There has never been a meaningless game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. Sure, there have been games where one team is worse off than the other and so the final result is not exactly a surprise. Sure, there have been games that ultimately had no impact on the final standings of the season for either team. However, the games always have an intrinsic value that, say, a game against Dallas on a Tuesday night in December does not have. This a rivalry. Bragging rights, respect, and the feeling of getting one over on an opposition that you cannot stand are on the line at a minimum. For a fan, that is always important.
Thanks to writing this blog for over a decade, I have learned and appreciated that there are New Jersey Devils all over the world. I cannot emphasize enough how much the rivalry means from the perspective of a local fan like myself. I am from Edison, which is a part of central New Jersey. I currently live in Bergen County, which is northeast New Jersey. The influence of New York City has been strong with many people being from NYC to the local media almost entirely based out of NYC to broadcast companies having a heavy presence in NYC to sports teams being largely from NYC. As such, there are many people in this state and in these areas who have developed ties to supporting the Rangers. Some have even grew up supporting the team in Manhattan whilst living entirely to the left of the Hudson River.
What this means is that being a Devils fan in this state often means having to come across and deal with a rival fan. The vast majority of it is playful banter. But no one wants to be on the end of a dig without being able to say anything about it. Whenever the inevitable comment comes because you mention you like the Devils or because you are wearing a Devils jacket or shirt or scarf or hat, you have to be ready for it may come. And if you’re one of those people who strikes first, then you better have something to comment about. Should the Devils lose to Our Hated Rivals, the comments come and there is little defense for it. The social aspect is against you, the Devils fan, and you cannot easily escape it because this Rangers fan could be a boss, a co-worker, someone you see at your regular eating spot, someone at the store, your neighbor, or even a beloved family member. You cannot avoid them all. The best defense is to be leverage the Devils’ success in your conversations. The key word is “able.” I cannot tell you how many times a Rangers fan wants to lightly banter about how the game coming up is big and it would be so sweet if (enter Ranger “legend” here) could put on a show, then Devils go onto win, and then all of a sudden the person acts like they never heard of hockey the next day. That is really the best defense. The sweet, silent satisfaction of knowing that your team prevailed in the rivalry yet again. The personal social realities of being in this part of the country really keeps the rivalry going beyond the rink.
Then you add all of the other contributing factors. The two teams are close to each other; that builds rivalries. The two teams are directly competing with one another in the standings. That builds rivalries. The personnel on both teams state that these are games that they want to win and/or they do not like the other side. Devils legend Martin Brodeur always wants to beat them and only Lou savors those wins more than Brodeur. (Aside: Now that Lou is the GM of the Isles, two fanbases praise him for this stance alone.) As per this article at the Devils’ website by The Maven, Stan Fischler, the team’s original owner John McMullen hated the Rangers and the Devils of the 1980s knew they had to overcome their closest opponent to get some respect. This has been growing for decades with no real end in sight short of the Rangers packing their bags and moving to some faraway place like Quebec City. This all means that these Devils-Rangers games carry a weight that most other games just cannot bear to stand.
Then there is all of the big moments. While the Rangers faithful act as of 1994 was not all that long ago, the Devils fans have plenty to point to. From Scott Niedermayer booting a jersey after a fight to the 20-game unbeaten streak from 1998 to 2001 to the Sweep of 2006 to “It’s Over,” the Devils have enjoyed plenty of success in the face of Our Hated Rivals. Plus three Cups and five Stanley Cup Finals appearances to only the one Cup and two Finals appearances since 1994. What can I say, the Rangers fell short of the Devils overall. You hate to see it. But you, who is on this Devils blog, probably enjoyed that little dig. Like a snowball rolling down a snowy mountain, it just keeps building and building and building in time and it cannot be stopped.
The snowball effect means even those little digs helps the rivalry alight, which adds importance to any Devils-Rangers game regardless of the circumstances of both teams. The next chapter in the growing story between the two franchises is this coming Saturday. It just so happens that is it also a very important game for both teams given their seasons so far.
Already in this season, the Devils are up 1-0 on Our Hated Rivals with the added achievement of the game being the Devils’ first win this season. After many blown leads and failures in their first six games, the Devils finally won a game and did it against the one team no Devils fan wants to see them lose to. The Rangers are the answer to the question, “Who was the first team to lose the New Jersey Devils in 2019-20?” They cannot avoid that fact. What they can avoid is losing another game to the Devils. While the Rangers are clearly in a rebuild, they would like to do so without being a total doormat. They want to have something to compete for as they look to re-organize their team for the future. Beating a rival will help sooth the dulling pain of rebuilding with the sweet, addicting taste of success.
As for the Devils, there is no question that 2019-20 has been disappointing so far. They fell flat on their faces to start the season. They have a proverbial mountain to climb in order to get back to any realistic hope of contending for a playoff spot. The margin for failure is increasingly small and it is crucial that the Devils beat the teams right around them to keep on moving up in the standings. By the time the game happens, there could be a swap in position. That is all the more reason for the Devils to get a win over Our Hated Rivals. For more than just bragging rights, but to also take another step closer to restoring some hope for their season.
I cannot stress enough that for the reality of the rivalry, its history, and the stakes for this game on Saturday, it is a very important game. If you can, then I would highly suggest attending this Devils game.
It is also at a very favorable time for the fan planning to attend. The game will start at The Rock at 1 PM ET. It is a holiday weekend as Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and many will be out and about shopping and traveling for the next few days, especially on Black Friday. The 1 PM start makes it convenient to go have a bite to eat for lunch, go attend the Devils game and cheer for New Jersey to win the game, and then have the rest of the late afternoon and evening to go out, see your friends and family, have a sensible dinner, and/or take care of many other things. Of course, since it is a Saturday afternoon game on a holiday weekend, it may be tough to get tickets. Fortunately for you, the secondary ticket market at Stubhub may give you the opportunity to buy tickets; and this link will help you should you get tickets if you do not already have them. Again, the game is this Saturday and with it being a rivalry game on a holiday weekend, so it is likely to be a sold out game. Do not hesitate to go out and get your tickets as soon as you can to make the Rock a little more red and favorable for the team we all want to see keep winning in this continued series against Our Hated Rivals. Thank you.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.