Rivalries in the National Hockey League have occurred between many teams and cities. Rivalries have arisen for many different reasons, the primary ones include geographic proximity, familiarity with opponents, violence or other incidents, and cultural, linguistic, or national pride.
The importance of these various factors has varied widely throughout the history of the league.
During the earliest days of the NHL, the league was limited strictly to Central Canada, and all cities in the league were in close proximity, which made for bitter rivalries all around. As well Montreal had two teams representing that city's English-French divide, the "French" Canadiens battled the "English" Wanderers, and later the Maroons. Rivalries also existed with other leagues such as the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. It was not until 1926 that the NHL took over sole ownership of hockey's top trophy, the Stanley Cup. By that time, the NHL had begun expanding to the US (Detroit, Chicago, New York and Boston), and new rivalries were created. Rapid expansion to the US for a short time created a cross-town rivalry in New York City, between the Rangers and the Americans. The economic turmoil of the Great Depression and the Second World War forced several teams to fold, so that in 1942 there were only six teams remaining.
Original Six rivalriesEdit
For all information about this topic please see Original Six. From 1942 to 1967 only 6 teams played in the NHL. With so few opponents, teams played more frequently, and games were often underscored by personal rivalries between players. These personal and team rivalries persisted for many years as the turnover rate on NHL rosters was very low. At one point or another during this era all the teams had animosity towards one another. The strongest rivalries were:
- Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (playoff series)
- Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
- Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (playoff series)
- Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens
- Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
- New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens
- Chicago Blackhawks vs. Montreal Canadiens (playoff series)
Maple Leafs-Canadiens RivalryEdit
The rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens is the oldest and most bitter rivalry in the history of the National Hockey League. From 1944 to 1978, the two teams met each other in the playoffs 12 times, and faced off in five Stanley Cup Finals. While the on-ice competition is fierce, the Maple Leafs-Habs rivalry is actually symbolic of a much deeper cleavage in Canadian history and society — that between English- and French-Canadians.
When the NHL was created in 1917, these differences received the opportunity to play themselves out in a rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs' fanbase consisted mainly of English-speaking Canadians of British descent; in fact, the team's logo was in essence a stylized version of the Canadian Army's Cap Badge Insignia during World War I. This held particular significance for Leaf owner Conn Smythe, who had served as an artillery officer during the Great War. As late as the 1970s, a portrait of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, was hung in the Leafs' home arena, Maple Leaf Gardens, and God Save the Queen was sung as an anthem before the game (the former practice was famously discontinued by the team's owner at the time, Harold Ballard, who asked, "The Queen doesn't pay anything to get in, does she?"). The Canadiens, meanwhile, captured the imaginations of French-speaking fans, mainly concentrated in the province of Quebec. In stark contrast to the anthem practice in Toronto, the Habs pioneered the use of the current Canadian national anthem, "O Canada," at the Montreal Forum.
While certainly heated during the 1940s and 1950s, the Leafs-Habs rivalry was particularly acute during the 1960s, one of the two teams would capture the Stanley Cup each year in the decade, with the exceptions of 1961 and 1970. The rivalry perhaps reached its zenith in the 1967 season, when both teams met in the Stanley Cup finals during the centennial year of Canadian Confederation. Montreal was hosting Expo 67 that year and the Canadiens were expected to beat the Leafs quite handily. Still, underdog Toronto upset the Habs to capture the Cup.
After 1967, the rivalry cooled slightly due to NHL expansion and realignment. The fanbases of both teams began to erode somewhat: new franchises in Vancouver (the Canucks), Calgary (the Flames), Edmonton (the Oilers) and Winnipeg (the Jets) captured the allegiances of English-speaking fans in Western Canada, while the Quebec Nordiques competed with the Canadiens for the loyalties of Francophone fans within Quebec from 1979 to 1995. From 1981 to 1998, Toronto and Montreal were in opposite conferences and the Maple Leafs in the Clarence Campbell/Western Conference and the Canadiens in the Prince of Wales/Eastern Conference. The fortunes of the two teams since 1967 have also seen a marked difference. The Habs have won ten Stanley Cup championships since that year, while the Maple Leafs still have yet to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Toronto came close to reaching the Finals in 1993, where they would have faced the Wales Conference champion Habs in the 100th anniversary year of the Stanley Cup. However, they were narrowly defeated in the Campbell Conference Finals by the Los Angeles Kings.
In 1998, the Leafs moved into the Eastern Conference's Northeast Division, along with the Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, and Boston Bruins. This has served to rekindle the rivalry somewhat, although the two teams have yet to appear in a playoff series against each other.
The teams faced off in what was each team's final game of the 2007 regular season, on April 7, 2007. Coming into the game, the two teams were separated by one point, with the Canadiens sitting in 8th place in the East: if Montreal were to win it, they would secure a playoff spot; if Toronto were to win it in regulation time, they would capture 8th place (though a playoff spot would be dependent on the final game of the season for the New York Islanders). The game was heavily hyped during the weeks leading up to it; it was arguably the most important game between the two teams since the 1980s. In the end, the Maple Leafs emerged victorious, thus eliminating the Habs from the playoffs and pushing them down to 10th. But when the Isles beat the New Jersey Devils the following afternoon, the Leafs were shunted into 9th place and also missed the playoffs.
The Bruins-Canadiens Rivalry is a rivalry in the National Hockey League between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, two teams that are considered a part of the Original Six. It is considered one of the most bitter in the NHL, particularly by Bruins fans, and especially as the Bruins and Canadiens have played each other more times than any other two currently existing teams in NHL history. The rivalry is considerably one-sided, with the Canadiens winning 23/30 of their head-to-head playoff series' and all 7 of the finals series', but the Bruins have gotten some memorable wins in. As of the start of the 2007-08 NHL season, the Bruins have won just over 255 of these matches, with the Canadiens winning over 320 of them, with 105 other games between the two teams ending in ties, going back all the way to the Bruins' first NHL season of 1924-25.
In the 1950s, the Canadiens would defeat the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals three times. Also, during the 1952 playoff semi-finals, Maurice Richard was knocked out in the seventh game but returned to score the series-winning goal. One of the most famous NHL photos is the one of Richard and Bruins goaltender "Sugar" Jim Henry shaking hands after the conclusion of the series; Richard has a cut above his eyebrow while Henry has a black eye.
On March 13, 1955, Rocket Richard was given a match penalty and suspended for the remainder of the season for deliberately injuring Hal Laycoe, in a game against the Bruins. Laycoe had moments earlier high-sticked Richard in the head but no penalty was called. When Richard saw blood, he skated at Laycoe, who dropped his gloves to fight. The incident was exacerbated by Richard repeatedly breaking away to attack Laycoe with hockey sticks, and then assaulting linesman Cliff Thompson who attempted to restrain him. The suspension prevented Montreal from winning the Stanley Cup, finishing first and personally cost Richard the league scoring title. It went to Habs teammate Bernie Geoffrion (better known as "Boom Boom" Geoffrion for his powerful slap shot), who was booed by the Montreal faithful when he passed Richard for the point lead on the last day. Geoffrion had struggled just to gain recognition of his considerable talents, as Gordie Howe, Andy Bathgate and Richard were some of the most outstanding players in the 1950s in the NHL.
While the teams played each other often, the teams became truly pronounced rivals in the 1970s, when both were yearly contenders. In 1971, despite the Bruins finishing first in the league and shattering many NHL scoring records, they lost in the first round to the Canadiens in seven games; the pivotal moment was game two when the Bruins squandered a 5-1 lead to lose 7-5. This ended a potential Bruins dynasty, although they would win the Stanley Cup the following season. Don Cherry's "Lunch Pail Gang" in 1977 and 1978 would lose both finals to the Habs. Canadiens fans remember the rough tactics that Cherry's players used against Guy Lafleur, whose head was swathed in bandages at the end of the 1978 series after repeated highsticking from Bruins players.
The seminal moment in the history of the rivalry was probably Game 7 of the 1979 Semi-Finals (the terms Wales/Campbell Conference Finals was in use during 1982-93 NHL playoffs). After a rough and tumble series which saw both sides win at home through the first six games, in Game 7 in Montreal the Bruins were ahead in the closing four minutes thanks to a goal by Rick Middleton which Ken Dryden would later remark as "the most beautiful goal" that he ever let in.
However, after the Boston bench was charged with a minor penalty for having seven players on the ice, Lafleur scored the tying goal on the ensuing power play, and Montreal's Yvon Lambert won it in overtime. The win allowed Montreal to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, wherein they won for the fourth consecutive year.
The rivalry continued throughout the 1980s, mainly due to a division-oriented playoff format that seemed to pair the teams every year. In 1988, the Bruins finally won a playoff series against Canadiens in the latter's Montreal Forum on the way to advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, which was the last Stanley Cup Finals at the Boston Garden. The next year, the Canadiens beat the Bruins on their trip to the finals. In 1990, the Bruins finished off the Canadiens for the first time in the Boston Garden since 1943 and would also win the 1991 and 1992 playoff match-ups against the Canadiens, the last one being a 4-0 sweep. Part of the Bruins' victories over the Canadiens was due to goaltender Andy Moog who was, after, known as the "greatest Hab killer" that the Bruins ever had. Ironically, Moog signed with the Canadiens for the 1997-98 season and helped them to their first playoff series win in several seasons.
In 1994, the Canadiens were the defending champions but they were knocked out in the first round by the Bruins. Nonetheless, that seven-game series was notable in the eyes of Montreal fans as superstar net minder Patrick Roy came down with appendicitis and missed game three. Roy convinced doctors to let him return for Game Four and led the Canadiens to a 5-2 victory, stopping 39 shots.
The Bruins were defeated in the 2002, 2004, and 2008 in the first round by the Canadiens. Montreal Canadiens won Boston Bruins 5-0 in Game 7 at Bell Centre. In the playoffs, the 2 teams have met in 34 series for a total of 171 games, 11 series and 60 more games than two other Original 6 teams The two teams have faced each other 9 times in Game 7, more times than any other opponents in NHL history.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Edit
While the Toronto-Montreal rivalry is one of the most famous in sport, the rivalry with the Red Wings is no less intense. This rivalry dates to the 1920s. As of 1997, they have had 23 playoff meetings, five in the finals. So fierce was the rivalry that when the Rangers reached the finals against Detroit in 1950, but could not play in their home rink, Madison Square Garden, because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were in town, they arranged to play home games in Toronto, whose fans hated the Wings.
The rivalry heightened to a fever pitch due to an incident in the 1950 playoffs when Detroit's young star, Gordie Howe, mistimed a check on Toronto's Ted Kennedy and fell head-first into the boards, suffering severe injuries and needing emergency surgery to save his life. While Kennedy was exonerated by the NHL, Detroit management and fans accused him of deliberately injuring Howe. The result was a violent playoff series and increased animosity between the teams. The teams' proximity to each other – Toronto and Detroit are approximately 240 miles (380 km) apart, mainly using Ontario Highway 401 – and a number of shared fans (particularly in markets such as Windsor, Ontario) added to the rivalry. After the Leafs moved to the Eastern Conference in 1998, they faced each other less often, and the rivalry was more often found in the stands than on the ice.
The rivalry became an intra-divisional for the first time in fifteen seasons, in the 2013–14 season when the Red Wings moved into the Eastern Conference, sharing their division with the Maple Leafs. The 2014 NHL Winter Classic was played between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on January 1, 2014.
The rivalry may have heightened in 2015 with the signing of former Red Wings coach, Mike Babcock, as the new coach of the Leafs.
Metropolitan and Atlantic DivisionEdit
The basic structure of the Metropolitan Division dates to the 1974 formation of the Patrick Division (which from 1981 onwards) would have all its teams in the Mid-Atlantic States.
It became the Atlantic Division in 1993 and then the Metropolitan Division in 2013.
Battle of the Keystone State: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh PenguinsEdit
The rivalry exists due to divisional alignment and geographic location, as both teams play in the state of Pennsylvania.
The Flyers lead the season series 150–93–30 and the playoff series, having won 4 out of 6 postseason match-ups.
In their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals match up, the rivalry strengthened with several on and off-ice incidents resulting in suspensions and fines.
Philadelphia took a 3–0 series lead and by the fourth game, the two teams had combined to score an NHL-record 45 goals.
The Flyers ultimately prevailed in game 6 by which point the two teams had combined for 309 penalty minutes.
The rivalry is considered by some to be the most heated in the league.
The Flyers–Rangers rivalry is one of the most well-known of the league.
They have met 11 times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Philadelphia won 6 and have been division rivals since the 1974–75 season.
There is a long-standing bitter rivalry between the sports fans from New York City and Philadelphia, which are approximately two hours apart by car (also seen in the Mets–Phillies rivalry in the MLB, the Knicks–76ers rivalry in the NBA and the Eagles–Giants rivalry in the NFL).
Games between the two teams at Madison Square Garden and Wells Fargo Center are often very intense, hard-hitting affairs as each home crowd does its best to create an unfriendly, sometimes volatile atmosphere for any visiting-team fans.
Battle of the Hudson River: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey DevilsEdit
The Rangers–Devils rivalry, exists between two teams in the New York metropolitan area.
The two teams are called "cross-river rivals."
The reason is because Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan (where the Rangers play) is less than 10 miles and across the Hudson River from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark (and previously, the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford), the home arena of the Devils. The Devils won 9 Atlantic Division Championships.
The travel between both arenas is easily accomplished by road (usually through the Lincoln Tunnel), rapid transit (on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train) and rail (along the Northeast Corridor).
The teams have met 6 times in the playoffs; the Rangers have won 4 times; the Devils won 2 times.
The rivalry takes place in the Metropolitan Division. The two of them have been rivals since the Capitals joined the Patrick Division in 1980. The rivalry got really heated during the 1990s with these teams meeting 3 times in 5 seasons. However, the rivalry has really heated as of 2015 with 5 series within the last 7 years.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington CapitalsEdit
The Flyers and Capitals have been rivals through the 1980s, dating back to their days in the Patrick Division. In 1988, the Capitals trailed the Flyers 3-1 in the opening round of the playoffs. Washington would rally to win the final 3 games to take the series in seven games capped off by Dale Hunter's overtime goal in Game 7. The following year, Ron Hextall and Eric Lindros helped the Flyers take down the division champions Capitals.
In the 2000s, the rivalry was reignited by the rebirth of Alex Ovechkin led Capitals, whom the Flyers eliminated in 2008. Since the league-wide realignment in 2013, the rivalry between the teams has started to intensify. During a regular season game in 2013, there was an all-out line-brawl between the two teams. Washington won the game 7–0. Both teams met in the first round of the 2016 Playoffs with the Capitals winning the series 4–2.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington CapitalsEdit
The Pittsburgh Penguins–Washington Capitals rivalry was an inter-division rivalry from 1993 to 2013, and intradivisional the other seasons. In total, the two teams have met 10 times in the playoffs. Despite trailing in 8 of the 10 series, Pittsburgh has won all but the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals where they were heavily favored. The teams first met in the 1991 Patrick Division Finals, when the Penguins defeated the Capitals in 5 en route to capturing the Stanley Cup. In fact, all 5 Stanley Cups won by Pittsburgh have included a round against Washington. The rivalry was intense during the early 2000s when the Penguins beat the Capitals in the first round in consecutive seasons (1999–00, 2000–01), and seemed to amplify more after the trade of Jaromir Jagr.
More recently, with the drafting and emergence of Alexander Ovechkin in Washington, and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, the rivalry has heated up again, with controversial comments that Alexander Semin made about Crosby in the media and physical altercations taking place between Ovechkin and Malkin during games. One of the best series to date between the teams was the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which the Capitals took a 2–0 series lead before letting it go once again to be downed in 7 games, ending with a 6–2 Game 7 loss at the Verizon Center. Just like in 1991 and 1992, the Penguins defeated the Capitals in the playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup. The two teams faced off at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic hosted in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, with the Capitals emerging victorious 3–1. The Capitals and Penguins completed their second playoff confrontation in the Ovechkin-Crosby era in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs with the Penguins winning in six games, again preceding Pittsburgh's fourth Stanley Cup title. In 2017, the Capitals and Penguins met again in the second round. Pittsburgh gained a 3–1 series lead only to see Washington won the next two games. The Penguins shut out the Capitals at Verizon Center in Washington to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals again.
Battle of AlbertaEdit
The Battle of Alberta is the bitter rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. The 2 teams are based in the cities of Edmonton, the provincial capital of Alberta and Calgary, the province's largest city.
The rivalry was at its most intense in the 1980's, when the two teams combined to win 6 Stanley Cups in 12 years, 5 of them to the Oilers. This showdown featured many top players of the time, including Wayne Gretzky, Doug Gilmour, Mike Vernon, Lanny McDonald and Grant Fuhr. During the 1990's neither team had much success, leading to a lessening of the feud. When each team advanced to the Cup Finals in subsequent years, 2004 and 2006 due to the NHL Lockout, the rivalry began to become more heated once again.
The rivalry between Ottawa and Toronto is popular and often surfaces during the playoffs, as the two teams are in the same division (the Northeast) and have repeatedly met in the postseason. It is often referred to as the Battle of Ontario. The major catalyst for this rivalry is the fact that both cities' roles to Canada are vital: Ottawa is the nation's capital and Toronto is Canada's overall largest city (in addition to being Ontario's provincial capital).
The next season, they met again in the first round as Ottawa entered the playoffs ranked 2nd in the East and the Maple Leafs 7th. While the Senators were expected to defeat the Maple Leafs, especially since they had swept the regular season series against them, the Leafs swept the series in a major upset instead; Ottawa did not score their first goal of the series until 16:51 of the third period in the third game. It was after this series that the rivalry became more pronounced, especially in the eyes of Senators fans.
In 2002, the teams met in the playoffs for the third straight year. The two teams were very evenly matched, and the Maple Leafs, despite missing several key players, managed to win the second-round series in the full seven games and advance to the conference finals. One incident happened late in Game Five when Sens' captain Daniel Alfredsson hit forward Darcy Tucker in what Toronto called a hit-from-behind, and then seconds after hitting Tucker in the Leafs zone, he scored the game-winning goal. Tucker suffered an injury on the play, and Alfredsson was not penalized or suspended for it. This began the ongoing TO fans' booing of Alfredsson. Tucker had gotten his share of hatred in the first round against the New York Islanders when he wasn't penalized for a hit that dislocated the right knee of the Isles' Michael Peca. That play, despite no punishment for Tucker, was still included in a video of "unacceptable plays" that the NHL sent to all its teams.
Avalanche-Red Wings RivalryEdit
The groundwork for the rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings was laid well before Denver even had a NHL franchise, during games between Detroit and the Quebec Nordiques. Once the Nordiques moved to Denver, the small rivalry still existed. Also, in a regular season game between Detroit and Montreal, the Wings scored on Patrick Roy 9 times, leading to Roy demanding a trade. Roy was eventually traded to Colorado and became a huge factor in the rivalry.
The rivalry was largely predicated on the competitiveness of both teams in the late '90s and early 2000s.
From 1996 to 2002, the teams met in 5 playoff series, 3 times in the Western Conference Finals. Out of those 7 seasons, the teams combined to win 5 Stanley Cups and 4 Presidents' Trophies.
From 1995–2003, both teams (along with the Devils) reigned exclusively as Stanley Cup champions, except in 1999 which was won by the Dallas Stars (the Devils beat the Red Wings in 1995, the Avalanche beat the Devils in 2001).
The rivalry died down after the 2001–02 season with the following season having both teams falling in round one and Patrick Roy's eventual retirement.
The next confrontation between the two teams was in 2008, with the Red Wings sweeping the Avalanche 4–0 on the way to the Stanley Cup.
A stadium series game took place on February 27, 2016 between the two teams at Coors Field; the Red Wings won the game 5–3.
Not unlike the Major League Baseball rivalry between the Cardinals and the Cubs, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues share an intense hatred of each other. Separated by 300 miles and at one time owned by the same man (Arthur Wirtz, who had a stake in the St. Louis Arena, where the 'Hawks farm club, the St. Louis Braves, played before the Blues entered the NHL in 1967), the clubs have been in the same division (Western 1970-74, Smythe 1974-81, Norris 1981-93, Central 1993-present) since 1970. The matchups reached their zenith in the early '90s, when both teams had well-known stars such as Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, and Ed Belfour for the Hawks and Brett Hull, Adam Oates and Curtis Joseph for the Blues and played in old arenas (St. Louis Arena and Chicago Stadium) that were regarded as two of the loudest in the league.
Possibly the greatest moment in the rivalry was the 1993 Norris Division Semifinal: Chicago had won the division handily but were swept by the Blues, winning the series on an overtime goal. Belfour, who said he had been interfered with on the goal by Hull, went on to cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage to the visiting locker room at the Arena, breaking a coffeemaker, hot tub and television among other objects. To this day Belfour refuses to appear in regular-season games in St. Louis: the only exception coming in 1999 when he replaced Roman Turek for the Dallas Stars in the 3rd period of a 4-4 game, and only after Turek had allowed four unanswered goals. When he was spotted skating onto the ice, the Kiel Center crowd greeted him with the Belfour chant, first popularized in the '93 series. Ironically, Hull and "The Eagle" were Dallas teammates in 1998-99, and both critical in the Stars' narrow Cup win that summer, which came at the expense of the Buffalo Sabres and Belfour's former teammate Dominik Hašek.
Although there is no enmity between the city of Los Angeles and adjacent Orange County, California, the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks share an on-ice rivalry due to sheer geographic proximity. The two teams are situated in the same metropolitan area, and share a television market. The rivalry started with the Ducks' inaugural season in 1993-94, and has since continued.
The Kings last made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2013-14 season, and won in the 2011-2012 season. They have since made the playoffs 6 times. The Ducks since their inauguration have made the playoffs five times. In 2014, the Ducks and Kings played against each other in round 2 of the playoffs. Since 2003, the Ducks recent success in the playoffs, topped with the winning of the Stanley Cup in 2006-2007 has bolstered and solidified the loyalty of Anaheim's fan base, but the Kings fan base still remains intact with loyal fans.
During regular season (and, to some extent, pre-season) games, Kings fans arrive at the Honda Center in numbers for away games against the Ducks, and vice-versa for Ducks fans at Staples Center, causing any goal by either team to be celebrated just as loud as if the home team scored. Chants in favor of either teams are common. Games between the Southern California crosstown-rivals are often very physical and fight-filled. The rivalry was showcased for the NHL Premier in London at the start of the 2007-08 NHL Season with two games between the teams.
The rivalry between Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings would start in the 1970–71 season, when the Chicago Blackhawks moved to the West Division. Although these two teams never shared the same success, they did meet in the 1974 playoffs where the more experienced Blackhawks won the series in 5 games. It cooled down after the Hawks and the Kings were in separate divisions. It got intense in the 2012–13 lockout-shortened season, when Blackhawks spoiled Kings banner party on their way to one of the best starts in sports history. The rivalry caught fire when these two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals. The Kings were the defending champions, but their hopes of repeating were dashed as the Hawks would down the Kings in double overtime in game 5. In 2014, the reverse happened; the Blackhawks were defending champs, but the Kings would crush their dreams for a repeat in game 7 also in OT after building a 3–1 series lead.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings Edit
The rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings began more or less the instant the Oilers began playing in the NHL in the 1979–80 season. Among the first-year Oilers' players included a young Wayne Gretzky who instantly challenged for the Art Ross Trophy against the Kings' Marcel Dionne. In the end, Gretzky and Dionne were both tied with 137 points, but the award was given to Dionne, who had two more goals (53 vs. Gretzky's 51). It should also be noted that Gretzky played 79 games to Dionne's full count of 80. Gretzky remarked during a press conference at which the scoring title was awarded to Dionne that he had been taught "that an assist was good as a goal."
The two teams would not meet in the playoffs until the 1981–82 season. That season, Gretzky shattered the NHL record books with the most points in a season with 212 (92 goals and 120 assists). The Oilers also jumped to the top of their division despite playing in their third NHL season and had the third best record in the league. The Kings, after a fairly impressive 1980–81 season, slumped to having the fifth worst record in the 21-team-NHL. They only made the playoffs, being fourth in the same division as the Oilers, because the Colorado Rockies had an even worse record in their last season. This set the stage for the top-seeded, heavily-favored Oilers to meet in the first round against the Kings. After a two-game split in Edmonton, Game 3 in Los Angeles began with a commanding Oilers 5–0 lead after two periods. But in a miraculous comeback, the Kings managed to tie the game 5–5 in the third period, scoring the tying goal with five seconds left on a two-man advantage. The Kings would later win the game 6–5 in overtime. This game is often referred to as the Miracle on Manchester. The Oilers struck back in Game 4 to send the series back to Edmonton for the deciding game in a best-of-five series. However, it was the Kings who upset the Oilers and advanced to the next round.
For the next two seasons, the Kings would miss the playoffs completely while the Oilers competed in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1983 and won their first Stanley Cup in 1984. Both finals were played against the dynasty New York Islanders. The two teams finally met again in1985, but this time the Oilers defeated the Kings in three straight games. The Oilers would go on to win their second straight Stanley Cup. They met again in 1987 under a new best-of-seven playoff format for the first round, and again the Oilers would win, this time in five games, and again the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup. In 1988, the Kings were again blown out of the first round, but by the Calgary Flames, while Gretzky led the Oilers to another Stanley Cup.
The entire world of sports was shocked on August 9, 1988 upon the announcement of the Oilers trading Wayne Gretzky along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley, to the Kings for two rising young players (Jimmy Carson and Martin Gelinas), three first-round draft picks, and $15 million in US dollars.
Gretzky would lead the Kings in the 1988–89 season to vast improvements. For the first time, the Kings had a better season record than Edmonton, finishing second in the Smythe Division over the third place Oilers. This also led to another first round match up between the Kings and Oilers. This time, it was the Kings, with Gretzky, against the Oilers, and the Kings also had home ice. The Oilers first took command of the series and jumped ahead three games to one above the Kings. But Los Angeles answered back with three straight wins to win the series against Edmonton.
In the next three playoff meetings between the two teams, the Gretzky-led Kings would be eliminated by his former teammates in four, six, and six games respectively. Edmonton also won another Stanley Cup in 1990 after sweeping the Kings in the second round.
After the 1990–91 season, the rivalry would die down as players from the Oilers would move to other teams. Jari Kurri and Charlie Huddywould rejoin Gretzky on the Kings and go on a playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993, losing to Montreal in five games. Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Adam Graves, Craig MacTavish, and others would move to the New York Rangers and go on a Stanley Cup winning run in 1994. Furthermore, the two Pacific Division teams have not met in the playoffs since 1992, nor have been regularly competitive at the same time, thus keeping what once was an intense divisional rivalry dormant. When the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 (losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games), the Kings failed to make the playoffs. And Edmonton has not made a postseason appearance ever since that 2006 run, while Los Angeles won the Cup in 2012 and 2014.
Other Historical RivalriesEdit
- Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
- St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild
- Edmonton Oilers vs Vancouver Canucks
- Edmonton Oilers vs Dallas Stars
- Anaheim Ducks vs San Jose Sharks
- St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota North Stars/ Dallas Stars
- Ottawa Senators vs Montreal Canadiens
- New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- St. Louis Blues vs. Detroit Red Wings
- Dallas Stars vs Chicago Blackhawks
- Detroit Red Wings vs. Anaheim Ducks
- Tampa Bay Lightning vs Florida Panthers
- List of most common NHL playoff series
- Stanley Cup
- List of Stanley Cup champions
- List of NHL seasons
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