The New York Rangers have been chanting “Potvin Sucks” every time the New York Islanders make the trip to Madison Square Garden. And I love it.
As a New York Islanders fan, why in the world would I like something the New York Rangers do? I just like rivalries. Real rivalries. Not those Wednesday night fabricated “rivalry nights” on NBC.
I’m talking about real rivalries. Rivalries that are not only geographical but decades in the making. And that’s what the New York Islanders and New York Rangers have.
The Rangers faithful have been chanting “Potvin Sucks” for almost 40 years now.
himself hasn’t been off the ice and retired from the NHL for almost 30 years now. But still, the chant can be heard everytime the Islanders cross the East River.
On February 25th, 1979 Rangers forward Ulf Nilsson was trying to dig out the puck from along the boards in the Islanders end when Potvin came crashing into him. There’s no doubt it was a big hit. but it seemed like a fairly routine hit.
Until Nilsson didn’t get up off the ice. Somewhere between the hit and the fall to the ice Nilsson has broken his ankle.
Nilsson would miss the remainder of the New York Rangers season. And Rangers fans weren’t happy not one bit. So they decided to take out their anger in the only way they could in song.
And for the last 37 years, the chant has been passed down from Rangers fan to Rangers fan.
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The chant doesn’t have any meaning anymore. Potvin isn’t around anymore. And he hasn’t been for some time. But it’s managed to stick around all those years just because of the pure resentment that the Rangers fan base has for its cross-town rivals.
That’s the sign of a real rivalry. Sure a rough physical affair where the players clearly hate each other is another good sign. But when the hatred transcends what’s happening on the ice and becomes ingrained in the culture of the fanbase. That’s when you know you got something special.
You’d think they would get over it in the playoffs back in 1979. They did beat the Islanders in the semifinals in the playoffs that season by four games to two. But then again they are angry at someone who did nothing wrong. So. There’s that.