'Tis may be the season for spreading cheer, but it's also around this time each year when J Fresh Hockey conducts his annual survey asking hockey fans which fanbase around the National Hockey League is most annoying.
This wasn't intended to be the team you hate the most or even your biggest rival. It was meant to find out which fanbase annoys you the most. Could that be the fans of the team that you hate the most? Absolutely, but it didn't have to be. There's some nuance between hate and annoyance.
3,620 hockey fans took the survey, and the New York Islanders fanbase finished 11th, with 2% of fans viewing them as the most annoying, but that wasn't the most interesting part of the results. He then shared the three most common fanbases picked as most annoying for each fanbase.
110 Islanders fans took the survey, and the Toronto Maple Leafs fans, not the New York Rangers fanbase, were selected as most annoying. The Carolina Hurricanes were third on lists of Isles fans. Meanwhile, 227 fans of the Blueshirts don't seem to find Islanders fans annoying at all. They listed the New Jersey Devils, Leafs, and Pittsburgh Penguins as their top three.
In response to these results, J Fresh conducted another survey asking which team fans hated the most. The Rangers topped that list for Isles fans, followed by the Leafs and Pens. I think that is the right list and would be the consensus view amongst a large portion of the fanbase. However, if you thought Rangers fans hated the Islanders the most, you'd be wrong - it's the New Jersey Devils.
The fact that Rangers' fans neither find the Islanders fans that annoying or that they view the Devils as their most hated rivalry isn't a huge surprise. The Rangers and Devils faced each other in the first round of the playoffs last season and have some recent post-season history with Adam Henrique's Game 6 O.T. goal in 2012, along with some other series in the late 1990s and 2000s that followed the Stephane Matteau Game 7 2OT winner in 1994.
Meanwhile, the Islanders and Rangers haven't met in the postseason in nearly three decades. It will be 30 years this spring since the Blueshirts swept the Isles in four games in 1994. That means that a whole generation of Isles and Rangers fans don't know how intense this rivalry can be. Is there juice at MSG or UBS Arena when the two teams play? Yes, but it doesn't come close to the buzz that was there in prior years.
There's an opportunity for the Isles-Rangers rivalry to intensify and for the levels of hate and annoyance to return, beginning with the Stadium Series game at MetLife Stadium in February. It will be the first time the teams meet all season. We'll see if a rowdy tailgate scene followed by a memorable game can start to get this rivalry and next year's survey results where they should be.