Mark Messier and Ken Daneyko have been good mates whereas rising up in Edmonton, Alberta. Messier was a number of years older, however at all times supportive of his youthful skating pal. He ultimately wound up in Daneyko’s wedding ceremony get together, and their shut friendship continued after they made it to the NHL.
That is, till 1991, when Messier was traded to the Rangers.
“When he got here to New York, every part modified,” mentioned Daneyko, a three-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman who spent his whole 20-year profession with the Devils. “All friendships have been placed on maintain as a result of an excessive amount of was at stake. We hated them, they hated us, and the followers do not like one another, both.”
The rivalry between the Rangers and the Devils has not at all times been white scorching. It took time to develop and cooled off for stretches when one group lagged, nevertheless it has lengthy been a smoldering fireplace simply ready to be stoked.
“The method these rivalries begin is from playoff collection,” mentioned Patrick Kane, who gained three Stanley Cup championships with Chicago earlier than he was traded to the Rangers in February. “I do know these groups have not confronted one another for some time within the playoffs, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a giant rivalry.”
The final time these groups confronted off within the postseason, the collection ended on Adam Henrique’s extra time winner for the Devils, a shot previous Henrik Lundqvist in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 25, 2012. It was additionally the ultimate sport of Chris Kreider’s distinctive rookie season. He joined the Rangers straight from Boston College and was thrown proper into the NHL playoffs, the place he scored 5 targets in 18 video games with out having performed in a single regular-season sport.
Three of these targets got here in opposition to the Devils, however they weren’t what Kreider recalled when he was requested concerning the collection.
“Losing,” he mentioned. “That’s what I bear in mind. I imply, it is a completely totally different state of affairs now. Different groups, totally different gamers. It’s apples and oranges.”
The snarly tussle will likely be renewed beginning Tuesday night time on the Prudential Center in Newark, with Kreider and new forged members offering the gas.
“It’s positively going to convey the rivalry again up,” mentioned Gerard Gallant, the Rangers’ coach. “I imply, there’s at all times been a rivalry, however while you play groups within the playoffs, it is positively going to assist.”
The groups’ arenas are roughly 14 miles aside and separated by the Hudson River. Their followers intermingle at video games, in bars, at workplaces and typically inside households. Both fan teams infiltrate one another’s enviornment, and the final time the groups met, in March in Newark, half the constructing gave the impression to be sporting Rangers blue.
“If I received to determine, there’d be a bit of bit much less of them in right here,” Devils ahead Erik Haula mentioned. “But it makes it intense for everybody.”
They have confronted one another six instances within the playoffs, with the Devils successful two of the final three matchups (in 2012 and 2006) and the Rangers successful the primary three, together with the perfect one in every of all: the epic 1994 Eastern Conference finals.
“There have been Hall of Famers all around the ice,” Daneyko recalled. “It was among the finest playoff collection within the historical past of hockey.”
It ended with probably the most well-known broadcasting calls in skilled sports activities, when Howie Rose yelled out, “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!” on WFAN radio, without end including Stéphane Matteau’s series-winning objective to the lexicon of legendary sports activities moments. Rose then screamed out that the Rangers had “yet one more hill to climb, child,” that means the Stanley Cup finals, the place they beat the Vancouver Canucks for his or her first title since 1940, erasing many years of ache for the franchise and its followers.
“There was much more using on that objective than who was going to play for the Stanley Cup,” Rose mentioned.
A Rangers fan since 1966 when he was 12, Rose mentioned that to grasp the import of that objective one should go method again, lengthy earlier than the Devils arrived in New Jersey in 1982 (once they relocated from Colorado after beginning out in Kansas City, Mo. .). Ten years earlier than that, the Islanders have been the brand new group within the New York metropolitan space, seemingly created to torment Rangers followers by successful 4 consecutive Stanley Cups from 1979-80 to 1982-83. Islanders followers rubbed it of their faces with incessant chants of “1940.”
“It infuriated Rangers followers past what anybody may even comprehend as we speak,” Rose mentioned. “That’s the again story. Now, you’ve got received one other group, that involves New Jersey, and the very last thing a Rangers fan may tolerate was to see one other group come into this market and step on and over the Rangers.”
In their first playoff assembly, within the first spherical in 1992, the Rangers beat the Devils in seven video games. By 1994, the Devils had a brand new colour scheme and a greater group to match the extremely gifted Rangers.
Coincidentally, the 1994 Rangers had 52 wins and 112 factors, the identical as this yr’s Devils. And the 1994 Devils had 47 wins and 106 factors, matching the win complete of the present Rangers, who earned yet one more level, 107. The present groups are so evenly matched that betting retailers have made the Rangers the one even-money “underdog”. within the playoff subject.
“I like all these guys, however I’m certain they might all say the identical factor,” mentioned Jimmy Vesey, a Rangers winger who performed for the Devils final yr. “It’s the playoffs. It’s severe, and positively no mates on the market.”
In 1994, the Devils gained Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, however Messier declared earlier than Game 6 that the Rangers would win. In probably the most exceptional performances in group sports activities, he backed it up. The Devils led, 2-0, with underneath two minutes to play within the second interval, when Messier assisted on Alex Kovalev’s objective. Messier scored three targets of his personal within the third.
“An all-time nice took cost: That was our studying curve for what got here a yr later,” Daneyko mentioned, referring to the Devils’ championship in 1995. “Did we get forward of ourselves? Absolutely. Did we squeeze our sticks, tighten up on our heels and let the Rangers take over? Yes.”
In a Game 7 for the ages, the Devils trailed, 1-0, with underneath 10 seconds to play, when Valeri Zelepukin tied it — the second time the Devils scored after pulling the goalie within the collection. The groups fought by an excruciatingly tense and scoreless first extra time. Then, 4 minutes 24 seconds into the second, Matteau hustled behind the web and, as his teammate Esa Tikkanen drove in entrance, slipped the puck in off Martin Brodeur’s glove, eliciting Rose’s chilling name.
While watching the replay on their monitor, Sal Messina, Rose’s sales space accomplice, questioned if maybe it was Tikkanen who scored the historic objective. Rose gulped silently.
“I’m pondering to myself, Oh no, I’m both going to be the largest laughingstock in NHL historical past,” Rose recalled, “or I’m going to have to enter a studio and overdub, ‘Tikkanen, Tikkanen, Tikkanen!’”
Starting Tuesday, some new gamers might be a part of Matteau, Messier, Daneyko, Brodeur, Lundqvist and Henrique within the rivalry’s pantheon.
Perhaps it will likely be the Rangers’ Jacob Trouba leveling a devastating open-ice hit on an unaware opponent, as Scott Stevens did with the Devils. Maybe Jack Hughes will rating a hat trick for the Devils, or Kane will do it in his first playoff look with the Rangers. Or possibly a reputation nobody expects, like Matteau in 1994, will develop into a part of a brand new historical past.
Haula, Haula, Haula. Or Vesey, Vesey, Vesey.
“I anticipate it to be a traditional,” Daneyko mentioned. “I believe it is going seven video games, and will likely be epic.”