In August of 1997, the Rangers signed Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic to an offer sheet worth $21 million over three seasons.
The next day, Joe Lapointe wrote in the NY Times, “So what if the Rangers boosted the pay scale for hockey players by signing Joe Sakic to an offer sheet of $21 million for three seasons. Who cares if other general managers resent the Rangers’ bid for this elite Group 2 free agent, the kind of restricted free agent who rarely changes teams. “
When questioned on the Rangers stance in the league, GM Neil Smith said, ”I think we are the most resented team in the league, no matter what we do. The only way to make sure everybody likes you is to lose. Then they’ll all be in love with you.”
Smith added, ”I care more about our fans and our ownership and my own team than I do about the resentment of other people. As long as you are winning, they resent you. And I don’t intend to stop winning.”
In Behind the Moves, Neil Smith tells a story of when he interviewed for a job with Toronto and Ken Dryden asked him why he never got more involved at GM meetings. “I said, ‘you’ve got to remember, Ken, everybody hates the Rangers. Everybody. My only hope was that they didn’t hate me personally. My way of dealing with everybody was to be friendly to everybody….so that when I called, they were happy to talk to me and I could make some deals and it wasn’t the f—ing Rangers making the deal, it was Neil’”