A look back at New York’s defining rivalry games through the years

The Jets and the Giants play Sunday afternoon — maybe you’ve heard — and some of the conversation surrounding the game is the notion of how heated the rivalry is as opposed to some of our other intramural skirmishes through the years. 

(One man’s opinion: pretty low. Maybe Islanders-Devils has less buzz. But they do play each other three times every year. At some point that can change.) 

It also begs the question: What are the defining moments of these local squabbles? This is also subjective. But here’s a look at how your humble narrator sees that question. 

Jets-Giants

Dec. 24, 2011 

And, really, it’s not close. Maybe Sunday’s game will be looked upon by season’s end as some kind of tipping point for both teams. But 12 years ago the Jets entered the game 8-6 and in line for a third straight trip to the playoffs, and the Giants were 7-7 and scuffling. Then the Jets did all kinds of stupid and mean things disrespecting the Giants, and the Giants answered by humbling and humiliating the Jets, 29-14, the whole shooting match turning on Victor Cruz’s fabled 99-yard TD catch late in the first half. 

New York Giants’ Victor Cruz jumps over a New York Jets defender while scoring 99-yard touchdown.
AP

Runner-up: Aug. 17, 1969, Jets 37, Giants 14. An exhibition both teams treated like Super Bowl III ¹/₂. 

Mets-Yankees

Oct. 21, 2000 

New York had waited 44 for years for a World Series Subway Series, and the first game did not disappoint. There was the Todd Zeile ball off the wall that turned into a 7-6-2 out at the plate when Timo Perez didn’t quite start to run in time and Derek Jeter made one of the signature throws of his canon. There was the bottom of the ninth and Paul O’Neill’s epic battle with Armando Benitez, yielding a walk that led to the tying run, and Jose Vizcaino’s walk-off hit in the 12th. It was an epic, thrilling ballgame by any measure, moreso because it was New York-New York. 

Runner-up: Oct. 22, 2000, the Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza game. Mets-Yankees can be pretty intense anyway, this time it turned into raw hate on both sides. 

Jose Vizcaino watches his game-winning hit in the 12th inning in the first game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium in New York.
USA TODAY Sports

Knicks-Nets

May 1, 1994 

The Knicks’ run to their first NBA Finals in 21 years was nearly derailed before it got started in Game 2 of this first-round series at the Garden, when Patrick Ewing was ejected five minutes before halftime after drawing his second technical foul of the game. But Charles Oakley’s 25 points and 24 rebounds carried the day for the Knicks, who held serve at home then dispatched the Nets in Game 4 to win the series 3-1. 

Runner-up: Feb. 28, 1993. The Nets beat the Knicks to tighten the Atlantic Division, but John Starks’ brutal flagrant foul on a Kenny Anderson breakaway broke Anderson’s wrist and effectively soured the Nets’ season. 

Rangers-Islanders

May 8, 1979 

The Islanders had dominated the regular season, winning the Presidents’ Trophy and had 25 more points than the Rangers. But the Broadway Blues had stunned the Isles in Game 1 at the Coliseum then never allowed their rivals to counter. This was all highlighted by a 2-1 win in Game 6 at the Garden, and a third period in which the Rangers held the historically powerful Islanders offense to just three shots, none of them difficult. 

Runner-up: April 10, 1984. Five years later, the Rangers tried to end the Islanders’ four-year dynasty in the first round and tied decisive Game 5 with 39 seconds to go. But Ken Morrow scored 8:56 into overtime, and the Isles’ playoff-series streak reached 17. 

Rangers-Devils

May 27, 1994 

Valeri Zelepukin had tried to play the part of eternal villain by tying Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals 8 seconds from the final horn, but Stephane Matteau rectified that at 4:24 of the second overtime, allowing generations of Rangers fans to exhale and rejoice. Howie Rose’s forever call only added to the wonder of the moment. 

Runner-up: May 25, 2012. Eighteen years later, Martin Brodeur finally found revenge for Matteau by outdueling Henrik Lundqvist and seeing Adam Henrique cash the game-winner 1:03 into OT of Eastern Conference finals Game 6. 

New York Rangers’ Stephane Mattea jumps to allow a shot on goal get by during third-period action in the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Jersey Devils.
AP

Islanders-Devils

April 14, 1988 

The dynasty’s expiration date had arrived four years earlier, but this was still an Islanders team making a 14th-straight trip to the playoffs. It was the Devils’ first. But after sneaking to a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 and streaking to a 6-1 lead, the Islanders mounted a furious rally at Meadowlands Arena and got it to 6-5 with 7:20 left in the game. 

Runner-up: Not a lot of choices. Let’s go with Dec. 9, 2022, when, as the Devils tried to overcome a late 6-4 Islanders lead, Jack Hughes record a shift of 6 minutes and 2 seconds — longest in NHL history.

Vac’s Whacks

Maybe the players the Mets got when they punted at the deadline will turn out to be a new Murderer’s Row. But how do you not look at what’s happened in the postseason and wonder why they couldn’t have figured out a way to sneak into the playoffs with 84 wins and roll the dice? 


Local hoops fans may want to look away, but the good folks at Strat-O-Matic did their annual game-by-game projections, and the Knicks wind up 33-49 and the Nets 36-46, with the Celtics defeating the Timberwolves in the Finals. They’ve predicted the NBA finalists four of the past six seasons. 


I’ll paraphrase the great Tom Keegan with this one: If Lincoln Riley knew how hard football could be, he never would’ve invented it in the first place. 


And to further borrow from the great Jimmy Cannon: Nobody asked me but … Giants 17, Jets 13. 

Whack Back at Vac

Robert Lewis: Luckily for Jordan Montgomery, Brian Cashman and his analytic buddies didn’t deem him worthy to pitch for them in the 2022 playoffs and jettisoned him out of town. Otherwise he’d be playing golf like the rest of the Yankees instead of being in the World Series. Jordan, say thank you to Brian. 

Jordan Montgomery will pitch for the Rangers in the World Series.
AP

Vac: That trade made little sense when it happened — even with Harrison Bader’s postseason heroics last year — and makes less and less sense every day. 


Bert Delgado: That umpire/neighbor harassing Mr. and Mrs. Griffey in the Geico ad is Jim Joyce, isn’t he? It’s very funny. 

Vac: When I first saw it I thought it was inspired that they got a guy who looked just like Joyce to do it — then realized it WAS Joyce. It’s terrific. 


@KurkowskiKe: I’m sorry, I’m a Knicks fan, but opening night was a typical Knicks loss. I hate to point to one person, but they will never win anything with Julius Randle. 

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle #30, looses the ball driving to the basket.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

@MikeVacc: I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it boded well for ol’ No. 30 when Evan Fournier got a warmer greeting pregame than he did. 


John Cosentino: There will be no QB controversy, nor should there be, when Daniel Jones is healthy. Only in New York would a comment/thought like that come out. 

Vac: I agree on Jones keeping his job, not so much that New York is the home office for QB controversies. Most talk radio shows across the country would have nothing to say without them. 

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