Toronto, ON In honour of my healthy dosage of the classic Montreal vs. Toronto rivalry this week, I thought I’d take a look at some of the most intense rivalries in the NHL. Now, before you go crying about all the classic rivalries that are missing from this list, please note that in true Psycho Lady Hockey fashion this list is formulated around MY firsthand experiences. It is one thing to visit all the rinks in the NHL, and quite another to visit all the rinks in the NHL while their major rivals are in town. Anyway, before we move on, I feel that I must clarify the difference between a fan rivalry and player rivalry. You see, players come and go from our rosters, and more often than not originate from cities and countries that are completely foreign to the fan bases they are now employed to entertain. So, with this in mind, is it really the players that keep the fires burning between the Oilers and the Flames or the Bruins and the Habs? No. It is purely the efforts of the fans to keep the coals of historical grudges smoldering. In my opinion, player rivalries are more current, and likely have more to do with recent losses and other dramas. Anyway, today we take a look at my Top 5 fan rivalries in the NHL. Enjoy!
#5 Canada vs. Canucks
What is it about the fans in Vancouver that just grinds the gears of their fellow Canadians? Is it the fact that those pesky Canucks are generally at the top of the standings year in and year out, and the fans do little to hide their (deserved) smugness? Rogers Arena is still a blemish on my hockey rink tally sheet, but no matter where I go, it is more than apparent that hockey fans the country over reserve a little spot of hate in their hearts for that bunch of little green men and flashers that make up the Canucks fan base. Although I’m sure we’d all love to see a Stanley Cup winning team in Canada, I’m also sure that more than a few people are smiling every time the Nucks blow a playoff run.
#4 Leafs vs. Habs
Truthfully, this classic rivalry is not as intense as it once was, but it certainly isn’t dead. If you want my opinion, the Habs and Leafs were, at one time, soldiers battling out the animosity between French and English speaking Canada. Coast to coast each contest proved to be more war than game, with the Leafs and Habs taking to the ice to defend the honour of Canada’s two greatest cities. Today hatred and competition between Montreal and Toronto penetrates more than just the hockey sphere and extends to, well, pretty much everything.
#3 Pens vs. Flyers
To be fair, Philadelphia fans are still probably the scariest fan base in the NHL. I suspect there was a lot of “monkey see, monkey do” back in those good old days of the Broad Street Bullies. That being said, the question remains, did the fans learn their toughness from Dave Schultz and the gang, or was it the other way around? Chicken or the egg, I guess. So, while Philly fans are scary all season long, they always make sure to step up their game on nights that Pittsburgh comes to town. Philadelphia is probably the only hockey town in the NHL where the fans have a hard-headed and unforgiving hatred of Mario Lemieux. Yes, THE Mario Lemieux! One time I was in Philly for a Pens/Flyers tilt. I knew it would be intense, but I figured it wouldn’t be THAT bad at 1 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Nope! Fans were already drunk and belligerent enough to start beating on each other (and get ejected from the premises) in the first few minutes of the game!
#2 Isles/Devils vs. Rangers
If you’re the New York Rangers you are getting the hate thrown at you from all sides. No matter what game you see at the Prudential Center and Nassau Coliseum, and no matter who the opponent is, you will always hear that familiar chant of, “Rangers Suck!” periodically and passionately throughout the night. That’s right, the Rangers don’t even have to be there in order to be shat upon! Of course, the Isles and Devils have no love for each other, but they do find common ground in their vicious dislike of the team at Madison Square Garden. You have to really wonder where the hatred comes from. I theorize that it has something to do with the Rangers getting more rinkside cameos from movie stars and trailer faced supermodels. I’m sorry, but don’t even try to pretend that this whole Kate Upton “thing” isn’t 100% about her tits!
#1 Avs vs. Themselves
Pepsi Center can be a pretty damn hostile environment, but if you’re a visible supporter of the opposition, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about! I have been to Colorado on two separate occasions, and I was actually shocked by the fan on fan violence. I remember quite distinctly not one but TWO row clearing brawls in the stands, that saw a significant portion of entire sections being erased from the facility. But believe it or not, what came after the game was even more horrifying. At the taxi stand outside of the arena, fans were beating on each other like cavemen. I actually saw one guy try to bash another guy’s head in with a rock!!! What makes this even crazier is that they were both wearing Avs jerseys! Maybe it’s just altitude sickness, but my theory is that, with their nearest divisional rival being more than 900 miles away (Minnesota), the fans have no choice but to turn their frustration in on themselves.