Interesting piece here by the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran in which it’s argued the NHL could use a few more intense rivalries.
The article led off with Hall-of-Fame defenseman Mark Howe recalling his first game against Boston after being traded from Hartford to Philadelphia: “One of the veterans from the Flyers came over and said: ‘You haven’t played in one of our battles with the Bruins before, have you?’ I said: ‘No, I haven’t.’ He said: ‘We’re just telling you, be ready.’”
Wonder how often conversations like those happen anymore.
McGran then addressed the current state of NHL rivalries:
The league tried to exploit the Rangers-Flyers rivalry for its annual Winter Classic. It might have been smarter to have a second Boston-Vancouver game. The Stanley Cup winner and runner-up — who only play each other once a year in the regular season — absolutely hate each other.
The rematch — the Canucks won — had people talking. Why didn’t Roberto Luongo play? There were lots of fights. When a Boston TV station had a Vancouver columnist on the air to talk about why Vancouver players wouldn’t fight, he was sandbagged by an appearance of Bruins tough-guy Shawn Thornton, who countered every point.
That’s not to say Bruins-Canucks is the NHL’s only current rivalry, but it’s sure felt that way at times this season. Other rivalries that come to mind include Bruins-Habs and Canucks-Blackhawks. And what do all three of those have in common? They’ve all been recent playoff matchups.
Two years ago, the most intense rivalry was probably Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, thanks to the Pens and Flyers meeting twice in a row in the postseason, not to mention hailing from the same state. (A third consecutive meeting looked all but assured in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, until the Habs upset the Pens.)
Of course, rivalries like Montreal-Boston go back a tad longer than a few seasons, as does Montreal-Toronto and Calgary-Edmonton. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a Habs-Leafs postseason series since 1979 and the last Battle of Alberta was 1991.
There’s a reason the NHL tried to realign the league into four regional conferences with the first two rounds of the playoffs being waged within the conference. It’s a simple formula. The more teams see each other in best-of-seven series, the more animosity.
Anyway, living in Vancouver, I get my fill of hate. What about you? Do you wish your team had a more intense rivalry with another team?