The 9 Biggest Villains in Rangers History

Nearly 30 years after he retired, a major league Rangers nemesis still is being reviled at every single home game.

Therefore, under the category “Most Disliked Blueshirt Foe,” Islanders Hall of Famer Denis Potvin stands at the very top of the list. There’s no challenger in sight, not even from Martin Brodeur.

The irony of all National Hockey League ironies is the fact that many contemporary patrons at Rangers home games likely don’t realize the roots of this animosity.

Why would a gentleman and scholar such as Monsieur Potvin — currently an analyst for Florida Panthers television — kindle such endless and fiery animosity?

Well, folks, it all goes back to the 1978-79 season when Potvin body-checked the Rangers’ rising Swedish star Ulf Nilsson hard enough to break Nilsson’s right ankle.

Rangers Ulf Nilsson Home 1979 Getty

The fact that Ulfie later insisted — over and over again, by the way — that Potvin’s whack job was not dirty is irrelevant to this discussion.

That it was a clean check never has been accepted by the jury consisting of some million or so Rangers supporters.

But, make no mistake; Denis may head the hate list, but there’ve been other well-hooted opponents who easily qualify as villains or, at the very least, toughest enemies.

From The Maven’s first-hand look for over a half-century of watching, here’s my alphabetical list. You may disagree and not get a game misconduct.

Before we begin, here are the names that just missed the cut aka dishonorable mention: Bill Barilko, Bobby Clarke, David Clarkson, Nels Crutchfield, Bill Ezinicki, Fernie Flaman, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Maurice Richard

1 Martin Brodeur

Devils Brodeur Rangers Home 113013 Getty

The all-time win leader among goalies earned nothing better than derisive “MARTEE MARTEE MARTEE.” Some New York fans argue that the topper of all was the night that Sean Avery did his “Block” Marty’s vision playoff caper. The league even wrote a new “Avery Rule” because of the shenanigans.

Rangers Avery Devils Brodeur Home 033009

Marty’s revenge was playing some of his best games against the Blueshirts, especially a four-game sweep in the 2006 playoffs.

2 Dave Brown

Rangers Flyers Dave Brown 010187 Getty

The quintessential Broad Street Bully, the big, burly bruiser spent half a career trying to intimidate the Blueshirts.

Long regarded as a Filthy McNasty by Rangers fans, Brown’s dirtiest episode took place on October 26, 1987. He cross-checked Tomas Sandstrom in the face and the miracle was that the Sweet Swede wasn’t mummified on the play.

3 Sidney Crosby

2017 NHL All-Star Rangers McDonagh Penguins Crosby 012817 Getty

For starters, the citizens of Rangersville resent The Kid’s perceived whining. The Locals also despair over Sir Sidney’s chronic dominance over the New Yorkers.

Last Spring’s ousting of the Seventh Avenue Skaters by the Penguins’ Captain and his crew was just another reminder of why Crosby inspires nightmares among The Faithful.

4 Clark Gillies

Islanders Clark Gillies Rangers Away 120182 Getty

While any Islanders player during the Nassaumen’s dynastic years (1980-84) would qualify for dislike, Gillies gets special mention for the physical destruction of such Rangers as Ed ‘Boxcar’ Hospodar, Ron Duguay and Steve Richmond.

During the 1981-82 season, Hospodar made the mistake of “chirping” at Gillies. At that point, Jethroe delivered one dozen punches too many and Hospodar was next seen on a bed in Polyclinic Hospital, barely recognizable.

5 Mario Lemieux

Rangers Penguins Mario Lemieux Home 1995 Getty

The iconic Penguin did little physical damage to the Blueshirts, although his monster physique could have torpedoed many a Ranger. Le Magnifique’s assaults were all produced by immense talent. Super Mario had a five-goal game against the New Yorkers in 1992.

During the 1992 playoffs, he helped upset the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers. As far as Gotham fans were concerned, Adam Graves did not deserve punishment for fracturing a bone in Lemieux’s left hand in the 1992 playoffs. Graves received a four-game playoffs suspension and Big Apple critics believed that the penalty exceeded the intent.

6 Denis Potvin

1981 Stanley Cup Finals - Minnesota North Stars v New York Islanders Denis Potvin Getty

In a sense, there were a truckful of reasons for Blueshirt Nation to diss Denis. Potvin’s captaining of four consecutiveCup winners — 19 straight playoff series victories — provided a good starting point. Of course, there was the finishing of Ulf Nilsson that became an eternal cause celebrate. And that directly led to the double-edged Potvin chant that survives until today, and likely forever.

Even more nettling is Denis’ own explanation of the chant. “What they’re really saying,” the Hall of Famer says, tongue well-ensconced in cheek, “is ‘POTVIN’S CUPS!'”

See what I mean.

7 Bob Probert

Rangers Tie Domie Detroit Red Wings Bob Probert Home 020992 Getty

One of the most feared foes of any team, any era, and any position; Bob Probert, the Detroit Red Wings heavyweight champion, intimidated scores of opponents, but not a certain Ranger. That happened to be Tie Domi, pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in NHL annals.

[Read: Stan Fischler’s The Top 9 Toughest Rangers of All-Time]

Prior to the colossal Probert-Domi bout at The Garden on Dec. 2, 1982, it received the brand of build-up suitable for a title bout at Yankee Stadium; except that this one was at The Garden.

A day before the fight, the daily papers published a Tale Of The Tape while the bout itself remains historic. Although Probert rained down a tsunami of blows on the smaller Domi, Tie held his own and won plaudits for merely emerging alive.

8 Dave Schultz

Rangers Glen Sather Flyers Dalve Schultz Home 1972 Getty

No Rangers fan who was around then — and still around now — ever will forget what Schultz did to New York defenseman Dale Rolfe in the 1974 Flyers-Rangers playoff.

As a matter of fact, there are historians who believe that the destruction of Dale in the one-sided fight tilted the series in the Flyers favor. The date was May 5, 1974 and, unfortunately, no Blueshirt came to the aid of poor Rolfe.

9 Billy Smith

Edmonton Oilers v New York Islanders Billy Smith Wayne Gretzky Getty

Billy Smith loved to go after any opponent with his big goalie stick — especially Wayne Gretzky — but nothing slaked his competitive appetite more than bouts with the Rangers — and they were numerable and incessant. Nor did he pick his spots, whether it was tough guys or the less belligerent ones, such as Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert.

[Read: Stan Fischler’s The Other… Top 9 Toughest Rangers of All-Time]

Almost right off the bat in Battlin Bill’s career, he went after Gilbert on October 21, 1972. Smitty had no qualms about disturbing the Blueshirts with his mouth, including his version of the Gettysburg Address after the Islanders beat the Rangers in the 1984 playoffs. He did so en route to winning four Stanley Cups, as he’d win every series in which he’d face the Rangers.