THE RANGERS' NEW YORK STATE OF MINDGraves, Leetch, Gilbert, Boyle want the NYI to stay

9:05 pm: Graciously putting aside the intensity of one of pro sports’ biggest rivalries at this crucial time, members of the New York Rangers family are offering their support to the New York Islanders and their fans. Although they are not Nassau County residents and understandably are unable to speak about the politics behind the arena issue, former and current Rangers spoke to Point Blank about their wishes for the Islanders to remain on Long Island. Their support is important. After all, plenty of Rangers fans reside in Nassau County and have a vote on Aug. 1.

Here’s what four members of the Rangers organization had to say:

Adam Graves – No. 9 retired by Rangers, 2009: “I’ve been following the story of the issue of the Islanders’ arena and really hope something can be worked out. Anyone who’s had the privilege of skating on the ice at the Garden or the Coliseum can tell you about the special level of emotion that exists when the Rangers and Islanders face off.

You also have to consider the tradition of great players that have played for both sides. For the Islanders, I’m thinking about Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy and Billy Smith and Denis Potvin and on and on. Everyone knows what the Islanders can be when they are successful. Personally, I’m rooting hard for the Coliseum issue to finally be settled after all these years, and I’m rooting for the Islanders to stay for a long time on Long Island.”

Brian Boyle, current Rangers forward: “I have friends on the Islanders who love playing there. I know Mikey Mottau likes the organization a lot, and just look at what my old teammate Matt Moulson has done there the last two seasons. As a player in the league, I want to see organizations be healthy and fellow players thrive where they like playing.

“For the players and the fans, our games against the Islanders are the most exciting of the regular season and I hope some day we’ll battle in the playoffs. What we have with the Islanders and the Devils, with the teams in such close proximity, is special. I don’t ever want to see that change and I hope the best for the Islanders and their fans throughout New York.”

Brian Leetch – Hockey Hall of Fame, 2009: “The rivalry is entirely fan-driven, with so many Islanders and Rangers fans in New York, that as a player you can’t help but get caught up in the emotion. We have fans of both teams on the same neighborhood block, fans who go to work together, go to school together. There’s nothing like it. No matter how the teams are doing in the standings, every game is talked. We’d be on a losing streak and people would walk up to me and say, ‘Just beat the Islanders, please.’

“Islanders fans have proven their support for the team. It would be bad for the area’s hockey fans and for the NHL to lose this rivalry. The health of the Islanders is important to the league, I know that. It’s disappointing to see the friction over the new arena, but I really hope it gets figured out and the Islanders are able to be competitive for a long, long time. The fans are there, there’s no question in my mind about that. The fans have proven it before. There are a lot who are just waiting to get back in there and fill the place.”

Rod Gilbert – Hockey Hall of Fame, 1982: “The first thing I think about with the Islanders is the incredible amount of time, effort and resources they have put into the community on Long Island and in New York. Guys like Bobby Nystrom and Clark Gillies have become friends of mine over decades of working together on charity projects. I have been involved with businesses on Long Island and I know what the Islanders mean to the legacy of the Island. I don’t ever want to see that changed.

“The rivalry between us and the Islanders is magical. I think of J. P. Parise’s goal breaking our hearts and the great series between us in 1979 – right before the Islanders’ dynasty had its run. I want to see that magic back. Instead of the Rangers playing in Philadelphia, when the Islanders’ situation gets settled, how about a Rangers – Islanders game in a few years at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field?

“I want to see this situation with the arena finally get settled and I know I speak for the Rangers organization when I say that I want to see the Islanders franchise strong forever and ever. I also want their fans to have a team that will never play anywhere else except where they won those Stanley Cups. It’s time the Islanders and their fans were rewarded.”

Comments on this are welcomed.