Mem­o­rable clashes

Habs-Leafs, Bettman-Good­e­now: A look at some of the most heated NHL ri­val­ries


Hockey evokes pas­sion from play­ers and fans alike. From the ice, to the stands, and even into the board­room, there have been many heated NHL ri­val­ries.

In the lat­est edi­tion of NHL 100, a weekly se­ries from The Cana­dian Press, we ex­am­ine some of the most mem­o­rable clashes.

CANA­DI­ENS VS. MAPLE LEAFS This ri­valry dates back the NHL’s first sea­son. Two of hockey’s Orig­i­nal Six teams, Mon­treal and Toronto were the league’s only clubs in Canada un­til 1970. Most fans across the coun­try picked one fran­chise or the other, and that spir­ited fol­low­ing still ex­ists to­day. Mon­treal has won the Stan­ley Cup 24 times to Toronto’s 13. While the ri­valry has some­what waned — the teams bat­tled in 15 play­offs se­ries, but none since 1979 — the glory years came in the 1960s when the Cana­di­ens and Leafs com­bined to win all but one Cup, in­clud­ing Toronto’s last vic­tory back in 1967.

PRO­VIN­CIAL RI­VAL­RIES Th­ese ri­val­ries aren’t as old as Leafs-Cana­di­ens, but are heated nonethe­less. While Edmonton and Cal­gary have been far from pow­er­houses in re­cent years, the clubs met five times in the play­offs, with the Oil­ers down­ing the Flames in four of those se­ries. But Cal­gary prob­a­bly won the most mem­o­rable post-sea­son en­counter in “The Bat­tle of Al­berta” when Edmonton de­fence­man Steve Smith ac­ci­den­tally shot a puck into his own net off Oil­ers goalie Grant Fuhr in 1986 to hand Cal­gary a vic­tory in Game 7. “The Bat­tle of On­tario” has also lost some of its lus­tre, but the blood of Sen­a­tors and Maple Leafs fans still boils when names like Darcy Tucker or Daniel Al­freds­son are men­tioned. Ottawa and Toronto met in the play­offs in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004, with the Leafs win­ning all four se­ries, in­clud­ing twice in Game 7.

GORDIE HOWE VS. MAU­RICE RICHARD There have been a num­ber of ri­val­ries be­tween play­ers over the years, but Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings and Mau­rice Richard of the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens were ar­guably the game’s first bon­afide su­per­stars. Howe and Richard played a to­tal of 14 sea­sons in the league to­gether be­tween 1946 and 1960, with ei­ther Howe or Richard — or both — com­pet­ing in the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal ev­ery year. Howe won six Hart Tro­phies as league MVP to Richard’s one, but “The Rocket” had “Mr. Hockey” beat in to­tal Cups with eight to Howe’s four. Howe and Richard’s su­per­star ri­valry was the first of many, even­tu­ally giv­ing way to Wayne Gret­zky ver­sus Mario Lemieux, and now Sid­ney Crosby ver­sus Alex Ovechkin.

CANA­DI­ENS VS. BRU­INS Mon­treal and Bos­ton have met an as­tound­ing 34 times in the play­offs, with the Habs hold­ing a 25-9 edge. An­other Orig­i­nal Six ri­valry, some of the most mem­o­rable — not to men­tion nasty — games in league his­tory were played be­tween th­ese two sto­ried teams, with many ac­cented by greats like Mau­rice Richard, Guy Lafleur, Phil Es­pos­ito and Bobby Orr. And who can for­get the penalty for too many men on the ice in Game 7 back in 1979 that ul­ti­mately led to the fir­ing of Bru­ins head coach Don Cherry?

GARY BETTMAN VS. BOB GOOD­E­NOW Not all of the NHL’s ri­val­ries played out on the ice - some were waged just as fiercely at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble. Gary Bettman was named league com­mis­sioner in 1993, the year af­ter Bob Good­e­now took charge of the play­ers’ union. Dur­ing their time as ad­ver­saries, the NHL ex­pe­ri­enced two bit­ter labour dis­putes be­tween play­ers and own­ers. The 2004-05 sea­son was com­pletely wiped out by the sec­ond lock­out, with Good­e­now say­ing he would never ac­cept Bettman’s de­mand for a salary cap. But the play­ers even­tu­ally ca­pit­u­lated, and Good­e­now was out of a job two weeks later.


Mon­treal Cana­di­ens goalie Carey Price (31) makes a save against Toronto Maple Leafs cen­tre Zach Hy­man (11) as Cana­di­ens de­fence­man Ryan John­ston (89) vies for the loose puck dur­ing NHL ac­tion in Toronto on Jan. 7.

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