Face it sports fans. It doesn’t matter if you follow baseball, football, ultimate frisbee or hockey. There comes a point during every season where the interest dips because you’re either just past a All-Star break and the next big event isn’t for 3 or 4 months when playoffs start, or what seems to happen more than not is one team pulling away from the others in a particular division and all but locking up a playoff spot 2 months into a 7 month season, oh the drama there right? Before you start yawning, remember that we have the pleasure of being entertained by our favorite team(s) in what we call rivalry games!
Rivalry games are great because they can add some intensity into what otherwise may be a down point a season. One of the down sides to rivalry games is that in some cases they don’t happen every year because of scheduling conflicts, travel hiccups or just due to the fact that teams don’t fall into certain divisions or conferences. However, being a fan of the New York Islanders or the New York Rangers is a completely unique scenario. Due to the fact that both teams belong to the same division (Atlantic) in the same conference (Eastern) means that we the fans have the pleasure of watching our warriors battle several times every year, guaranteed. Case in point, the Islanders and Rangers.
The inaugural game between the two teams separated by a mere 21.2 miles took place on October 21 in 1972 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Rangers won that tilt by a score of 2-1 and have kept on winning ever since holding a record of 116-99-19-6 (regular season). If you’re talking post season match ups that’s a different story, the Islanders hold the upper hand there with a record of 5 series wins over the Rangers out of 8 total.
Not only does this rivalry get the players a little more amped before a mid season game, draw a larger attendance to a mid week game than a Saturday night non conference match or give true fans a reason to lose their voice, but it is also a way to give! How you ask? The Pat LaFontaine trophy. The winner of the season series between the Islanders and Rangers gets the trophy for the year. The trophy is similar to that of college football trophies. Every year the team that has it puts it up for the taking. Looser gets nothing and winner gets bragging rights for the year. The same thing happens year after year after year. In this case however, not only does the looser get nothing, but the losing team also has to make a donation of $50,000.00 to the charity of Pat Lafontaine’s choosing.
The two teams faceoff 6 times in the regular season, as well as a pre season tilt at the Coliseum in early September. The Rangers beat the Islanders last season 4 out of 6 times, which means they’ll be defending it this upcoming season while the Isles try to win it back. While looking at this upcoming seasons schedule I noticed that there is only one home and home scheduled, late February against the Ottawa Senators. Should be interesting, especially for recently acquired D man Matt Carkner.
On paper the islanders should have no business making any of this seasons tilts against the Rangers a contest. Especially since they have recently inked Rick Nash and are reportedly among one of the finalists in the Shane Doan sweepstakes. They have a solid group of veterans and one of if not the best goaltender in the National Hockey League, Henrik Lundqvist. Good thing games aren’t won and lost on paper. Perfect example, the 1980 Olympics U.S.A. men’s hockey team. Do you believe in miracles? I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Islanders beating the Rangers this year will take a miracle, but odds are the rangers retain the Pat LaFontaine trophy for another year.