On the first night of the playoffs, I found myself at one of my sports bars glancing between the Tampa Bay-Columbus game, and the New York Islanders-Pittsburgh Penguins game. Next to me sat a long-suffering Islanders fan, dressed in the infamous fisherman jersey. Although at first, I pitied him for wearing the single ugliest sweater to grace NHL ice. But as the night progressed, I found myself as a temporary ally and companion in his team’s quest for a game one victory.
Why the change of heart to suddenly side with a fish sticks fan? It was the fact they were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. I don’t hate the New York Islanders, but I strongly dislike them. A victory for the Islanders
That hasn’t come without criticism that Devils fans shouldn’t dare root for another New York hockey team (I just want them to beat the Pens, then they can get utterly destroyed by the Hurricanes or Capitals for all I care). We know deep in our hearts that our main rival is and will always be the New York Rangers, who like us are playing golf while Barry Trotz and the Islanders play on, but are the Islanders really the Devils’ rivals? More importantly, are we bitter enough rivals that we can’t temporarily join forces to defeat a common enemy?
The best explanation for the Devils and Islanders rivalry is a friendly rivalry. When we play them, we go out for bragging rights for the New York/New Jersey area, but otherwise, we look at each other as harmless threats. We can appreciate from a distance what our former general manager Lou Lamoriello — and Barry Trotz — have done to turn that downtrodden franchise around, as long as they realize when they come to Prudential Center it means war.
Famed New York sports host and noted anger enthusiast Mike Francesa started off the conversation with his own Twitter poll “Is It Fraudulent for Devils fans to root for the Islanders in the Playoffs?” The results were dead locked at 50% for each choice, straight down the middle. Twitter followers were quick to tell the silver fox with a radio microphone that our main quarrels lie with the Blueshirts at MSG. Islanders fans even chimed in support by saying that they don’t hate the Devils, either, but hate the Rangers just as much.
It’s likely the same for Islanders fans. Ask a Rangers fan why they hate the Devils and they’ll whip out a 300-slide power point written in MLA format and deliver it like a college thesis (don’t worry, I’m well prepared for the ensuing argument). Ask an Islanders fan why they hate the Devils, and they’d probably struggle to find an answer and leave you with “at least we both hate the Rangers, right?”
So yes, the Islanders are a rival, but not rival enough we can’t find common ground against a shared enemy. So even though it cringes me to say it, Go Islanders (AGAINST THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS ONLY, THANK YOU).