ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

MSG Networks began a heated debate via Twitter after asking fans if they preferred the 2003 New Jersey Devils or 1981 New York Islanders.

On Wednesday, MSG Networks’ Twitter account decided to stir the pot, which certainly caught hockey fans’ attention.

The network proposed the debate of who was better: the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils or 1980-81 New York Islanders.

Keep in mind that both squads won the Stanley Cup for their respective seasons. The 2002-03 campaign marked the third and most recent Stanley Cup championship for the Devils. It was also New Jersey’s third Cup in nine seasons. It’s fair to say the Devils were a dynasty from 1994-95 until the end of the 2003-04 season.

The 1980-81 Islanders earned their second Stanley Cup championship that spring and repeated as champs. It’s something the Devils have never accomplished in team history. Let’s not forget that the Islanders reminded fans what a dynasty truly was during that era. New York won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1979-80 through 1982-83.

An NHL team hasn’t won three consecutive Cups since that era on Long Island concluded.

It was a clever question to ask by MSG. But considering the two teams played in polar opposite eras of professional hockey, it’s unfair to compare them on that basis.

The NHL entailed 21 teams during the 1980-81 campaign, while the 2002-03 season hosted 30 clubs. That Islanders team still endured four rounds of playoff hockey to earn Lord Stanley. Then, the conferences were spread out and mixed across North America.

To put things into perspective, the Islanders took down the Edmonton Oilers in the second round that postseason. That wasn’t the case years later nor when the Devils won all three Cups.

Both teams entailed Hockey Hall of Famers, great goaltending, and Hall of Fame coaches with the likes of the Islanders’ Al Arbour and the Devils’ Pat Burns.

Skaters like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Patrik Elias, and goaltender Martin Brodeur donned Devils sweaters to celebrate the team’s third championship on home ice at the old Continental Airlines Arena.


The blue and orange witnessed the likes of Butch Goring, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, plus goaltenders Billy Smith and Glenn “Chico” Resch. Devils fans are more than familiar with the latter.

There’s no question that the era of hockey in the early 2000s was a more advanced and skilled style than the 1970s and 1980s when those great Islanders teams flourished. Nonetheless, fans still need to give credit where it’s due.

Both eras were more physical and chippy than today’s style of play. All in all, the crosstown rivals facing off would’ve been quite the treat for any die-hard hockey fan.

It’s safe to say the New York City market is waiting for both teams to revive their dynasty forms.

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.