Yesterday on the The Michael Kay Show, Don La Greca, co-host to Michael Kay, gave his list of villains for all nine New York sports teams and who their fans detest the most.
When he came upon the New York Islanders, La Greca chose Dale Hunter as the team’s biggest villain throughout their history.
And that got me thinking, is Hunter the only guy who deserves that incredible title?
I mean for a franchise who has been around since 1972, there’s got to be one player, maybe two that each generation of fan has come to loathe.
If you go back to the 70’s, there were a number of players that every time they took the ice against the Islanders, the fans wanted to see either pummeled in a fight or driven through the boards. Several members of the Philadelphia Flyers comes to mind, especially Dave Schultz. Schultz was a major pain in the ass back then for the Flyers, or as they became to be known, the “Broad Street Bullies”.
In the 1975 postseason, the Isles gave Philadelphia all they could handle in a seven-game classic. Fast forward to game four — a 4-3 Isles win in OT which forced a game five back in Philadelphia — where the dislike for Schultz took on a whole new level.
After a stoppage of play, Schultz and fan-favorite Garry Howatt squared off. A fury of punches by both men for a near 30 seconds was finally broken up by the refs. Right after that, Schultz nearly took on the fans in the front row at Nassau Coliseum. Once he was escorted to the penalty box, he still wasn’t done with the rowdy spectators, nearly coming to blows. Schultz was escorted off the ice by a referee and a fan chucked a beer at him before he got to the dressing room.
It was just one of the first instances of the constant battles Schultz would have during the rest of the decade with the Islanders and their supporters.
Besides Schultz, Boston’s Terry O’Reilly also became another player fans hated. He was the poster boy for those Big Bad Bruins teams of the late 70s and early 80s. So it was easy for Isles fans to come to hate the rugged Niagara Falls native, in particular his battles with Clark Gillies.
O’Reilly singled out “Jethro” every time he could.
During the team’s Quarterfinal matchup in 1980, the two behemoths fought an unbelievable three times in game two, a 5-4 Islander win in overtime. When the two clubs returned to the Coliseum, they put on a show for the fans in game three, dropping the gloves twice.
The Isles didn’t have many miscreants to deal with throughout the 80’s as they were winning Stanley Cups and a consistent powerhouse in the NHL. Still, if you wanted to throw Wayne Gretzky in there for helping end the dynasty, or any Ranger who might stick out, you could.
In the early 90s, the aforementioned Hunter and a guy name Mario Lemieux earned the ire from fans on a daily basis.
The incident that took place between Hunter and Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 Patrick Division Semifinals and still lives on to this very day as one of the biggest cheap shots in NHL history. As for Lemieux, he tormented the Isles anytime he got the chance, and it was that way basically his entire career. In the 1993 Patrick Division Finals, Darius Kasparaitis got a slight measure of revenge when he went after “Le Magnifique”, which left him reeling.
As the franchise entered the new millennium, there would be no shortage of new villains who fans would come to despise.
Man on man, as much as Michael Peca says he has no hard feelings for Tucker taking his knees out in the first round in 02′, Islander fans will always have a deep distaste for the former Maple Leaf. Even now, nearly 20 years later, anytime that play is brought up and the impact it had on the series, it has Isles fans seeing red.
A few years later came another Pittsburgh Penguin came to become public enemy #1 — Sidney Crosby.
However you feel about him, from the moment he came on the scene, he has tortured the Islanders and made it easy to dislike him. As he’s grown older Isles fans have come to respect just how good he is. But the crying to the refs, the 2013 playoff series, and other moments made Sid The Kid one of the best villains in team history.
To a lesser extent, two other Penguins — Brent Johnson and Kris Letang — also still draw jeers for their part in the sequence of events between the Pens and the Isles during the 2010-11 season.
Presently, the Islanders don’t have a Crosby or Hunter who makes fans want to ball up their fist and smash a wall.
Tom Wilson? Maybe. But it’s not on the level of a Hunter or Schultz. John Tavares? For as much as fans hate how he left, did play for nine seasons in blue and orange and wore the C with pride. If you’re seeing a list like this a decade from now, maybe Tavares gets the nod.
But for the future, could we be talking about maybe an Artemi Panarin? Isles fans saw him this past summer use the team as leverage, only to see him sign with the hated Rangers for the next seven years.
Sebastian Aho? Carter Hart? Who knows. It’s possible.
The villains who have played a part in the Isles’ history all have left an indelible mark. They were all unique in their own way.
There will definitely be more to hate and look back on. And if there’s any indication they’ll be like the ones throughout the years, it should lead to more memories or nightmares down the road.
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