The National Hockey League is in the midst of their season, and the historic rivalries between the most popular teams have fueled both the players, and their fans for many years.
Here’s a video depicting some of the historic rivalries within the Original Six
When considering these rivalries, it’s important to take a historical look at the NHL in general. In 1942, the Original Six Era was established. This era consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the New York Rangers.
This era continued until 1967, when the league doubled in size, contributing to the naming of the Original Six Era. With having so few teams for over 20 years, it’s not hard to believe that some bitter personal, and professional, rivalries were developed between the teams. Some of the strongest rivalries were between the…
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
This rivalry is considered one of the most bitter, primarily by Bruins fans, for notable reason. The two teams have faced off more times than any two currently existing teams in history….talk about skeletons in a closet.
At the start of the NHL 2007-08 season, the Bruins had won just over 255 games, with the Canadiens winning over 320 games, and 105 games ending in ties. In the 1950s, the Canadiens beat the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals three times. The two teams have also faced each other in Game 7, nine times, which is more than any other opponents in NHL history. (National Hockey League Rivalries, icehockey.wikia.com)
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Another rivalry fueled by fans, the Blackhawks and the Wings have been butting heads for years, especially when it comes to their fan base. This rivalry is known for the most notable fighting streak within the NHL.
What is most interesting about the rivalry, is the ownership of the two teams. Both teams were owned by James Norris for 26 years, until his death in 1953. Upon his death, he left his son, Bruce Norris, ownership of the Red Wings, and his other son, James Norris, co-ownership with Arthur Wirtz, of the Blackhawks. In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two teams faced-off for the 16th time, playing around 800 games in their history of playing against each other.
Fans are the most harsh towards players who have switched from the Wings to the Blackhawks, and vice versa. They will actually “boo” players on their own team, who have switched over from the other. How about that for team pride?
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The rivalry between these two teams is mostly felt by their fans. As of 1997, the two teams have had 23 playoff meetings, with five in the finals. The rivalry reached its peak in the 1950 playoffs when Detroit’s golden boy, Gordie Howe, mistimed a check on Toronto’s Ted Kennedy, and fell head-first into the boards, suffering major injuries, and needing emergency surgery to save his life. While the NHL exonerated Kennedy, Detroit management and fans accused him of deliberately injuring Howe.
With the changing of Conferences, the rivalry has died down between the two teams, however, the fans have never let it go. Recent controversy struck in 2015 when the Wing’s coach Mike Babcock, jumped shipped and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Looks like the rivalry is back in play!
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens
This is one of the oldest and long standing rivalries in NHL history. Between 1944-1978, the two teams were in the playoffs together 12 times, and faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals five times.
The two teams also have some controversy off the ice. Their rivalry dives way back into Canadian history and society, between English-Canadians and French-Canadians. Before the Original Six Era, around 1917, the two team’s fan bases were starkly different, even though both teams were representing Canada. The Maple Leafs’ primary fan base consisted of english speaking Canadians, while the Montreal Canadiens’ fans mostly spoke French.
This harsh rivalry began to fade in 1967, when the NHL was expanded, and even more Canadian teams were added into the league. Teams like Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg captured the attention of english speaking Canadians, while Quebec maintained the interest of french speakers. (National Hockey League Rivalries, icehockey.wikia.com)
Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
While this rivalry has died down a bit with recent Conference changing, the Bruins and Rangers (mostly the Bruins) are known for being aggressive players, who are itching for a fight. One of the most shocking reactions was in 1979, when the Bruins climbed into the stands in Madison Square Garden, for a brawl….with the fans. Since then, the Bruins logo has struck a chord with Rangers Fans, and not in a good way.
Check out the Bruin’s shocking response here…
New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens
The Rangers and Canadiens rivalry is much more tame than some of the others we’ve looked at. The two teams have only met up at the Stanley Cup Finals once, with the Canadiens coming out on top. An interesting fact, and pivotal match up between the Rangers and Canadiens occurred in 1959. Canadiens’ goalie, Jacques Plante, took a shot to the face. He returned later in the game wearing a mask over his face, for the first time in history. This game, and the events that took place, changed the face of goaltending forever.
Looking to catch some of these rivalries in action? Make sure to tune into their games this season!
Bruins vs. Canadiens: February 12th, 7:30 pm
Rangers vs. Canadiens: February 21st, 7:00 pm
Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens: February 25th, 7:00 pm
Bruins vs. Rangers: March 2nd, 7:00 pm
Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs: March 7th, 7:30 pm
Blackhawks vs. Red Wings: March 10th, 7:30 pm
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Toronto Maple Leafs
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