TheSportster.com

Top 15 Greatest NHL Rivalries of All Time

Perhaps the National Hockey League came into existence for one thing: To create blood, sweat, tears and heated rivalries. In all honesty, there is nothing more entertaining in professional sports t

Perhaps the National Hockey League came into existence for one thing: To create blood, sweat, tears and heated rivalries.

In all honesty, there is nothing more entertaining in professional sports than watching two teams or players who genuinely despise one another go at it. It's pure drama that nothing else can match.

Thankfully, rivals have always been around in the NHL. Ever since the league started, it seems like a new rivalry is created every few years. When one rivalry ends, another one starts. It's a lovely trend, really.

From incidents, hits, riots, cheap shots, and intense playoff series, there are countless reasons why NHL rivalries are formed. It doesn't matter how it's done, because like I said, you have to learn to love it.

The best part about rivalries is how some will never, ever die. The Original Six teams have a form of hatred that's always been around and will never be able to escape the past of bitter moments between two parties.

It was not easy narrowing down the countless rivals to 15. There have been so many that don't deserve the lack of recognition on here, but it had to be done. We need to give special attention to the ones that entertain us most.

Without further ado, here is a list of the 15 best rivals in the NHL's history.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

15 Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild 

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly 500 miles separates one of the largest budding rivalries in the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks have become the NHL's model franchise with three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons.

In the last three years, they've defeated the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs (five games in 2013, six in 2014 and a sweep in 2015).

There isn't necessarily bad blood between the teams, but two crazy hockey markets that are fairly close together that keep meeting in the playoffs will make this can't-miss hockey for years to come.

If only the Wild could get through their kryptonite.

14 Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks 

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This rivalry would be higher if it was still intense, but it's really quieted down for multiple reasons.

Bitterness betwen the clubs was at its height when the two teams met in the playoffs for three straight years (2009-2011).

The 'Hawks won the first two meetings in the postseason before Vancouver finally got through them in 2011.

Dustin Byfuglien kept invading Roberto Luongo's crease. Alex Burrows pulled Duncan Keith's hair. Dave Bolland called the Sedin twins "sisters," and engaged in trash talk with Alain Vigneault.

But with Bolland, Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ryan Kesler (the key players of the trashtalk) now gone, it's easy to see why this rivalry isn't as strong anymore.

But boy, for a few years it was can't-miss.

13 Battles of California 

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Take it any way between the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. Three teams in the same state and division that hate each other. What's so hard to understand?

Since the lockout, Anaheim and San Jose met in the 2009 playoffs. The Ducks and Kings met in the 2014 playoffs. The Sharks and Kings met three times.

When you play each other frequently every season and constantly meet in the playoffs, you'll make enemies.

Keep in mind the faces of each franchise have been around for a decade now (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in San Jose, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim and Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in Los Angeles).

Being so familiar with each other has made the rivalries strong.

12 Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard

via greatesthockeylegends.com

These two players didn't necessarily dislike each other. But when they were in the NHL together, they both fought for hockey supremacy, with the other trying to prove he was the best player of his time.

They combined for seven Hart Trophies (Howe won six of them) and 12 Stanley Cup titles, with eight going to "The Rocket."

They were in the league for 14 years together. Every year together, at least one of these men played in the Cup Final.

Howe won five scoring titles during this rivalry. Seeing these two face off for more than a decade had to be a real treat for hockey fans. There was no debate who the two best hockey players were ever during their respective careers.

11 New York Islanders and New York Rangers

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Every New York-based sports team seems to dislike each other. When you're playing so close together, it's easy to understand why.

Each team has won four Stanley Cups, but during the Rangers 54-year Cup drought, the Isles fans had every reason to taunt them during their '80s dynasty.

It's a shame they haven't met in the playoffs since 1994. It would be great to see them go at it again.

Still, neither of these teams will ever like each other. It's only a matter of time before the up-and-coming Isles can match up with the perennially dominant Rangers.

10 Battle of Ontario 

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators could not be any more different in terms of history. The Leafs have 13 Stanley Cups, but haven't made it to a Cup Final since 1967.

Ottawa's franchise came into existence in 1992 as the new Senators team. They've made it to just one Stanley Cup, losing in 2007 to the Anaheim Ducks.

The two teams met in the playoffs four times from 2000-2004. Toronto won every single one of them. The most memorable moment had to be Patrick Lalime's meltdown in Game 7 of the 2004, in the first round.

With the Leafs struggling so much and Ottawa having issues recording back-to-back playoff appearances, this rivalry won't be as strong as 15 years ago until they're both dominant again.

9 Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings 

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Who doesn't like a great Original Six rivalry? These two teams went at it for years and years.

The one downside of realignment that was introduced for 2013-14 was the fact it moved these teams into different conferences. However, it still doesn't take away the rivalry that Chicago and Detroit produced for years.

With 17 Stanley Cups between them, these are two of the most successful in league history. Only the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins have had more matchups between any two clubs than the 'Hawks and Wings.

The rivalry was quiet from the mid '90s until 2009, when they met in the Western Conference Final. Detroit finished Chicago in five games. Chicago then beat Detroit in the 2013 Western Conference Semi Final en route to the Stanley Cup championship.

It's always fun to see these teams face off. Things will not change anytime soon.

8 Maurice Richard and Clarence Campbell

via sportsderuelle.ca

Maurice Richard was so loved by the Montreal Canadiens and their fans.

Maybe a little too loved, to the point of the NHL's first ever riot and the birth of one of hockey's first true rivalries.

Richard was suspended for the rest of the 1954-55 season for assaulting a referee by league president, Clarence Campbell.

Riots broke out during a Habs home game that Campbell attended. Property damage and many arrests followed.

The best part? Even though Campbell had no relation to the popular soup company, fans created Maurice Richard Soup to get back at the president for suspending their beloved player.

7 New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers 

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Hudson River rivalry was at its height during the Mark Messier and Martin Brodeur days. With two teams so close together, the Rangers and Devils have formed an untamed hatred.

Less than 10 miles separates each team's home arena from the other. They have faced off in six playoff series, none more memorable than Stephane Matteau's game-winning goal in Game 7 of overtime in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

That led the Rangers to their first Cup in 54 years. The Devils have claimed three since. New York has won four of the six playoff series, dating back to 1992.

New Jersey has won two of the last three. Few moments can be so memorable compared to seeing Henrik Lundqvist go at it with Brodeur for more than a half decade.

6 Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings

via youtube.com

When I started watching hockey at seven years old, there was nothing like seeing two teams, loaded with Hall of Famers, go at it.

Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote and Patrick Roy go up against Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Larry Murphy, Sergei Fedorov and Chris Osgood.

What more do you want? This rivalry had it all: Elite star power, they dominated the NHL for years and kept meeting in the playoffs. Plus, the two teams genuinely despised one another.

The rivalry started with the Avalanche franchise moving to Colorado in 1995-96. Claude Lemieux's dirty hit on Chris Draper in the playoffs kickstarted the bitterness between both teams.

They combined for five Stanley Cups from 1996-2002, four President's Trophies and met five times in the playoffs.

During their five playoff series, each team won the Cup when they defeated the other while the 1997 brawl in Hockeytown was just one of many events that gave hockey fans the best rivlary of the '90s.

5 Battle of Alberta 

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

This rivalry hasn't been that strong since the 2005 lockout, considering that Calgary has one playoff appearance since 2010 and the Oilers haven't made it since 2006.

However, two popular hockey markets in one province will provide hatred for one another. Edmonton's five Stanley Cups overmatch Calgary's one cup win, but you can always sense the hatred the two teams have for one another.

Edmonton has won four out of five playoff matchups between Calgary. It was at its strongest during the '80s, when they combined for five Stanley Cup titles.

Who can forget Steve Smith's series-deciding own goal in Game 7 in 1986? Hopefully the likes of Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle can kickstart some fuel between Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

4 Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin 

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the season in dire need of two new superstars coming out of the 2004-05 lockout, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin headlined a new wave of players.

Crosby and Ovechkin each hit 100 points in their rookie seasons, with Ovie narrowly winning the Calder.

These two men faced off once in the 2009 playoffs, with Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins dispatching the Washington Capitals in a thrilling seven-game series.

The two men have combined for five Hart Trophies and three scoring titles. Ovechkin has five Rocket Richard trophies while Crosby has one.

Of course, Crosby has also won a Stanley Cup to go along with two Olympic gold medals, whereas Ovechkin hasn't played in a final for either.

Still, it's a debate as to who the best player is. Ovechkin, the pure dynamic scorer or Crosby, the world-class playmaker.

And that's what makes this rivalry great.

3 Battle of Pennsylvania 

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The rivalry between Pennsylvania's two NHL teams has really picked up steam over the past few years.

These two teams have combined for five Stanley Cups, and have met in the playoffs six times, with Philly winning four of them.

The most recent was 2012 in the opening round. There was nothing but offense in that series.

56 goals were scored in that series, making it one of the most memorable in years. Philly finished the Cup favorites in six games, and the rivalry really started to build on the steam from that playoff series.

Any time these teams play, it's clear that the one team feels something special in beating the other.

2 Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs 

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to four decades of complete dominance, these two Original Six teams probably were hockey's first true rivalry.

Given that Montreal has 24 Cups and Toronto has 13, the two most winningest teams in NHL history will always hate each other.

Each team had a dynasty in the '50s and in the '60s. In 13 playoff matchups, Montreal has won seven of them. They've met in five Stanley Cup Finals.

No two teams have met as much as the Habs and Leafs, who have 801 all-time matchups against each other.

It's amazing how they haven't met in the playoffs since 1979. But the NHL knows how strong the rivalry is, which is why they traditionally face off to open the season.

1 Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens 

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Any Original Six rivalry is going to be strong. But these two teams have been at it since the 2002 playoffs.

Six playoff meetings have taken place, with Montreal winning four of them. 30 Cups between them, but this rivalry really has picked up in the last few seasons.

Carey Price and Tim Thomas fought in 2011. Zdeno Chara almost broke Max Pacioretty's neck to the point where the police had to investigate.

P.K. Subban was lashed out by many Bruins fans after scoring an overtime goal in 2014 against them. Milan Lucic threatened Dale Weise.

These two teams hate, and I mean, hate each other. No exaggeration. Every time they play, it becomes war.

There has not been a rivalry in sports that has entertained me any more than this one. Though, the Habs have had the upper hand in recent years, Boston does their part to ensure a strong rivalry.

 

Give TheSportster a Thumbs up!

Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?

Get Your Free Access Now!

More in NHL

Top 15 Greatest NHL Rivalries of All Time