Tony DeAngelo at the center of ‘hate’-filled Rangers-Hurricanes rivalry, but for how much longer?

NEW YORK — There are some things professional athletes experience that we mere mortals never can. The exhilaration of a fast-break dunk, the raw power of hitting a 400-foot home run or delivering a 100-mph pitch, the thrill of skating in on a goaltender at Connor McDavid speed.

Then there’s what Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo experienced Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden: Some 18,000 New Yorkers chanting “F— You, Tony!” over and over, their vitriol echoing off the iconic low ceiling of the world’s most famous arena.

What does that feel like? To be so reviled by so many that it can only be expressed in rhythmic profanity?

Well, to hear DeAngelo tell it, it feels pretty great.

“I actually enjoy it,” DeAngelo told The Athletic on Monday. “I think it’s great. It gets me into the game more. It shows you’re getting under their skin, and they’re trying to get under my skin. It doesn’t work, but I get a laugh out of it. That’s all part of the playoffs.”

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It’s also nothing new for DeAngelo, ever a lightning rod around the league for his rough style of play and his sometimes even rougher off-ice behavior. A couple seasons ago, DeAngelo’s mom and sisters went to see him play a game at Boston’s TD Garden. Bruins fans, like Rangers fans, aren’t for the faint of heart. And the Bostonians were particularly ruthless in showering DeAngelo with boos and obscenities and all matter of invective.

It wasn’t pretty. And DeAngelo’s family did not enjoy being in the midst of it.

But among the many texts and calls DeAngelo received on Sunday night, somewhere amid the group chat with all his old buddies from South Jersey that was filled with laughs and links to social-media videos of the chants, even mom and dad couldn’t help but find the chants amusing.

“When they watch it on TV, they get a good laugh out of it, as well,” DeAngelo said.



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Rangers fans hate DeAngelo. They hate him. They hate him for the way his stint as a Ranger ended (he got into an altercation with teammate Alexandar Georgiev, which was the last straw after a series of behavioral issues) and they hate him because he plays for the Hurricanes.

Now, hatred — not true hatred, just the marginally healthier sports version — is as much a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs as scraggly beards and undisclosed injuries. And if there’s any doubt the Rangers and Hurricanes sports-hate each other after jockeying for the Metropolitan Division title all season (New York edged out Carolina by three points) and after a grueling seven-game second-round series in 2022 (New York won that one, too), it was erased mere minutes into Game 1. It was physical, it was nasty, it was gnarly.

It was playoff hockey.

“That’s what you imagine playoff hockey is when you’re a kid, those battles and animosity,” Carolina forward Seth Jarvis said. “It does make it fun. It brings another element to the game that you have to focus on and be aware of.”

“It’s intense,” Carolina’s Sebastian Aho said. “The crowd’s into it. It’s going to be a battle all series. You’ve got to love it as a player. You want to be in those moments as a player. Sometimes it even gets a little heated. You’ve got to love the grind.”



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Familiarity breeds contempt in hockey perhaps more than in any other walk of life. And these two teams know each other all too well.

“We hate each other,” Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov said with a grin. “It’s a good part of playing against those guys.”

According to the players, it’s all those regular-season and playoff clashes that have fostered this rivalry, not the countless crossovers between the two teams. But there are plenty.

Vincent Trocheck was on the Hurricanes in 2022, now he’s a key forward for the Rangers. DeAngelo has been on both sides. Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei broke into the league with the Rangers. Rangers coach Peter Laviolette spent five years in Carolina, leading the Hurricanes to a championship in 2006. The Hurricanes once held the rights to New York’s perennial Norris Trophy candidate Adam Fox. Heck, Hurricanes center Jack Drury is the nephew of Rangers general manager Chris Drury. Carolina’s Brendan Lemieux, Jesper Fast and Antti Raanta all played for the Rangers, too, though they’re just watching the series as scratches.

That might make for more chirping on the ice, but all those friendly ties can actually dull down the action, sometimes.

“Honestly, that would probably make it less nasty, if you think about it,” DeAngelo said. “I mean, how many good friends you got over there? Two of my best friends are on their team in (Jimmy Vesey and Trocheck). Those are two guys I’d consider two of my closest buddies in and out of hockey. But it makes no difference once you’re playing, you know what I mean? It’s Rangers-Hurricanes. That’s plenty on its own.”

The trick is to not let the hatred boil over into foolishness, or worse, stupidity. The Hurricanes had the second-best power play in the league this season, and the Rangers were right behind them in third. The Rangers only got two power plays in Game 1, but they scored on both of them — in a combined 23 seconds. So the nastiness is all well and good until someone takes a bad penalty and costs their team a playoff game.

“You can’t retaliate, that’s for sure,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Those are the ones they always get you (on). You want to initiate and make sure you do it within the rules, because they will call penalties.”

For DeAngelo in particular, walking that fine line between physical and foolish has always been a challenge. He found himself in the penalty box midway through the first period for delivering a shoulder straight into the face of the Rangers’ Will Cuylle, and it took Mika Zibanejad all of nine seconds to score on the ensuing power play. With Brett Pesce working his way back from a foot injury and expected to play at some point this series, DeAngelo is playing for his spot — and his future, considering he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

DeAngelo has switched teams four times in four years, including getting waived by the Rangers following the Georgiev incident and bought out by his hometown Flyers a year later. He’s only 28, but with his history, that next contract is never guaranteed. But he said it’s a lot easier to block out those thoughts than it is to block out 18,000 fans cursing him out.

“We’re playing to win now, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “The other stuff will take care of itself. That’s more of a regular-season thought, I can’t worry about that now. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. What am I gonna do about it? I couldn’t care less about that right now. All that matters is that we can win. And if we can win and that’s the end of the line, that’s great.”

And if, along the way, he makes all those Rangers fans hate him even more?

“Hey,” he said with a smile. “All the better.”

(Top photo of Matt Rempe and Tony DeAngelo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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