The NHL is all in on rivalries. Thursday night was even reserved for rivalry night. So why are the New York Islanders playing more often against teams where a rivalry doesn’t really exist.
The New York Islanders have a natural rival embodied by the New York Rangers. This isn’t some sort of cooked up concoction or some sort of contrived marketing experiment. The rivalry between the Rangers is as natural and real as it gets.
The two represent the duality that makes New York. On one side you have the corporate world. Represented by monolithic skyscrapers, big money deals, and a corporate class that encapsulates the highly gentrified urban core of Manhattan. A Manhattan that houses the Rangers MSG.
The Islanders represent and have represented the blue collar working backbone of the city’s suburban population. Those living on the fringes of the city’s corporate core. The Islanders represent a piece of New York that belong to them.
Islanders vs. Rangers is a Battle for New York
When the two battled on the ice, it wasn’t just the Rangers Red, White, and Blue against the Islanders Orange and Blue, but the combat of the ideas that make the city: the gentrified urban core vs. the suburban boroughs.
With such a polarizing natural rivalry already at the NHL’s script writers disposal, why do we face the Hurricanes and Capitals more than the Rangers? It’s not as though we have some sort of deep hatred or disdain for either the Capitals or Hurricanes.
It’s fair to say that with time and enough cracks at the can certainly, the two could build a rivalry with each other. Play a team often enough and something dramatic is bound to happen. A bad call, a controversial goal, or, heaven forbid, they injure one of our players. It’s just the law of averages. We’re going to hate them for something.
We hate the Penguins for that reason. We’ve developed this sense of disgust for the Pens for a number of reasons. They’re successful when we haven’t been. Their superstar and captain seems to get annoyed by the smallest of issues.
There’s also the matter of losing a close six-game playoff series to them back in 2012-13. A series we probably should have won. Nothing galvanizes contempt for an opponent like the bitter taste of defeat. That, and having Sidney Crosby parade around two Stanley Cups doesn’t help.
The League Loves Rivals
But from a league’s perspective, one would have to want to capitalize on an already existent and healthy rivalry, rather than try to create one superficially. Which begs the question: Why only four games against the Rangers?
The simple, and likely answer is probably scheduling. The NHLs schedule makers probably couldn’t easily schedule a fifth game between the two so they just abandoned the idea altogether.
We see the Rangers in the pre-season, but really that’s hardly a competitive game so it really doesn’t even count. And now with this whole Jimmy Vesey decision going the way of the Ranger’s, there’s even more fuel added to the ever burning fire.
Say what you want about wanting/not wanting Jimmy Vesey. But seeing him go across town just stokes that natural disgust for the Rangers a little more.
It’s unfortunate that we won’t have the opportunity to complete a five-game regular season sweep of the Rangers this year and affirm our regional dominance. Oh well, we’ll just have to do it four games like we did last year.