Who do you perceive to be the Rangers biggest rival? What uniform makes your skin crawl the most?
It's probably relevant to give your age and when you started rooting for the Rangers, because I would imagine relative newcomers to our world of mostly misery are coming in with a different perspective than those of us who have been suffering for a longer period of time.
I'm 46, been a Ranger fan since 1979, when I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Islander and Canadien series. I went into the first Islander game a neutral observer (I was a Flyer fan in the mid 70s - don't ask!) and came out a die-hard Ranger fan. I got caught up in all the emotion of the Islander semifinal series, and in game three of the finals, our first home game, I was part of what was probably the loudest, most raucous crowd in hockey history. During the national anthem if you put your mouth a half-inch from your friend's ear and shouted as loud you possibly could, they still couldn't hear you.
The Penguins are still on my list because of the Mario days and all the playoff series. Not the same now. The Bruins are for old-time sake, although now that the Bruins suck and we're not much better, it's not the same either.
I know Devil fans say the Rangers are their biggest rival, but to me the Devils are still third, but threatening to overtake the Flyers if the Flyers stay bad for a while. Maybe it's because I remember them coming over from Colorado and being terrible for so long, but I just can't work up a good hatred of the Devils. Dislike yes, but I dislike a lot of teams. But hatred no.
The Flyers are #2 because of all those playoff years, the physical poundings we took, the smurfs winning a couple of series they shouldn't have, and how good the Flyers have been until this year. To me they're still the Orange Crud.
But #1 in my heart will always be the stinkin' Fishsticks. Names that truly make my skin crawl...Denis Potvin...Bryan Trottier...Billy Smith...Bob Nystrom...Bob Bourne...Stepped-on Pissed-on...Clark Gillies...Al Arbour...Butch Goring...even Jiggs McDonald and Eddie Westfall...ugh, I think my blood pressure just went up 20 points typing those names.
All the series in the early 80s when we should have beaten them in the first round and then they went on to win the cup...the puck rolling over Mikko Lehnonen's stick in OT of game five, when he had an open net and a chance to win the series...Bryan Trottier taking out Mike Allison's knee twice in the same season with dirty knee checks...winning 19 series in a row, I thought they were never going to lose again...the series in 1990 when the cowards attacked Jeff Bloemberg...FINALLY the pummelling we gave them in 94, which was just as sweet as winning the Cup...
#1 for me will always be the Islanders. I was born with isle hatred in my bloodstream
#2 Flyers just because they're the Flyers. Dave Brown almost murdering Tomas Sandstrom with his stick cemented this for me
#3 Devils of course. Though most of the time i don't really like watching those games because I hate their style zzzzzz
#4 and #5 would be either Montreal or Toronto because I can't stand their fans
Even though the Isles are the bigger rival historically, the Devils are #1 for me because '94 is when I really started following hockey, so I have no frame of reference for all of you who grew up during the Islander dynasty with their insufferable fans.
4) Bruins (mainly because I went to college in Mass. and grew to hate all of their teams)
Back in the day 6 team league, I'm sure the biggest rivals were probably Boston & Chicago (Montreal, Toronto and Detroit were too consistently great to be real rivals.)
When Philly was great, it was hard not to hate the broad street bullies.
I don't even have to mention how much we hated the Islanders when they join the league and start winning cups like they are taking candy from a baby.
And recently the Devils have been so consistently good (and the Islanders mediocre) that it is easy to dislike them the most.
I'd add: I think trades are also cause rivalries.
But to answer the question: Been a fan since the mid-eighties. So the biggest rivals in my heart are:
1. Islanders - can't even form the words why I dislike them. The sweep in '94 was SWEET!
2. Devils - they are so consistently good even though I feel bad they don't have enough fans.
3. Caps - some playoff series in the 80s, the Bobby Carpenter trade! and they got Jagr when I wanted him! The wins in '94 were sweet!
4. Penguins - they seem to make everyone into a 100 point player
1. Devils - I hate Brodeur even more everyday! That's because he is one of the best to ever play G. I think this man gets more out of beating the Rangers than winning the Cup.
2. Flyers - I hate their fans probably the most. Although Linesman, Propp and Kelly rank right up there.
3. Isles - probably were number one in the 70's and 80's but they've gone backward. Plus with Poti on the team, how can you hate em?
4. Caps - Hated Stevens, Hatcher and even Langway. Although the 86 series was sweet!!!
5. Canadiens/Penguins - for the Les Habitantes...see 1979. For the Pens, one word...Lemieux.
6. Atlanta - is it me or does this team have our number when it counts?
Isles are #1, and I even have a hard time rooting for Team USA because of DiPietro and Blake. I'm surprised we don't have more of a rivalry with the Leafs, to be honest. Everything seems to be set for that, but it never really boiled over into anything, and then we all became Leafs fans while Leetch was there (which is not something that happened when he went to Boston).
If the league would go back to the old schedule, we had a nice bit of hate going with the Canucks, too, which started during the 94 season, iirc, when the benches almost had a brawl and then, obviously, led into the cup finals. Hard to be rivals with a team in another confrence, though. Especially when you don't play their division at all.
I put the Devils as a very distant 3rd to the top 2. Like the original poster mentioned I really don't hate the Devils at all. They don't have a passionate fan base so I can't hate their fans. Up until last year we beat them every single time it mattered in the playoffs. The only time they beat up on us was when we sucked during the 7 year playoff drought and I was so numb and use to losing it really didn't have an impact on me anyway because everyone beat up on us. However if Claude Lemiuex would have stayed with them longer I would have really hated them because I despised that guy.
As for the Islanders and Flyers my hatred for them is so profound and genuine it's really hard for me to express through written words. I hate their fans, I hate their former players (Bobby Clarke, Rick Tocchet, Bobby Nystrom, Billy Smith, Clarke Gillies), I hate their arenas, I hate cheese steaks, and I hate Lacrosse because I associate it with Long Island.
Troy Mallette crosschecking Mario Lemieux in the small of the back and him folding like a chair is one of my fonder memories. Not because i like seeing someone get hurt but because it was the same cross check that Adam Graves took 15 times a game standing in front of the net but "Super" Mario was immune from because the refs protected him and therefore he was able to stand in front of the net with little fear of being roughed up. I can still see Mario standing there by the side of the net and Mallette unleashing a wicked cross check on him and all hell breaking loose because someone touched Mario. Ahh memories.
Islanders are number 1. I hate Blake, and DiPietro. DiPi thinks he's Brodeur reincarnate, and Blake is...not even a punk, not even a nuisance, I just see him and think "Why?".
Devils are #2, they're about as exciting as watching a broken clock, and one of my friends bleeds red and green. Only during the playoffs, though. We get into it a lot. Brodeur is the best goalie in the league, but I don't think he'll ever be as good as he could be, because he already thinks he's the best in the world. I don't think he's pushing himself to be better than he is. He's a cocky *******.
Flyers are third. It's hard to hate them this year, though.