Hockey Rivalries

Heritage Hockey™ Insider

The new season is about to get underway, and we would be remiss, if we didn't talk about great hockey rivalries throughout the years (selfishly - these are our favourites!). Ask anyone who has ever watched a hockey game, and they will tell you about "the other guy". That's right, the team they love to hate...the team they have to beat, no matter what! True fans of the game, will tell you about their triumphs and their heartaches in the ongoing rivalry with their competition!

Since the inception of the game, there have been rivalries between teams, players, fans, and cities! Very likely, one of the oldest and most talked about rivalry, which still exists today, is between Toronto and Montreal.

Incredible as it may seem, the rivalry between Toronto and Montreal is over 100 years old, and dates back to the very first season of NHL hockey in1917. It was a rivalry that was destined to be, as Toronto and Montreal were the only two Canadian teams in the league until 1970. The remainder of the Original Six, (the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings) were all U.S teams. Hockey fans across the country picked their favourite team, and the rivalry began. While rivalries have changed over the years, with television programming and availability, and of course league expansion, the Toronto - Montreal rivalry, albeit changed, still exists today. Interestingly enough, Montreal has 24 Stanley Cup victories to Toronto's 13. And in those victories, the two teams actually went head to head in 15 playoff series. Throughout the 1960's, Montreal and Toronto combined to win all but one Stanley Cup victory, with Toronto's last Stanley Cup win taking place in 1967. Surprisingly enough, the two teams have not gone head to head in playoffs since 1979.

Eventually, another rivalry blossomed, the Battle of Ontario is a rivalry between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. The teams compete in the same division and play against each other quite often during the regular season. Toronto fans love nothing more than to fill the Ottawa arena for games. Early in the 2000's, Toronto and Ottawa met on four occasions during the playoffs. Toronto won each of the series. Then, of course, there is the Calgary and Edmonton rivalry. These inter-provincial rivalries inspire excitement at each and every game.

Once the leagues expanded (after 1967), so did the rivalries. Another hometown rivalry is the one that exists between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. This is primarily due to the 100-mile distance between their home arenas (the KeyBank Center and the Scotiabank Arena). There is just a quick trip along the Queen Elizabeth Way that connects the two. (* One can only imagine the rivalry that would exist should a Hamilton team ever make its' way into the league!) The Buffalo Sabres have succeeded in keeping the rivalry alive, by winning 72 of 108 all-time home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs despite the mass of Toronto fans who regularly attend those Buffalo home games.

Who else do we love to watch? The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have had a rivalry since Buffalo joined the NHL in 1970. These two rivals have met in the playoffs eight times with Boston winning the first five meetings in 1982, 1983, 1988, 1989, and 1992. Their 1983 series was most memorable when in game 7 of the Adams Division final, with Brad Park scored the winning goal at 1:52 of sudden death overtime. Buffalo would finally win out in 1993, when they swept the Boston team in the opening round on Brad May's famous "May Day" goal.

Of course, there is the Boston - Montreal rivalry, which is considered by former Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin to be "one of the greatest rivalries in sports. These two teams have played each other more times, in both regular season play and the playoffs, than any other two teams in NHL history. In the playoffs, Boston and Montreal have met in 34 series, a whopping total of 171 games, 11 series and some 54 more games than two other Original 6 teams, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. Additionally, Boston and Montreal have faced each other 9 times in Game sevens, more times than any other opponents in NHL history.

While the Toronto-Montreal rivalry is one of the most famous in sport, Toronto's rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings is just as intense. This rivalry dates to the 1920s. As of 2017, they've had 23 playoff meetings, five of which were in the finals. An interesting historical tidbit - the rivalry between Toronto and Detroit was so fierce, that when the New York Rangers went up against Detroit in the 1950 finals, New York arranged to play their home games in Toronto. There were two reasons.New York couldn't play in Madison Square Gardens, because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were in town, and, they wanted to bring Detroit into the Maple Leaf Gardens because Toronto fans hated the Wings. Hilarious...but true!

The rivalry may have sparked up again in 2015 when former Red Wings coach, Mike Babcock, signed on as the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So much excitement, and so much fun! We've highlighted just a few of our favourite rivalries, but there are so many more. We want to hear from you. What is your favourite rivalry...and why! Is it the desire to be better, the drive to win, or the simple disdain for the other team? We will publish the responses next month along with our regular blog post!



The month of September celebrates some of the greats in hockey history! A big Heritage Hockey Insider’s “HAPPY BIRTHDAY: goes out to:
MARIO LEMIEUX, October 5, 1965 (current owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played parts of 17 NHL seasons with Pittsburgh from 1984 to 2006, and assumed ownership in 1999.)

PATRICK ROY, October 5, 1965 (regarded as one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. In 2017 Roy was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.)

DENNIS POTVIN, October 29, 1953 (a four-time Stanley Cup winner as a member of the New York Islanders.He is also a three-time James Norris Memorial Trophy winner as the NHL's top defenceman and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991)




Follow the Heritage Hockey Insider as we take a look at the all time goalie greats of the NHL!



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