Two jumped after flashing Rangers jerseys

Updated: December 25, 2003, 2:38 PM ET
Associated Press

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Bad Santa isn't just a holiday movie.

A seemingly harmless Christmas promotion arranged by the New York Islanders turned ugly, and all because of the team's fierce rivalry with the New York Rangers.

And the Rangers were nowhere near when trouble broke out.

The promotion invited fans to dress up as Santa Claus for Tuesday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers and be admitted to the Nassau Coliseum for free. What's more, they were permitted to parade across the ice between periods.

About 1,000 Santa Clauses showed up and as promised, they were invited on the ice after the first period.

This turned out to be not such a good idea. As the Santas milled around, two of them removed their red jackets to reveal jerseys of the rival Rangers -- not a good thing to do in the home of the Islanders.

Ignoring the holiday spirit, some of the other St. Nicks turned into Bad Santas, jumping the Ranger fans. The interlopers were knocked to the ice and had the shirts ripped off. Other Santas went sliding across the ice during the melee that took six minutes to settle down.

The entire parade took nearly nine minutes, and almost delayed the start of the second period. The players were unaware of what was happening on the ice until after the game, won by the Islanders 4-2.

Maybe it was the presence of the Flyers that set off the fans. Philadelphia, remember, is where Santa was once booed in a holiday parade.

When New York's Arron Asham learned about what had happened, he grinned.

What did he think about the episode?

"Awesome," Asham said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press