The game of hockey has always been more than just a sport. It’s a way of life, a cultural phenomenon that brings people together and evokes passion like no other. And when it comes to hockey rivalries, few teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) can match the intensity and history of the Ottawa Senators.
Founded in 1992, the Senators have had their fair share of ups and downs over the years. But through it all, they have maintained a fierce rivalry with their various opponents—one that has evolved and changed over time but remains just as significant. To truly understand the impact of these matchups, we must take a closer look at the history of the Senators and their most important rivalries.
The Early Days: Ottawa vs. Montreal
In the early days of the NHL, the Ottawa Senators had a heated rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. This rivalry began even before the formation of the NHL, during the early years of professional hockey in North America. The two teams would often face off in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and their battles on the ice were fierce and intense.
One of the most significant moments in this rivalry was the 1920 Stanley Cup finals, a series that ended in a tie after the infamous split final game, where the ice became unplayable due to poor conditions. Despite the disappointing end, this series solidified the rivalry between the two teams.
The Senators and the Canadiens would continue to face each other in the playoffs throughout the 1920s and 1930s, with the winner often going on to win the Stanley Cup. This intense rivalry helped elevate both teams and solidify their position as top contenders in the league.
A New Era: Senators vs. Maple Leafs
As the years went by and the NHL expanded, the Senators’ biggest rival changed. In the late 1990s, the Toronto Maple Leafs became the Senators’ main competitor. This rivalry was fueled by geographic proximity, as both teams were located in Ontario, and the close proximity frequently led to intense, physical games on the ice.
One of the most heated moments in this rivalry was during the 2004 playoffs, when the Maple Leafs and the Senators met in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. With a high level of animosity between the two teams, this series was marked by intense physical play, numerous fights, and a decisive Game 7. In the end, the Senators would come out on top, but this series solidified the rivalry between the two teams.
The Battle of Ontario: Senators vs. Maple Leafs
While the Maple Leafs are the Senators’ traditional Ontario rival, they have another significant opponent in the province: the Ottawa Senators. This rivalry has become known as the Battle of Ontario, and it has become one of the most intense and passionate in the NHL.
The rivalry between the Senators and the Maple Leafs reached new heights during the 2017 playoffs, as the two teams faced each other for the first time in the postseason since 2004. This highly anticipated series did not disappoint, as it was filled with high-scoring games, hard-hitting action, and passionate fans. In the end, the Senators would advance to the Eastern Conference finals, but the rivalry between these two teams had been reignited.
A New Addition: Sens vs. Senators
In 1992, the Senators were joined by another team from Ottawa, the Ottawa Ice. This addition sparked a new rivalry for the Senators, as two teams from the same city now competed against each other.
The rivalry between the Senators and the Ice was short-lived, as the Ice moved to Rockford in 1993. However, this sparked a new tradition for the Senators: the annual Battle of the Ottawa game, where the two teams would face off in a pre-season game. While the Ice are no longer in existence, the tradition continues with the Ottawa Senators facing off against the Ottawa 67s, a major junior hockey team.
The Modern Era: Sens vs. Everyone
In recent years, the Ottawa Senators have developed a reputation for being a team that no one wants to face. This is due to their success in the postseason, where they have consistently battled their way through the playoffs and reached the Eastern Conference finals three times since the 2000s.
This has led to a new level of respect from their opponents and has sparked new rivalries with teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins, and the New York Rangers. While these rivalries haven’t had the same longevity as the Senators’ traditional matchups, they have added an exciting element to their rivalry history and have helped to further cement the team’s status as a major contender in the NHL.
Hockey rivalries are an integral part of the sport. They bring out the best in teams and spark fierce competition, all while uniting fans in their love for the game. The Ottawa Senators have a long and storied history, filled with intense rivalries for decades. And as the team continues to grow and evolve, there’s no doubt that these rivalries will continue to shape and define the Senators’ legacy in the world of hockey.