NHL Rivalries: New Jersey Devils VS. New York Rangers
The rivalry between the Jersey Devils and the New York Ranges has many names – The River Rivals, The Battle of the Hudson River, and the Hudson River Rivals are the most popular.
Like most ice hockey rivalries, this battle is all about publicity. The NHL spreads get a boost of interaction whenever these teams are matched against each other, which creates a fun competition for all to enjoy. Or at least that was true once.
In recent years, the fans have taken this friendly rivalry to the next level, and now the teams have very little control over their publicity stunt.
Let's see how this chaos unfolded.
How The River Rivalry Began – 1982
In 1982, the New Jersey Devils changed their name from the Colorado Rockies. This is because they moved from Colorado to New Jersey. The move, however, meant they were encroaching on the fandom territory of three other teams – the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, and the Philadelphia Flyers.
All three of these teams held a large geographical sway over the hockey fans of the area, so entering this space meant paying a fee.
Despite two others being in the same boat as the New York Rangers, it was just this team that developed a rivalry. That's because the story fit, and helped the New Jersey Devils gain traction in their new home.
Rival team matchups always create better turnouts, so adding the Devils to the list of enemies was beneficial to everyone involved.
Of course, this is just how the rivalry began. Good intentions don’t always create the best plans.
The Battle Of The Stanley Cup – 1994 and 1995
In the 90s, the Devils were the superior team. They had the best-skilled players, the most foresight, and dominated the ice. But surprisingly, the first three playoff series between these two “heated” rivals, all ended in the Ranger’s favor.
This is when most would say the true rivalry began. The frustration from the Devils came from the outstanding track record which meant nothing against the Rangers.
In the 1994 East Conference Finals, the Rangers won 6 to 0. Then ended up taking the Stanley Cup home, much to the dismay of the Devils.
In 1994, the Devils were on a warpath. They swept the opponents to the ground with the ease of hockey gods. They were up against their main rivals, the Rangers, in the second round and demolished their hopes of a second win.
The Devils were in the Stanley Cup finals, and they weren’t on their home ice. Statistically, the game was against them, as no one had ever won as an away team. But the Devils had a point to prove, so they defeated their competition and took back the Stanley Cup.
In doing so, they became the first team to win the cup as an away team.
The Conference Finals Rematch – 2012
The last 6 seasons before 2012 were quiet for the River Rivals. They had only met up in October of every year and never met in the playoffs. The Rangers had won every meeting in the 6 seasons, and each of them started with a classic hockey fight. But in 2012, there was a shake-up in the dynamic.
The typical fight began the season, but in the first two matchups, a controversy began. A goal by Ranger player Derek Stephen was called into question. Some believe that goaltender Marian Gaborik was pushed into the goal, which meant a penalty should have been issued. Others say that Gaborik didn’t try to avoid the collision, making the goal valid.
As the games continued, both the Rangers and the Devils were winning against their separate rivals. It seemed as though the teams were going to get together for a natural rematch in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.
In the end, the Rangers didn’t make it to the playoffs and the Devils were up against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Rage Of The Fans
Since the 2004 NHL lockout, the rivals have met 43 times. During this time the fans have fueled the fire of the rivalry.
The players have been rather respectful and only played up to the hype for the entertainment value. The fans, however, have become too invested.
It has become a regular occurrence for Rangers to burn Devil’s merchandise when they win. And you’ll notice Devil's fans handing out derogatory unofficial merch during the games.
Both fandoms have a chant specifically against their opponents, and if you speak to them they will talk about how they “hate” the rival team.
Kevin Smith, an actor, and director summarized the situation neatly: “No Devils fan can truly pinpoint why we hate our cross-river rivals as much as we do. Even so, Devils fans live to hate the Rangers.”
As a Devil fan, he can speak of the Devil community. But you can imagine the feeling goes both ways.
The rivalry between the Devils and the Rangers started as a way to include the Devils in the new geographic location. Since then the fans have taken the reins and caused a literal fire of hatred.