Habs-Leafs, Bettman-Goodenow: CP looks at some of the most heated NHL rivalries

NHL 100: A weekly look at 100 years of hockey

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.


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.



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.



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?



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.



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.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

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