Skip to main content
The Official Site of the New York Islanders

A Rivalry On and Off the Ice

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

By Jason Lockhart

Everyone who follows hockey knows that the Islanders-Rangers rivalry isn't just one of the most intense in the NHL, but in all of pro sports. There is nothing like it because the situation is so unique.
Craig Oldham and Ally Beattie
There are only so many cities that have two teams in the same sport, and only one other city has two teams in the same division in any sport (Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers). But the Islanders and Rangers matchups are not only important in the standings, they are important on a very personal level for the fans.
The Nassau Coliseum and Madison Square Garden are often divided down the middle when it comes to Islanders and Rangers games. Members of the same household may cheer for opposing teams, yet live under the same roof in––more or less––harmony. As you may have read, the winner of Brendan Witt's seats in recent Islanders Mania contest couldn't handle that the girl he was dating was a Rangers fan, so that relationship ended. Click here to read more.

But not every Islanders-Rangers relationship ends badly. Roaming around the Coliseum on Monday night, there were many families, couples and friends wearing opposing jerseys and sitting side-by-side.
Take, for example, Craig Oldham of Middle Island and Ally Beattie of Selden. The two have been dating for a few months, despite Craig being an Islanders fan and Ally pledging her allegiance to the Rangers.
"I've been an Islanders fan my whole life," said Craig. "My father is an Islanders fan and got me into them."
"I'm a Rangers fan because of my father and brothers," replied Ally.
Bob Martire and Mario Gazzaneo
Ally first realized that Craig rooted for the opposing New York team when she first visited his room.
"It was completely decked out in Islanders gear," said Ally. "I was okay with it, but when he found out I was a Rangers fan it didn't sit too well with him."
"I'm trying to convert her," said Craig. "I'm hoping she'll become an Islanders fan."
Craig had a golden opportunity pass him by Monday night. Ally bought two tickets for the game and said if the Islanders won, she would change her allegiance. Unfortunately for Craig––and for all Islanders fans––that did not come to pass. But this wasn't the Islanders' last chance to win over one more Rangers fan.
"I'll give him and the Islanders another chance," said Ally. "There are more games this season."
While some couples at the Coliseum had to reconcile their differences, others have used their differences to their advantage. Mario Gazzaneo of West Haven, Connecticut and Bob Martire of Trumbull, Connecticut, met each other on a golf course. After playing a round, Mario and Bob realized they had another common passion––hockey. Mario has been a fan of the Islanders since he was a little kid, while Bob is a longtime Rangers fan.
"The rivalry has actually made our friendship stronger," said Bob, who pays for the games when they are played at the Garden. "We get more opportunities to see each other in different settings."
Ernie Benson Sr. and Ernie Benson Jr.
Monday night, the game was on Mario, but Bob and his team went home the victors.
Yet, despite all of the conflicting groups in the stands at the Coliseum on Monday night, others had no such conflict. Ernie Benson, and his son Ernie Jr., from northern New Jersey did not have anything to worry about when it came to who they'd be cheering for.
Ernie Sr. is an Islanders fan and so is his son. Ernie has been to many Islanders-Rangers games, and was excited to bring his son to his first.
"This is the biggest rivalry in all of sports," said Ernie Sr. "There is nothing like it and nothing beats it."

Click here to watch Clark Gillies and Josh Bailey talk about the Islanders new uniform.


View More