As a diehard New York Rangers fan, the opposing team that I hate the most is the New York Islanders. Since the Islanders' four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83, there hasn't been a lot to cheer about on Long Island.
In more recent times, the Islanders have failed to even make the playoffs, and if a new arena isn't built to replace Nassau Coliseum, there is a very real chance that the Islanders will leave Long Island.
For Rangers fans, the talk of the Islanders' possible move has been used as banter during Rangers-Islanders games. But while chants of "Kansas City" can be fun to deride Islander fans with, I began to think about what would happen if the Islanders were relocated.
Since 1972, when the Islanders entered the NHL, the Rangers-Islanders rivalry has been one of the most intense in the league. While the history of this rivalry is nowhere close to the history of rivalries like the Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs, the battles have become legendary.
The rivalry reached its peak in 1979. In February, Islanders' Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin checked Rangers center Ulf Nilsson into the boards, resulting in a broken ankle for Nilsson. Although the hit was clean, as acknowledged by both players, Rangers fans never got over that hit, and the "Potvin Sucks" chant continues at Madison Square Garden as a part of Rangers lore.
Later that same season, the Rangers and Islanders met in the semifinals. Although the Islanders were the more talented team, their first trip to the Finals was put on hold, as the underdog Rangers knocked them out in six games.
And even though the Rangers-Islanders playoff battles are few and far between, the excitement for a Rangers-Islanders game exceeds the atmosphere of an average night at MSG or Nassau Coliseum. Rangers fans might not admit it, but we want the Islanders around.
So hopefully, on August 1st, Nassau County votes yes for a new arena for the Islanders. And with a new arena will come new chapters in the Rangers-Islanders rivalry.
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