The rivalry between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers is among the most storied and heated in the National Hockey League (NHL). Since the Islanders entered the league in 1972, the two teams have faced each other over 289 times in regular season games, with the Rangers holding a slight edge with a 135-125-19-10 record. They have also met eight times in the playoffs, the last time back in 1994, with the Islanders winning five of the eight playoff series.
This rivalry has deep roots in the history of both teams and has been fueled by both on-ice performances and off-ice factors.
The History of the Rivalry
The Islanders were founded as an expansion team in 1972, and they quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the NHL. Led by future Hall of Famers such as Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, and Bryan Trottier, the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980 to 1983. During this same period, the Rangers were a struggling franchise with a long history of underachievement and disappointment.
The first playoff meeting between the two teams came in 1975 when the Rangers defeated the Islanders in the quarterfinals. However, it was not until the early 1980s that the rivalry heated up. The Islanders were at the height of their powers, and the Rangers struggled to keep pace. The Islanders defeated the Rangers in the playoffs in 1981 and 1982 en route to their Stanley Cup victories. The 1984 playoffs saw the Rangers finally break through, beating the Islanders in a dramatic five-game series that included three overtime games.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the rivalry continued to grow. The Islanders and Rangers faced each other six times in the playoffs during this period, with the Islanders winning four of those series. The 1994 playoffs saw the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The Rangers defeated the Islanders in the first round of those playoffs in a hard-fought seven-game series that included two overtime games.
The rivalry reached a new level of intensity in the 21st century as the two teams battled for supremacy in the New York City market. The Islanders struggled to maintain a competitive team during this period, while the Rangers were one of the most consistent teams in the league, making the playoffs in 11 of 12 seasons from 2006 to 2017. The Islanders failed to make the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons from 2007 to 2015, while the Rangers made the playoffs in each of those years.
However, the Islanders’ resurgence in recent years has brought new life to the rivalry. The Islanders have again become formidable opponents, led by stars such as John Tavares (since departed), Anders Lee, and Mathew Barzal. In the 2019 playoffs, the Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round before falling to the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round. Meanwhile, the Rangers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Off the ice, the rivalry between the two teams has been fueled by factors such as ownership disputes, arena politics, and opposing fan betting.
According to WSN, New York State is the most lucrative of any state where sports betting is legal. The Rangers and Islanders rivalry is exactly the kind of narrative contributing massively to the betting handle.
Where they Play
The Islanders have struggled for years to secure a new arena, playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for several seasons before returning to their former home, Nassau Coliseum, only to find themselves a new home at the UBS Arena in Elmont, just outside of New York City. Meanwhile, the Rangers have remained at Madison Square Garden, one of the most iconic arenas in sports.