Dealin’ With the Devil: What Does the Rangers-Devils Rivalry Mean to You?

For this breakdown, I teamed up with New Jersey Devils blogger and friend Tommy Zilinski, who runs a very popular blog and Facebook group titled, Devils Army. While looking for potential story ideas that we could collaborate on, he chose to pose questions relating to the Hudson River rivalry between the Devils and New York Rangers. A sample of some of the article, which is featured on his site can be read below:

Hey Devils fans! As per fan request on Twitter, I decided to write about the rivalry between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. I have teamed up with my friend Greg Caggiano of From New York to San Francisco, who is unfortunately a New York Rangers fan (you can express your sorrows in the comments section, if you wish). If you recall, I teamed up with Greg to bring both Devils and Rangers fans an in-depth series preview of the Eastern Conference Finals, which featured these same two teams, with the Devils knocking out the Rangers in 6 games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. I asked Greg a couple of questions about the rivalry, and you will see his responses first. I will post my answers after his. Enjoy!

Would you say the rivalry has been intensifying as of late? What are the causes of it?

Greg: People think the rivalry between the Rangers and Devils is more intense now than ever before because of two things: 1) Sean Avery playing on the Rangers and knocking over Brodeur a few seasons ago, and 2) the triple fight at center ice in a game this past season, resulting in the two head coaches screaming at each other. Putting aside the facts that those fights were staged and Avery is no longer in the NHL, I would say that the rivalry is rather dull in comparison to how it was in the early 1990′s. Since the lockout, Avery aside, these two teams did not, and currently do not, have a hatred for each other. Players on both sides pretend to get tough and stir the pot, but its all a charade. Martin Brodeur vs. Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best goalie match-up in the league today, yet the two of them don’t hate each other. On the contrary, the two players have always been respectful towards one another in interviews, which says a lot. There is very little hatred in the NHL today, especially with bench clearing brawls all but eliminated and fighting experiencing a downturn. The teams also play each other six times a season (it was eight immediately after the lockout, which was way too much, and only four or five before, a better number) so you tend to get used to playing that team every few weeks, which really puts a damper on build-up and excitement. If you want to see the best, most intense part of the rivalry, look no further than the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Now those two teams hated each other, more than in any other playoff match-up since. Bernie Nicholls openly declaring his hatred of the Rangers and his desperation to beat them because he was traded in exchange for Mark Messier two seasons prior and “couldn’t believe it” was more intense than anything that has happened since, more so than even Avery’s shove.

Tommy: I would say that the rivalry has been intensifying. With the teams facing off several times in the playoffs in the last 18 years, that can definitely cause tension between fans, players and coaches. Other than that, I agree with Greg about the staged fights and Sean Avery pushing over Martin Brodeur, although I do think that Mike Rupp punching Brodeur could come back to bite him.

What is your overall opinion on the rivalry?

Greg: Even though I said it was duller than year’s past, it is still one of the best in hockey. What two teams and fan bases could hate each other more, or at least give the illusion of hatred? Only the Penguins and Flyers, which is the best rivalry in the sport if I had to be exact. Even the Rangers and Islanders do not come close, because the Rangers cannot take the Islanders seriously. The Islanders are just so irrelevant that when they play the Rangers, they treat them like playoff games because the intensity there is as close as they are ever going to get. As for Devils-Flyers, let’s just say everyone hates Philadelphia, so we have common ground on that.

Tommy: Rivalries are healthy in any sport, or in any aspect of life. In this situation, I think the rivalry is a lot of fun. It is fun to trash talk with friends and strangers alike about the sport, but also connect and talk about the sport that brought us together. I enjoy watching Devils-Rangers games, there’s an atmosphere everywhere that simply cannot be replaced. I enjoy wearing my Devils jersey to school on the day of big games, and exchanging words with fans of the opposite team, some good and some bad. It provides fuel for the players, and their performance definitely increases when big games such as these occur, thus making it more entertaining for fans to watch.

What are some things that fans of both sides have done to show the hatred between the two sides?

Greg: I think that Devils fans have done a lot more to show hatred of the Rangers than the other way around. Make no mistake, Ranger fans hate the Devils but they do not obsess over it. I don’t know what it is, maybe an inferiority complex or something, that causes Devil fans to want the Rangers to lose more than their own team win. Now I know I am posting this on a Devils site and people are not going to like that, but let me ask you a question: have you ever seen a Ranger fan put a “Devils Suck” pin, logo included, on their own jersey or hat? Have you ever seen a Rangers fan where an authentic Devils jersey with some sort of derogatory remarks replacing the name on the back or logo? I think we all know the answers to those questions, just like if we were to spin them around and reverse the teams. I always laugh when I see a Devils fan wearing a “Rangers Suck” pin, because from afar, you cannot read the words—you just see the logo. This makes the Devils fan base the only fan base in the NHL to wear their most hated team’s logo in with their own paraphernalia.

Tommy: Of course, there is trash talking. I’ve seen fist fights on occasion, but that is mostly between drunk fans. In the Prudential Center, the “Rangers Suck” chant is a common chant throughout the season and playoffs. I’m not quite sure what the Rangers fans do while at games, aside from the “Maaaarty!” chant.

To read the rest of the breakdown, click here.

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