By Bob D’Angelo, Smack Zone Contributor
The NHL season is back, and that means the renewal of some intense rivalries. Some are as old as the National Hockey League itself, while others have become more prominent over the past few years.
Here is a look at 10 of the top rivalries in NHL history:
Canadiens vs. Bruins — Mark your calendar for Saturday. The NHL’s most contentious rivalry resumes when Montreal travels to Boston to face the Bruins.
Not only are these teams regular-season rivals, meeting for the first time on December 8, 1924. They also have clashed 34 times in the playoffs, beginning in 1929. Throw in the fact that they are two of the Original Six teams, with passionate, provincial fan bases, and that makes for a bubbling, boiling feud. The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times, which makes them the New York Yankees of hockey, or more ironically, the Boston Celtics of hockey. Take your pick. The Bruins have won the Cup six times.
Between 1965 and 1979, either the Canadiens or Bruins (and on two occasions, both) appeared in all but one Stanley Cup Finals. Montreal won Lord Stanley’s Cup 10 times, while Boston won twice. The Canadiens swept the series in 1977 and won in six games the following season.
There have been plenty of on-ice incidents, but two stand out. After all, how many players have had a riot named after them?
On March 13, 1955, Hal Laycoe high-sticked Maurice Richard, and the “Rocket” retaliated by trampling Laycoe and slugging a linesman. He was nearly arrested by the Boston police, and would be suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs by NHL president Clarence Campbell.
When Campbell appeared at the Montreal Forum on March 17 — the Canadiens’ first game after the suspension was announced — for a March 17 game, the partisan fans rioted. Smoke bombs and property damage exceeding $100,000 resulted in 37 injuries and more than 100 arrests.
On March 8, 2011, Zdeno Chara’s late hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty resulted in a neck injury for the Canadiens player. Pacioretty suffered a concussion when Chara rode him into the boards and shoved his head into a stanchion. Pacioretty suffered a concussion and a fractured vertebra.
Some good did result, as the NHL mandated that stanchions be replaced with curved glass to lessen the blow.
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs — It’s the oldest rivalry in pro hockey and even predates the NHL. The teams first met on December 26, 1917. Nearly 800 games later, the Canadiens lead the series 389-314-88-8 (including the playoffs) and have met in the postseason 15 times, including five times in the Stanley Cup Finals. Interestingly, the Leafs have won three of those finals, but the last time came in 1967 and the two teams have not met in the postseason since 1979.
Even though the rivalry has cooled off on the ice, it has not between the two cities. On the one hand, there is Old World, French-speaking Montreal. At the other end of the spectrum is cosmopolitan, English-speaking Toronto. Quebec vs. Ontario. Sparks are inevitable. Continue reading The 10 Most-Heated NHL Rivalries