The NHL has been graced with some of the bloodiest and most passionate rivalries known to sports. Whether they’re defined by locality, division, history, or just downright malice, here are five of the greatest rivalries in the NHL.
5. Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
Coined the “Battle of Alberta” the provincial rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames is marked by 35 years of competing for supremacy over the Pacific Division. These two teams trace their contention to the 1980s over the course of five distinct playoff series. The Oilers won the first two matchups in 1983 and 1984 4-1 and 4-3 respectively. However, the tides would turn in favor of the Flames in 1986 when Calgary narrowly sealed the series win 4-3. Edmonton responded in 1988 by sweeping the Flames 4-0. The final epic playoff series came in 1991 when the Oilers narrowly defeated Calgary once more 4-3. Though Edmonton has better luck in the playoffs, Calgary currently leads the overall series 119-101-18.
4. Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
As the two largest cities competing in Canada’s biggest sport, it comes to reason why the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs share mutual hostility. An age-old rivalry that dates back to the beginning of the NHL, the Canadiens and Maple Leafs first met in 1917. Throughout the course of their historic rivalry, the two have faced off 15 times in the playoffs and five times in the Stanley Cup Finals before being thrown together in the same conference. They’ve exchanged more than just words on the ice. Between bench brawls and one-on-one duke outs, these two teams have seen a few punches. In 2013, Canadien Mikhael Grabovski even got caught biting Max Pacioretty of the Maple Leafs during a squabble. Evidently, these teams will literally fight tooth and nail for the upper-hand in their rivalry.
3. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The “Battle of Pennsylvania” is no stranger to the world of hockey. The heated interstate rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins originated in 1967 after the two teams joined the league during an expansion. From the moment they took the ice, competition between the neighboring franchises inevitably ensued. Of the six times these foes have squared off in the postseason, the Flyers have pocketed the most victories. On the other hand, the Penguins have accumulated more championship wins. Regarding their rivalry, Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby bluntly stated to NHL.com, “We don’t like each other. You can dissect it all you want but the fact is we don’t like each other.”
2. Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche
The Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry is one of the dirtiest rivalries the NHL has ever known. It was first consecrated during a massive melee known as the “Brawl in Hockey Town.” Building up to the incident, during the 1996 Western Conference Finals Claude Lemieux on the Avalanche brutally checked Red Wing Kris Draper, resulting in serious injuries. Come 1997 with the memory fresh in the minds of the Red Wings, a wild fracas broke out involving every player on the ice, including the goalies. By the time the referees separated the combatants, a pool of blood drenched the ice. This moment is often regarded as the biggest fight in NHL history. It makes the Aves-Wings rivalry especially unique because these two teams didn’t need to share a division or geographic proximity to spill blood. They just both played nasty.
1. Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
Though there’s certainly no love lost between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, there’s a special animosity when it comes to the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. Ever since these two teams met in 1924, it’s been nothing but spite and scraps. With 34 playoff matches, the Habs and the Bruins have squared off more times than any other two NHL teams during the regular and postseason. Their frequent meetings have incited everything from goalie fights to the so-called “Brawl in the Hall”, a skirmish that carried over into the arena’s corridors. Either way, the players from each team are bound to carry the torch of this age-old rivalry for generations to come.