the playoffs less than two weeks away, and yet another Battle of Ontario looking
to become a reality, the ongoing rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and
Ottawa Senators was recently boosted another notch, if such a thing is
possible. As we speak, government officials who call Ottawa home are trying to
pass legislation which will ban the wearing of Leafs jerseys at the Corel
course, this rivalry has escalated through three straight playoff series since
the dawn of the new millennium, all three won by the boys in blue. With revenge
on Ottawa’s mind ever since, down the stretch, I can’t help but think Ottawa and
Toronto both are playing to play each other, but maybe I’m just reading too much
into the scores and standings.
lived in Ottawa for a significant portion of my life, I can’t begin to tell you
what it would mean to this city when and if the Senators get over the proverbial
hump and actually beat the Leafs. I think even if Ottawa didn’t win the Stanley
Cup, they’d hold a parade downtown to commemorate the event. Then again, the
emotional lift the team would get over such a victory would make them virtually
unstoppable, at least in my mind. If they didn’t win the Cup after such a
victory, they don’t deserve to win it – ever, and I think for the most part
local fans would agree with me!
the major rivalries in hockey, this seems to be one of the few one-sided ones in
recent memory. Throughout the past couple of decades, there have been victories
on both ends of some of the more memorable recurring playoff series:
Colorado-Detroit, New York Rangers vs Islanders, Calgary-Edmonton,
Montreal-Quebec, Ottawa-New Jersey. Obviously the people at the top who run
things have recognized this, otherwise wouldn’t have come up with such an idea.
Even if they didn’t, there’s nothing wrong with trying to have a little fun.
recent years, it’s been no secret – Ottawa-Toronto – these two teams simply hate
each other, period, and the fans have gotten in on the act as well. There were
a couple of unfortunate fans who made the trip to Toronto in 2000 or 2001 to
watch one of the games, only to be accosted by some Leaf fans who took the
rivalry too far. The unsuspecting Sens fans were stripped of their jerseys and
were then forced to watch them burn in effigy! In a couple of games I attended,
I saw more than a couple of fights erupt in the stands, and in 2001 when Mats
Sundin scored the goal seen and heard all over Ottawa, it’s a wonder a riot
didn’t break out. And I don’t think I need to tell you of all the ill will
between both teams during regular season matches.
when you go to an Ottawa game the same night Toronto plays, when the score shows
up on the jumbo screen you can hear the chants of “Leafs Suck” ringing through
the rink. I know they probably got the idea from New Jersey fans, but it
illustrates just how heated this rivalry has become.
whole story is a captivating one to say the least. The idea is not to pass a
law banning the blue and white throughout the city and especially at the rink,
it is simply what city council hopes will generate some revenue for a few good
causes around the city. It’s not as if they’d be able to enforce such a law
anyway, people will go out and buy Toronto jerseys just to show spite, even if
they’re not even a hockey fan. So they’ve taken a less lawful approach, wear
the home team’s jersey, or else drop a donation for charity.
Ottawa Food Bank is the supposed benefactor of this, as they’re going to ask
anybody wearing a Leafs jersey at the April 3rd game or during a
possible playoff series to bring a non-perishable food item or donate a few
bucks to help feed the needy.
fuel to the fire, the Leafs organization donated $5,000 to the Ottawa Food Bank
and Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank in an effort to support the Leaf fans. They
also challenged the Senators to match or exceed their donation to both food
got me to thinking, what a novel idea! You could do this for any game and in
any market. Insert rivalry here: Rangers-Devils, Oilers-Flames, Leafs-Habs, Red
Wings-Avalanche, Sharks-Kings, Flyers-Penguins, Lightning-Panthers, the list
goes on. The whole idea is so crazy it just might work, and will leave people
scratching their heads thinking “why didn’t I think of that?”
know what the best part of it all is? Nobody will get hurt.
past, given my usual neutral approach, I’ve made no secret of my allegiance to
the blue and gold, the Oilers of Edmonton, and I don’t ever miss them when they
come to town. Do you think I wear the Ottawa colors during the game? No way.
I’ll tell you what, if I’d have to donate a food item or some cash for the
privilege of wearing the opposing team’s jersey, I’m all for it. Not only can
you feel good about supporting your favorite team, but help someone who isn’t as
fortunate. Why not?
other hand, there will undoubtedly be a few folks who will be totally against
the proposed policy. I can hear them now, “Why should I have to”, “This is a
free country”, “Try and make me”, “I already have to pay for my ticket, my
parking, my concessions, I draw the line here”, “If they do that I’ll never buy
a ticket again”. Good for them I say, don’t buy a ticket, we don’t want or even
need you there anyway. It’s all in fun, and the last thing we need heading into
the playoffs, possibly the last for awhile (and promising to be the best in a
long time), are party poopers. Stay home and watch the game on television.
all the bad blood and isolated ugly incidents we’ve seen around the NHL this
season, especially recently, it appears the government may actually be on to
something here (for a change). It should help take the heat off Don Cherry at
least until next Saturday night.
THE LAST WORD
Hall of Famer Mike Bossy, an integral part of the New York Islanders dynasty of
the early 1980s, has come forth in an article for both the New York Times and
Toronto Star, calling for the NHL to implement a zero tolerance policy against
the violence displayed not only in the Todd Bertuzzi incident but in a few
isolated incidents since. In case you missed it, Toronto’s Wade Belak was
suspended for eight games (six regular season and two playoff games) for his
careless swing on Colorado defenseman Ossi Vaananen, and New York Rangers
forward Mark Messier was suspended two for spearing Pittsburgh’s Martin Strbak.
A brawl infested end of a game between Calgary and Nashville, and a knee on knee
incident between Calgary’s Chris Simon and Dallas’ Sergei Zubov has yielded
another two game suspension for Simon and has rounded out what can only be
perceived as yet another week of carnage in the NHL. Bossy’s take on the whole
situation is when something like this happens, the NHL should simply put their
foot down and tell the player they can’t play ever again, just like they used to
do on the frozen ponds.
Former NHL player and Rogers Sportsnet hockey commentator Nick
Kypreos offers up an interesting perspective. While he is unanimous with
everybody over the fact the Bertuzzi hit was wrong, he goes on to boldly state
“violence is part of the game’s sex appeal”, and argues people would lose
interest if the game didn’t push the envelope every night. He goes on to say
the reason there is no respect amongst the players is because the first thing a
player is told upon entering the junior and pro ranks is not to show your
opponent any respect. “They want to take a run at you, give you a cheap shot?
You get your stick up and make them eat it.” Hockey is a game of skill as much
as it is about physical play, and intimidation. In Kypreos’ opinion, the fans
want the full package, and he hopes the Bertuzzi incident doesn’t spook everyone
into making drastic changes, the game will overcome this once the playoffs start
up. No argument from me there.
Teemu Selanne went so far as to suggest if the
NHL won't do anything to protect the players, the players should take matters
into their own hands and simply refuse to play, stating many of his team mates
wanted to simply forfeit the game after seeing Steve Moore lying defenseless on
the ice. It’s not a nice thought to have, I know, but he’s probably right when
he says somebody may have to die before the NHL realizes the severity of the
situation. You just need to watch a game where the officials ignore the
hooking, hacking, and slashing, yet call a penalty on an obvious dive by a star
player, and with the playoffs around the corner it won’t get much better, the
only difference is the players won’t care either, they just want to win.
perspectives, lots of opinions, but in my mind it all comes back to what I said
last time around, and it bears repeating because it happened. Get retribution
on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, for Pittsburgh it’s too late to make a
difference, but I’ll bet it felt good to beat the New York Rangers not once, but
twice since the Messier spear.
should be noted and clarified violence in hockey is not limited to the NHL. It
happens throughout the sport, in every league around the world. Need proof?
Look no further than in Slovakia where a player is awaiting his fate after
attacking a linesman, and a player for the ECHL’s Fresno Falcons has been
suspended five games for leaving the bench after an opposing player high-sticked
a teammate. Sound familiar? Just search your favorite internet search engine
for hockey violence and you’ll be sure to have reading material for a month, two
months if you search for high sticking.
here we are folks, just a week and a half until April Madness, a.k.a. The
Stanley Cup Playoffs. Join me next time around as we’ll explore all the first
round playoff matches and I’ll yet again predict who’ll move on and who’ll be
golfing in three weeks.
then, keep up with the playoff race and join our playoff hockey pool - just
click on the Playoff Pool link at the left – admission is free and it promises
to be a lot of fun! Just think bragging rights.