Sports rivalries. It’s not a new concept. Athletes have been competing with and hating on one another since ancient Greece, I’m sure, and with the public pressure heaped upon them these days by the media, things have only gotten worse. Everybody wants fame, everybody wants to get paid, and everybody wants to be the GOAT. Remember Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? The ultimate 20th-century rivalry, right there. Not a happy ending.
Hockey has some of the most notorious rivalries in the entire world of athletics. While most players have a healthy respect for one another both on and off the ice, others get blinders when playing their nemesis and we can see the steam coming from their ears. Think of Scott Stevens and Eric Lindros, Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky, even Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau.
What’s even worse than a regular ole rivalry, you ask? Being forced to play on the same team as your rival. Think about it. At least when you’re on opposite teams, you only have to see one another every few weeks, months, or whatever. On the same team? Every. Single. Day. Multiple times per day. And you have to travel with them too, which obviously doesn’t bring out the best in people.
On the other hand, there have been several occasions where the fast-paced, heart-stoppingly crazy game of hockey has inspired opposing players to actually become FRIENDS. I know this sounds insane, but it happens. Looking at the NHL right now, Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon are practically besties, having grown up in the same community and played for the same junior teams. So did P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos, who now play for Nashville and Tampa Bay. Besties fo life.
Here are some of the 1990s greatest same-team rivals and opposing-team friends. Did these relationships make them better players? You be the judge.
15. Hate Each Other: Jeff Brown and Kirk McLean
Kirk McLean is still one of the most beloved Vancouver Canucks players of all time and got them as close to the Stanley Cup as they ever have been. In their quest to win a Cup, the Canucks added defenceman Jeff Brown to the team in 1994. Brown would remain with the team through their finals run and the lockout shortened 1994-95 season before being traded early on in the 1995-96 season. Why was Brown traded so quickly? Well, rumors popped up that Brown was having an affair with McLean’s wife and obviously the franchise was going to choose to keep their long-time goaltender. McLean’s game went downhill around the same time, and many Canucks fans point to the alleged affair as the reason.
14. Became Friends: Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa
Probably the most famous bromance in NHL history, these two both started playing pro hockey in 1997. They grew up together in a small European community, and they now both have homes in Trencin, Slovakia. But they don’t just have houses in the same city. They live across the street from one another. Seriously.
The true bromance began in the 90s, though, when the two young hotshots began playing for the NHL. In the beginning, Chara played for the Islanders while Hossa was in a completely different country with the Senators. That didn’t put a damper on their friendship, though, and the two have met up many times on the ice over the years. Hossa has said he sometimes tries to joke with his buddy during games because he knows Chara is usually serious and he wants him to laugh a bit. Zdeno even posed with his buddy Marian in front of the Stanley Cup at a party the Blackhawk right winger had after his team had beaten the Bruins in the finals. Now that’s love.
13. Hate Each Other: Brendan Shanahan and Craig Janney
It’s no secret that Shanahan is now married to Janney’s ex-wife, Catherine. Even though the forward has won three Stanley Cups and scored more than 650 goals in his career, most who hear his name automatically associate it with “homewrecker,” not hockey. And although he netted 277 points during his time in St. Louis, Shanahan is equally as well known for his scandalous affair as he is for his contributions to the team.
The two both donned the Blues’ blues in the early 90s, and it was during the 1994-95 season when Shanahan began his affair with the then-Mrs. Janney. As you’d expect, this caused tension between the two, which in turn caused tension amongst the team, and Janney was eventually traded later in the season. The scandal had left its mark, though, and during the off-season, Shanahan was traded to the Hartford Whalers.
12. Became Friends: Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund
There have been at least six NHL forwards who grew up in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, but whether any have been more successful than Forsberg and Naslund is debatable.
The two Swedes played junior hockey together in their younger days, even leading their club to the Swedish league playoffs in 1992-93. But when Naslund joined the NHL in 1993 and Forsberg in 1994 they were on completely different teams; Quebec City and Pittsburgh are about as different as poutine and pierogis. This didn’t stop the bros though. Often, when Forsberg was in Naslund’s home city for a game or any other reason, the two had dinner together and hang out. Later, Naslund’s wife even cooked traditional Swedish meals at home for her husband’s bud. What brings men closer together than food? Nothing.
11. Hate Each Other: Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure
While Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure were never teammates on NHL teams (man, wouldn’t that have been fun to watch?) they were former teammates on the Russian national team, back when they were still the Soviets and they did play on the same team at the ’98 Nagano Olympics as well. However, at some point in the 90s, they weren’t only chasing a gold medal together, but it appeared they were chasing the same woman. Back in the late 90s there began a rumor that tennis star Anna Kournikova was seeing both Bure and Fedorov at the same time. Eventually Kournikova married Fedorov but the two divorced in 2003. We wonder if there was any lingering tension following the breakup(s).
10. Became Friends: Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla
These two wingers go way back. Back west, even, to their time playing junior hockey for the Kamloops Blazers in the early 90s. When the NHL came calling for Doan in 1995 and Iginla in 1996, though, the two were sent to Winnipeg and Calgary. Even as recently as 2015, Doan was quoted as saying that he and Jarome were close friends and still have a great time whenever they get together.
Now, Shane is well-known to be a genuine, all-around good guy. After announcing his retirement in August 2017, he even wrote a letter to the local paper in Phoenix as a grateful farewell to the Coyotes fans. I mean really! And Iginla has been described as “a warm, welcoming individual who goes above and beyond when it comes to making his teammates feel comfortable.” Is it any surprise that two nice guys like these are pals?
9. Hate Each Other: Eric Lindros and Rod Brind’Amour
Lindros joined the Philadelphia Flyers for the 1992-93 season and Brind’Amour had already been on Philly ice for a year by then. It wasn’t until the 1999-00 season, though, that Lindros allegedly began his affair with Rod the Bod’s wife.
It’s rumored that when Brind’Amour found out about this, he marched into the locker room behind Lindros one day and slammed a folding chair down on the other man’s head. The result of the altercation was Lindy suffering from a concussion while Brindy suffered from GM Bob Clarke’s wrath. It’s also rumored that Rod demanded that either Lindros or himself be traded because he sure as hell wasn’t going to play on the same team as that guy anymore. And although it’s never been confirmed that the reason behind it was this affair and altercation, Brind’Amour was soon sent to the Carolina Hurricanes.
8. Became Friends: Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux
It might be a stretch to call them friends, but considering how heated the rivalry between Detroit and Colorado was in the 90s and the roles that Claude Lemieux and Darren McCarty played for their teams, it’s a miracle that they’re civil with each other today. The rivalry of course, began when Lemieux delivered a cheap shot to Kris Draper in the Wings/Avs ’96 playoff series and McCarty, being the enforcer of the Wings, was tabbed to go after Lemieux in retaliation. They famously battled in the ’97 Wings/Avs brawl and Lemieux turtled once McCarty began swinging.
When they bumped into each other at a meet-and-greet last year though, everything seemed to be water under the bridge.
“I hated Claude as a hockey player, but the player and the man are not the same. He’s a really good guy,” said McCarty.
Lemieux was equally as pleasant with McCarty: “I always knew Darren was a really good guy and a good teammate,” he said. “When I was with Dallas, I remember reading about his personal struggles and I told him, ‘I am rooting for you.’ He seemed a bit surprised, but I meant every word.”
7. Hate Each Other: Tie Domi and Neil Wilkinson
Tie Domi was known as a brawler for most of his NHL career. In fact, he was such a short-fused firecracker that he once came to blows with a fan during a Toronto vs Philadelphia game. The fan was razzing him as Domi was in the penalty box, and eventually, the guy came through the glass, into the box, and both men’s fists were flying.
It seems Domi had no qualms about when and who he fought with. Fans, competitors, and even teammates weren’t safe from this guys’ temper. Neil Wilkinson was a particular rival of Domi’s, despite that they both played for the Winnipeg Jets. It was during practice at a training camp in 1995 that the two got into an on-ice brawl. Domi claimed they were “play” fighting, Wilkinson said, “I wasn’t play fighting.” It’s doubtful that anyone believed Domi anyway since Wilks broke Domi’s thumb during the “playing.”
6. Became Friends: Pavel Bure and Gino Odjick
Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here. Bure and Odjick became friends when they played together for the Vancouver Canucks, from 1991 through to the 1997-98 season. They each played for several more seasons after leaving the Canucks, though, and remained besties through it all. Even after retirement, the two keep tabs on one another. When I played, if anyone went into Pavel’s airspace, he was getting a beating,” Odjick told the Vancouver Sun.
During the kerfuffle that ensured over the retirement of Bure’s jersey back in 2013. Thanks to some residual bad blood related to Bure’s relationship with then-coach Pat Quinn, management wasn’t keen on retiring his number. As a true bro should, Odjick was beyond ticked, saying “I was crazy enough to believe Pavel could get into the Hall of Fame and he could get his jersey retired.” Thanks to some maneuvering on Odjick’s part, the Canucks finally hoisted the number 10 up into the rafters. During the ceremony, the Algonquin Assasin stood beside his buddy the Russian Rocket, as per Bure’s specific request. Dawwww!
5. Hate Each Other: John Kordic and Allan Bester
The late John Kordic was another player who was known for using his fists to get his point across. Kordic himself was aware that his strength was his best weapon and his tough-guy persona was what made him popular. His coach from Montreal called him the best fighter in the league. Sports Illustrated called him a “fighting machine.”
Not surprisingly, Kordic was involved in many locker room tussles, including at least one with Bester where he slapped the goalie across the face. Once, at a team dinner in Vancouver, Kordic attacked Bester in the middle of a restaurant. Patrons of the restaurant gave different accounts of what occurred, from Bester’s glasses being knocked off to Bester having his jaw broken – and the Leafs later claimed that the whole incident was blown out of proportion. I bet the goalie with a broken jaw (or broken glasses, who knows!) didn’t think so.
4. Became Friends: Chris Chelios and Gary Suter
Okay, fine. These guys played together for like one season and a bit in the 90s. Their relationship goes beyond just being teammates, though. There’s even a story that tells how Chelios’ shoulder pads, which he wore throughout his entire NHL career, were given to him by Bob Suter, Gary’s brother. Obviously, the bromance was written in the stars.
They even ALMOST played together at the University of Wisconsin. Chelios was a Badger from 1981-83, and Suter picked on Wisconsin ice from 1983-85. Chelios was actually Suter’s guide and host during a campus recruitment visit and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Workout partners, sauna mates, mentor-mentee, teammates, and even parent-godparents (Chelios is godfather to Suter’s son Jared), these guys are tight. Chelly and his pal were even inducted into the Hall of Fame together. Now that’s how you share an achievement with a friend.
3. Hate Each Other: Patrick Roy and Mario Tremblay
While we’re not talking about two teammates here, we are talking about a coach and player who hated each other about as badly as any coach and player could. Mario Tremblay was a well respected player with the Habs back in the 70s, but he’s now become arguably the most despised coach in Habs history. He infamously left Roy in nets for nine goals in an embarrassing 11-1 loss to the Red Wings in late 1995. After the game, Roy marched up to the team president Ronald Corey and proclaimed he’d played his last game in Montreal. While Roy and Tremblay are back on speaking terms today, with both saying they’ve moved on, there’s always going to be some tension between them.
2. Became Friends: Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier
The Moose and the Great One have actually been friends since they were 17, even before they were drafted into the NHL. Once referred to as “hockey’s Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid,” these bros met by playing with the Indianapolis Racers organization in the 1970s and then both joined the Oilers in 1979. Yes, these guys played together in Edmonton, and yes, they played together again in New York, but they also stayed friends in between those career moves, as well as afterward.
Remember Wayne’s press conference when he announced he was leaving the Oilers? As the tears flowed and he attempted to compose himself, I believe his words were “I promised Mess I wouldn’t do this.” I bet Mess was crying too! Many years later, before reuniting for the 30th anniversary of Edmonton’s Stanley Cup win, Messier told the press that he was looking forward to it and that he and Wayne were still “very good friends.” This was truly The Great Bromance.
1. Still Hate Each Other: Patrick Roy & Matthew Schneider
Matthew Schneider and Patrick Roy were just two of many Canadiens players from the Habs’ 1993 run that seemed to be traded fairly quickly after their Cup win. The rumor surrounding why Schneider was traded so quickly, seemingly for below market value, was because of an alleged affair between Schneider and Patrick Roy’s wife. Schneider was traded midway through the shortened 1994-95 season. There were also whispers that on top of the affair, the two came to blows after Roy had discovered what was going on. Since then, there’s been no indication that the two have made peace, nor has the rumor ever been confirmed. But if someone was sleeping with your wife, would you ever associate with that person again?
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