heavily favored Rangers in a best-of-three first-round series. After splitting the first two games, the Islanders won Game 3, and the series, when J. P. Parisé scored 11 seconds into overtime. The teams met again in the 1979 playoffs; this time the underdog Rangers were victorious, eliminating the heavily favored Islanders in six games and earning a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. This was particularly memorable as it continued the Islanders' reputation for playoff "chokes" despite finishing first in the league during the regular season.
The teams met in the playoffs every year from 1981 to 1984; the Islanders won each series by margins of 4–0, 4–2, 4–2 and 3–2 en route to four finals and three Stanley Cups (in addition to their 1980 win to make it four championships and five finals in a row). In the 1990s, the teams met twice, with the Rangers winning 4–1 in 1990, and sweeping the Islanders 4–0 in 1994, en route to winning their first Stanley Cup since 1940. The 1994 first-round playoff series is the most recent meeting between the two teams in the playoffs.
The Rangers' fanbase generally comes from the city's five boroughs, Fairfield and Rockland counties, while the Islanders tend to draw fans from Long Island, specifically the Nassau and Suffolk counties, Brooklyn, and parts of eastern Queens. Fans will frequently direct derisive chants at their rivals during games, regardless of whether the two teams are actually playing each other. At each home game, Ranger fans engage in perhaps their most popular chant: whistling the song "Let's Go Band" and punctuating it with "Potvin sucks!" This is a reference to retired Islander Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin, who angered Rangers fans by breaking Center Ulf Nilsson's ankle. Nilsson has never characterized Potvin's hit as dirty and blames his broken ankle on his skate getting caught in a crevice in the ice at Madison Square Garden resulting in one leg taking the full weight of the hit. In a 2009 interview, 30 years after the hit, Nilsson said, "He [Potvin] was always fair. But the ice was never great in the Garden because they had basketball and other events. My foot just got caught. It was a freak thing." Nevertheless, this has not deterred Rangers fans from continuing their chant to this day. Rangers fans also occasionally bring out the chant "Beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife", a reference to allegations made by his former wife during their divorce proceedings that Potvin committed domestic abuse. Potvin has denied this and has never been criminally charged. Lastly, Rangers fans have taunted Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro by chanting "DP Sucks!" After the Islanders changed their logo to one closely resembling the Gorton's fisherman, Rangers fans chanted "We want fishsticks" at the Islanders for several years, even after the logo was discarded.
During their sweep of the Rangers in the 1981 semifinals, Islander fans started chanting "1940!" referring to the Rangers having the all-time longest drought without winning the Stanley Cup. This chant was picked up by other NHL fans as well until the Rangers finally won in 1994. At many home games, Islanders fans would punctuate the "Chicken Dance" with chants of "the Rangers suck." The Islanders had stopped playing the song at games for a length of time but as of the 2007–08 season the song is played solely at Islanders–Rangers games. Rangers winger Theoren Fleury used the chant as an excuse for flapping his arms to taunt Islanders enforcer Eric Cairns. In addition a popular chant was "Crackhead Theo!" referring to Fleury's erratic behavior and history of substance abuse at the time. Islanders currently sing a song to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It", replacing the standard lyrics with "If you know the Rangers suck, clap your hands, If you know the Rangers suck, and we're gonna win the cup (referring to the Stanley Cup), if you know the Rangers suck clap your hands" There are variations to the third line in the song, including "if you know the Rangers suck and they'll never win the Cup" and "if you know the Rangers suck, in '94 they bought the Cup".
One well-known incident at an Islanders/Philadelphia Flyers game in 2003 turned an innocent holiday promotion at Nassau Coliseum into an on-ice shoving match between Rangers and Islanders fans in Santa suits.
As of January 2019, the Rangers have beaten the Islanders 146 times while the Islanders have beaten the Rangers 144 times. In the playoffs, however, the Islanders hold the lead with a 20–19 record, and have won five of the eight playoff series between the two teams.
Since 2001, the Pat LaFontaine Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the Islanders-Rangers regular season series. The winning team receives a trophy to parade around for their fans and bragging rights for another year, while the losing team must make a $50,000 contribution to the charity of Pat LaFontaine's choice. LaFontaine played for both teams in his career—the Islanders at the beginning, and the Rangers at the end (he played for the Buffalo Sabres in between, making him one of the few players to have played for all three teams based in the state of New York).
Greg Gilbert won the Stanley Cup with both teams and is the only player to do so with both teams, winning with the Islanders in 1982 and 1983 and with the Rangers in 1994. In addition, Neil Smith served as general manager of both teams.
During the 2009–10 season, there was a moment of peace in the rivalry with both head coaches, Rangers' John Tortorella and Islanders' Scott Gordon winning silver medals as assistant coaches for the U.S. men's ice hockey team during the Vancouver Olympics, under Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Ron Wilson, the head coach.
The rivalry was established in late 1971, when the National Hockey League awarded a second franchise in the New York metropolitan area. With the impending start of the World Hockey Association in the fall of 1972, the upstart league had plans to place a team, the Raiders, in the then-new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Nassau County. The NHL did not want competition in the nation's largest metro area, so despite having expanded two years before, the NHL awarded franchises to Atlanta (which ultimately failed and moved to Calgary) and Long Island to preempt the WHA. The fledgling New York Islanders had an extra burden to pay in the form of a $4 million territorial fee to the nearby New York Rangers. In the 1974–75 season, the Islanders made their first postseason appearance while the Rangers qualified for the ninth straight season. The two teams met in the first round. The Islanders won Game 1 in Madison Square Garden, but the Rangers tied the series at 1 by defeating the Islanders 8–3 on the road. The Islanders won the series 2–1 as they beat the Rangers 4–3 11 seconds into overtime on J. P. Parise's goal at the Garden. The teams squared off again in the 1978–79 season, but this time in the Semifinals. The Rangers took Game 1 on the road, but the Islanders tied the series with an overtime win. The Rangers took Game 3 at home, but once again, the Islanders tied the series with another overtime win. The Rangers won Games 5 and 6 to end the Islanders' season, but lost to Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The two clubs would battle once again in the Semifinals of the 1981 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Islanders won the Stanley Cup the previous year, and looked to defend their title. Islanders devastated the Rangers by sweeping the series and winning all four games by at least three goals. The Islanders would be crowned Stanley cup champions once again as they beat the Minnesota North Stars in the Finals. The next season, the teams met again in the playoffs, this time in the Division Finals. The Rangers took Game 1 on the road, but the Islanders won the next 3. The Rangers struck back to win Game 5 on the road, but were eliminated in Game 6. The Islanders swept their opponents in the next two rounds and won the Cup for the third straight year. The teams met in the Division Finals yet again in the 1982–83 season. The Islanders took a 2–0 series lead by winning two home games, but then the Rangers tied the series at 2 by winning their home games. The Islanders won Games 5 and 6 to move on to beat the Bruins and then sweep the Edmonton Oilers to claim their fourth straight Stanley Cup. In the 1983–84 season, the teams fought in the Division Semifinals. The Islanders took Game 1, but the Rangers won Games 2 and 3 3–0 and 7–2 respectively. The Islanders won Game 4, and then won the series 3–2 with an overtime win. This time, the Islanders moved on to the finals, but lost in a rematch to the Oilers. The rivalry remained intense throughout the late 1980s but only during the regular season. Islanders fans often mocked the Rangers by chanting "1940" to tease them about their Stanley Cup drought, one of the longest championship droughts in NHL history and all of sports.
In the 1989–90 season, the teams met in the Division Semifinals yet again. The Rangers took Games 1 and 2 at home, but the Islanders battled hard to win Game 3 in double overtime. The Rangers ended up winning the series 4–1 but lost to the Washington Capitals in the second round. After Islanders legends Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Brent Sutter, Pat LaFontaine, John Tonelli, Bob Bourne, Bobby Nystrom retired or left the team, the Islanders did not achieve the same success as they did in the 1980s. The Rangers on the other hand, acquired key players like Mark Messier and Adam Graves, as well as drafting key players including Brian Leetch and Alexei Kovalev. The two teams met in the playoff during the 1993–94 season in the Conference Quarterfinals. The Rangers swept the Islanders; outscoring them 22–3, and then beat the Capitals, Devils, and Canucks to win their first Stanley Cup since 1940. That was the Islanders last playoff appearance of the decade. The Rangers gained Wayne Gretzky who helped them back to the Conference Finals in 1997, but they would be eliminated by Philadelphia.
The rivalry ceased a little bit in the 2000s. The Islanders made only four playoff appearances. The Rangers missed the playoffs eight straight years (including the 2004–05 lockout), prior to signing All-Star Jaromir Jagr, and qualifying for the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers made it to the second round in 2007 and 2008 with the help of Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The Islanders made it to the 2007 playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round.
Rangers took the first place in the Eastern Conference during the 2011–12 season. They won a seven-game series against Ottawa, a seven-game series against the Capitals, but lost in the Conference finals to the Devils. Later in June, Lundqvist would win the Vezina Trophy. They had an eight-game home winning streak versus the Islanders until the Islanders beat them in a shootout on February 14, 2013.
The Islanders' first overall draft pick in 2009, John Tavares, has scored 20+ goals in the past six seasons and led them back to the playoffs in 2013, 2015 and 2016. On April 13, 2013, during a Rangers-Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum, the Rangers and Islanders were both scoreless in regulation for the first time since 1989, but defenseman Daniel Girardi won it for the Rangers in overtime.
On January 29, 2014, the Rangers defeated the Islanders 2–1 in the third game of the 2014 NHL Stadium Series; that game was held at Yankee Stadium. The winning goal was scored by Daniel Carcillo in the third period.
In the 2015–16 season, the Islanders moved from Nassau Coliseum to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, officially making it a true intra-city rivalry within New York City. The Islanders then completed their first-ever season sweep of the Rangers, en route to winning their first playoff series since 1993 defeating the Florida Panthers four games to two.
In the 2018–19 season, the Islanders began to split their home games between Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum. The use of both arenas will continue until the scheduled 2021 completion of their new home at Belmont Park Arena in Elmont, outside the New York City border. All of the Islanders' home games with the Rangers through the 2019-20 season have still been scheduled to be played at Barclays Center.
- The Battle of New York: Islanders/Rangers http://thehockeywriters.com/the-battle-of-new-york-islandersrangers/
- Battle of New York turns ugly http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/morrison/2007/03/battle_of_new_york_turns_ugly.html
- Islanders winning the battle of New York https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/islanders-winning-the-battle-of-new-york/article1380901/
- Keese, Parton (May 9, 1979). "Rangers Beat Islanders, 2–1, and Gain Stanley Cup Final". New York Times. p. A1.
- Vecsey, George (February 23, 2009). "Potvin Chant Endures with a Smile, Not a Snarl". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
- Eskenazi, Gerald (May 14, 1984). "The Changing Lives of Denis Potvin". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
- Murphy, Austin (June 13, 1994). "Closing In". Sports Illustrated.
- "Two jumped after flashing Rangers jerseys - NHL - ESPN". sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- Associated Press (June 29, 2009). "Tortorella, Gordon named assistants". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
- "Isles beat Rangers to sweep season series". Newsday. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
- "Islanders Announce 2018-19 Schedule". NHL.com. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
- "Islanders Announce 2019-20 Schedule". NHL.com. Retrieved November 11, 2019.