Arch-Rival. Greatest Nemesis. Competition will always weed out the wheat from the chaff. During this process of separation teams will meet and battle for the chance to be higher on the food chain. This is what some people call the NHL season. This selection process happens every year and occasionally teams clash more than others. These teams that clash become rivals.
Most - probably read the title and jumped immediately to the Anaheim Ducks. Some might have thought of the Red Wings and maybe some considered including the San Jose Sharks in this debate. First let’s define the criteria which make up some of the NHL’s epic rivalries.
First, the Montreal Canadiens and the Quebec Nordiques. Before the Nordiques became the Avalanche and rudely ended this 80’s grudge-match these teams met five times in playoff series. Their Rivalry came to fruition on a Friday in 1984 when a brawl between the teams forced the referees to eject 10 players and sort through 252 penalty minutes. The Canadiens took three of the five series and in 1992 rose the Stanley Cup for the last time.
Second. Ottawa and Toronto. These two Canadian clubs have met four times in the playoffs and for the Senators its something they won’t soon forget. The Sens have been a struggling expansion team for most of their NHL existence. Making it to the playoffs is cause for celebration. These parties were always cut short by the boys with the leaf on their chest. Toronto being the bully to Ottawa is cause for bad blood.
The Nordiques are back under a new name – The Avalanche and they quickly got involved with the Detroit Red Wings. The 1990’s was a good decade for these teams but it couldn’t be great by Lord Stanley’s expectations for both of them. They met in 1996 when the Av’s moved through Detroit in 6 games. The following year they met again where Detroit took the series. Both times they would go onto win it all. These two met five more times after this.
After this we can put in place two important parameters. One, Rivalries are born in the post-season. Two, rivalries elevate the game of both teams (Yes Ottawa and Toronto count. Even though Ottawa never got past Toronto they came back year after year driven by last season’s defeat). Keep in mind there are other ways to define a rivalry like proximity but let’s leave that out for now as the ultimate goal is to get to Lord Stanley and it’s not a physical journey but one up an intangible leader board.
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