Loving someone that doesn’t love you back hurts.

Hating someone who barely knows you’re alive is almost as bad, especially when it comes to sports.

In the NHL, as in most sports, plenty of perfect rivalries exist – both teams circle the games on their calendars with a big red pen, make sure to get to bed early the night before the game, and prepare themselves a little more diligently the day of. Tonight is going to be a war, they know, and I hate these guys. I want them to not just lose, but to get embarrassed. 

For fans, these rivalries are a blast. When the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks get paired up in playoffs, a sitcom sounding “ooooo” is emitted from hockey fans. Ooo, as in, that’s going to be a battle worth paying attention to.

The problem is that sometimes a team can’t hold up their end of the bargain, and frankly, it’s kind of sad. It’s awkward. Dude – she’s just not that into you.

Below are the three that jump out first and foremost to me – I’d love to hear of some other tales of unrequited rivalries around the NHL.

The Columbus Blue Jackets vs. The Detroit Red Wings

Apparently this is a real thing. I’m sorry, fans of Columbus. I know you’ve taken untold amounts of abuse over the past [insert how long you've been in existence]. But that you consider a Blue Jackets/Red Wings rivalry to be a real thing is kinda sad.

I mean, I get it, you’re in the same division. I guess you’re pretty close geographically. But there has to be something on the ice that the players are aware of too. There has to be some history. A reason.

Detroit does not consider you a rival. There’s just no way. I’m sorry.

The Minnesota Wild vs. The Vancouver Canucks

There was a time, undeniably, where this was a thing. The Canucks and Wild still play some pretty entertaining games. But when your fiercest rival has at least two other teams they consider a real “rival,” you’re just not that important. You can’t paint the rival-hate on every night of the year.

The Wild have toiled in mediocrity over the past near-decade (no word has described their presence better than “mediocre”) while the Canucks have been raking in President’s Trophies, going to the Finals, and growing their hate with Chicago, Boston and likely others.

The Ottawa Senators vs. The Toronto Maple Leafs

For as long as the league has been in existence, the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens have had a war. And (especially since the Phil Kessel trade), they’ve always hated the Bruins.

And even though the Senators have been the superior team of late, claiming a rivalry based on geography is once again a reach. Maybe it is the fault of the Leafs that they’ve had no real playoff battles, or epic history between them, but the fact remains – the Leafs, when it comes to rivalries, have bigger fish to fry. Ottawa – they’re just not that into you.


Rivalries obviously come and go depending on the personnel during any given year (Canucks/Blackhawks requires certain names), so there’s always rivalry questions, like: are the Red Wings/Avalanche still rivals?

I’m writing this as a plea for help, hockey fans: The rivalies listed above are the most obvious three to me when it comes to the “unrequited” variety, but I’m not even sure who teams consider their rivals these days. Carolina, Tampa Bay, Buffalo…who do your teams hate? Do they hate you back? I need more info here, folks.

Comments (67)

  1. Pittsburgh vs Detroit is one of those ”media fueled” rivalries. They are both really good teams and just because they played it each back to back in the cup they are supposed to hate each other. Not the case.

    • What are you talking about the leafs and sends haven’t had an epic playoff battles? They met each other in the playoffs three years in a row!, and four out of five years! That’s when their very REAL rivalry was born.

      • and nothing of note has happened in the last decade.

        • I agree. So the number of Leafs and Sens fans who are 15(yrs +) i.e. millions of people still feel the rivalry that exists between Ottawa and Toronto. Check out the Orr vs. Carkner fight series if you would like some visual proof from this decade.

  2. Detroit and Columbus reminds me of the two kids in school. One is a scrawny kid who is trying to prove something, and doesn’t. The other is this powerful European jock who just kicks his ass

  3. Nashville vs Vancouver is like that one fight that happend but when they try again just does not have the same feeling and Vancouver is just too big of a problem for the Preds

  4. You write about hockey and you don’t know the rivalries? It’s not hard to figure out Tampa Bay’s natural rival. Seriously.

    • As a Tampa Bay fan, I can honestly say that Tampa Bay has no rivals, natural or otherwise.

      • I’d argue that you aren’t a real fan then. We certainly have a rivalry with the Panthers.

        • Truly one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports.

        • Well, you’d be wrong if you did so. There may be some fans who have something going with the Panthers, but it’s by no means a rivalry everyone gets excited about.

          • Most Panthers fans I know would consider the Lightning-Panthers rivalry a friendly rivalry, if that.

            It’s the Hurricanes we hate.

        • Don’t teams have to have fans in order to build a rivalry?

        • LOL at a TB/Florida rivalry. Does that mean that the building in Sunrise is now half full when the hated Lightning come to town?

      • I understand the players on TB view the Caps as their most hated in-division rival. Or they have, in past years.

        • There it is. Lightning/Caps is the biggest Southern rivalry (maybe the Ducks/Sharks too). Should be interesting to see how that dynamic changes now that Carolina is (theoretically) better and the Panthers are starting to get their stud prospects into the NHL.

    • If you mean to imply there is a rivalry between Tampa Bay and Florida you are sorely mistaken. It just doesn’t exist.

  5. I feel like your selections are too impacted by Original Six bias. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Detroit cares about Columbus, but I think that’s more because nobody cares about Columbus, not even the professionals who play hockey there. I think Toronto and Ottawa is a thing – for a very long time, Ottawa, almost always the better team, has dominated Toronto in regular season play, while the Leafs have won every playoff series. Certainly, as a Leafs fan, I hate Ottawa, and when they were in the FInals against Anaheim, no stupid ads in the paper about rooting for “Canada’s team” were going to allow me to root for anything but their swift destruction.

  6. Carolina fans hate Buffalo, and the legions of ex-Buffaloans who have moved to NC certainly seem to hate Hurricanes fans back (judging by the heavy police presence in the arena parking lot during tailgating for Sabres-Canes games only), but I don’t know that anyone living in Buffalo cares much other than latent bitterness from the 2006 ECF. The Canes’ other defining playoff battles have been with New Jersey and Montreal, but no one’s under any illusions on those fronts.

    Carolina-Atlanta could have become something, but the Thrashers never developed any character at all before they were yanked out of ATL — it was like trying to hate a bank of fog. Nashville would probably be a big deal (mid-size Southern cities, rowdy fanbases, competitive-if-anonymous teams), but being in the West makes that tough; Washington has always been too much an odd man out in the Southeast for any hatred to develop either way.

    • Carolina-vs-New Jersey had potential to become a thing had they met a few more times in the post-season, especially after that game 7, but it just wasn’t meant to be I suppose.

      Does Dallas have a rival? Is it Phoenix? I feel like the Pacific Division is awkward for rivalries because you have the three So-Cal teams which all hate each other, but then you have Phoenix waving from a distance and then Dallas, waaaaaaaaay over in Texas.

      • Dallas and Edmonton had a rivalry around the same time Detroit and Colorado hated each other. The two teams met frequently in the first round while Dallas was dominant and Edmonton was in its “little team that could” era and Todd Marchant’s OT goal against Dallas became a big part of Oiler lore. It’s kind of fizzled out over the last decade, though, and I’m not sure if any team really came in to fill the void for Dallas.

      • As a Devils fan, I can say that though it’s a secondary rivalry (Rangers and Flyers would be the primary), since that crazy playoff game, I’ve noticed Carolina on the schedule.

        • Yeah, as a Devils fan I’m not sure there’s a “bitter” rivalry on either end, and I’m not sure that I get more excited over regular season games, but I’d want to absolutely crush Carolina in the playoffs should we meet again.

  7. As sad as it is to say, pretty much every rivalry involving either of my two teams (the Lightning and the Predators) is rather one-sided or decidedly meh.

    The only exception I can think of is Preds-Blue Jackets, which is pretty unknown outside of those two towns. It’s a quiet sort of hate in which both teams really, really want to beat the other but not actually murder anyone..

    • Yep, I’d have to agree that the Preds vs. CBJ rivalary is bigger for the two teams then rivalries with anyone else. They’re pretty good games that usually have Nashville come out on top, but still good physical hockey.

  8. The Leafs-Sens rivalry was very much present and hot in the pre-lockout playoffs, but not so much anymore.

  9. As a Leafs fan, I think Ottawa and Toronto had a legitimate rivalry. Ottawa has been the better team of late, but these teams met in the playoffs four times in five years with the Leafs winning every series, even when Ottawa was heavily favoured. I think Sens fans legitimately hate the Leafs for this (I would) and continue to have issues with the number of Leaf fans in their city. A Leafs rivalry with the Bruins doesn’t exist in my opinion, at least not on the basis of the Kessel trade. Maybe Bruin fans like to boo Kessel, but I have almost no feelings toward Seguin and the teams don’t have many close games these days. Isn’t relatively even competition required at some point to have a true rivalry?

    • You couldn’t be more wrong on every front with that comment. Ottawa-Toronto is no longer a “thing” just like Detroit-Colorado no longer is. The players have essentially completely turned over and the fierceness is not there anymore. With Toronto having not made the playoffs since prior to the lockout, a playoff-based rivalry in these days is just not there.

  10. Way off with the TOR-OTT. These two teams had a bunch of playoffs against each other in a row, and the “Battle of Ontario” is a real thing to both fan-bases. It’s cooled off lately because the teams have struggled, but it’s not a fake rivally. Just ask the yapping parrots on Toronto sports radio.

    • It kind of existed because of the playoffs but then again is it really a rivalry if one side always wins?

      Since then, the lack of playoff meetings has cooled things off which is really all you need to know about the status of the ‘rivalry’.

  11. Rivalries are born in the post-season and that’s the bottom line. Vancouver/Chicago is a great example of this. Another personal example is the Devils/Rangers rivalry which was legitimized in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.

    When the league moved to the modern playoff format they made it very difficult to build rivalries. In the old format you would play the same teams in the post-season almost every other year, sometimes more often if you were both decent teams (Think Rangers/Islanders post-expansion).

    If Columbus and Minnesota continue to fail to make the post-season they’ll never develop great rivalries.

    • Yeah, it’s either teams that are very close to each other, or playoff rivals. Devils/Rangers games are always epic.

      • Agreed. And when the Islandsrs were good, the Rangers/Islanders games were awesome. Still obviously hate the Isles, but they seem to get up for us more than the reverse – its like their whole season has gone down the crapper but they still can accomplish something by beating us – especially in Nassau.

        • Sad but true. Still a tough rivalry, but it always means more when both teams are strong and have something to play for. That’s why TB-FLA and CLB-DET are nowheres. Then there’s Sens-Leafs… if they both make the playoffs again, that will heat back up.

  12. When I lived in Edmonton in 2009 (so the start of comical mediocrity for the Oilers) I remember a number of Edmonton co-workers constantly talking about the rivalry between them and my Canucks.

    I never really understood it, and still don’t.

    • There are still people who insist on that rivalry, but it just isn’t there. I think it stems from the fact that a lot of Oilers fans do not like Canucks fans, so they tried to build something. But the last few years its been hard to say the Oilers have a legitimate rival because they have sucked it up so bad.

  13. Columbus-Detroit is absolutely not a rivalry among the players, but I think it may be a little more of a rivalry between fans. However, this has a lot more to do with the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, than anything hockey related.

    • i can assure you we care nothing about columbus. nhl hockey is the only thing the michigan-ohio hatred does not spread to

  14. St. Louis vs. Vancouver…. in STL… that majority of fans hate Vancouver.

    • I guess this is another unrequited one. I’m a huge Canucks fan and I wasn’t aware of the animosity on STL’s side.

    • Nah…I bleed Blue and I don’t give a crap about Vancouver games. We exorcised the San Jose demon in the playoffs last year. The only teams we really get “up” for as fans are Detroit and Chicago. And from 05 til last year the Wings-Blues rivalry has been unrequited because Detroit viewed us (with reason) the same way they view CBJ.

  15. Geographical and traditional rivalry will always exist (Original six, Edmonton/Calgary for example) but some of them like Vancouver/Chicago will fizzle down as the years go by just like Edmonton/Dallas rivalry in the late 90′s. We (Edmontonians) f**king hated Dallas, especially during the playoffs. But now as both team have changed in terms of players and the fact we haven’t seen each other in the playoff since 2003, no one really cares about that rivalry anymore.

    I’ll admit, I cant stand Vancouver. but the reason why everyone hates them because of they’re current track record and attention they get. Once they become mediocre to aweful, no one is going to hate them as much.

    • Yeah, I think you’re right. It seems like the Colorado/Detroit rivalry has calmed a bit. I remember when it was insanity every time they played.

    • Current track record…of being awesome? : P. Cue Cup mocking and riot jokes etc. I know, I know…

      I’d like to see the Van + Cgy + Edm rivalry come back…Edm is heading towards better years, so that could be coming back soon. But Cgy…it’s been stale rivalry-wise for a few years and I don’t see it improving any time soon.

  16. Canuck fans have for years talked to me about their “Rivalry” and hatred for the Flames. Until the 2011 Stanley Cup finals many Flames fans considered the Cannucks their “Second” team. To be fair many hockey fans don’t particularly like the Canucks since then.

  17. As a Coyotes fan, we probably hate Detroit way more than they hate us. Their fans are rude and obnoxious at Coyotes games. Maybe something would have sparked if we didn’t completely bomb in that second playoff series.

    It’ll be interesting to see if we generate something with Chicago or LA 3 years from now when the NHL is back.

  18. As an Ottawan who has Leafs, Sens and Montreal fans in the office, I“m going to say there is a Leafs-Sens rivalry. Those guys love throwing it in each other`s faces when they come in to the office in the morning. Seriously for the first 30 min, those guys talk shit to each other.

  19. As a Flyers fan with Caps fan friends, I know they get really up for games against us, and I just do’t feel the same way towards them. Yes, granted, everyone hats the Flyers to some degree, but they seem to view most of the Atlantic division and the Bruins as their rivals. I guess that comes from having dominated the SE so thoroughly for a few years. But, guys – you didn’t win your division last year. Maybe find a way to get up for games against the Lightning, Canes, Panthers (if they keep building) before you waste all that juice in the ATL, which, frankly, is a little preoccupied.

    • It stems more from the Caps having been in the Patrick division with those teams. Good rivalries need history. There’s one currently brewing with TB but I’m not as excited when the game is against some of the other divisional rivalries. Not sure where you get the Bruins. They really didn’t get on my radar until this past playoffs–an intense playoff series will always bring out the emotion. Therefore more SE divisional teams need to get into the playoffs.

  20. How about rivalries that are no more? A few times every year the media tries to hype the Red Wings playing the Aves as one of the meanest rivalries in the game. It once was. It isn’t any more. All of the players from those years of hate have retired (RIP Lidstrom/Yzerman era). The Aves have died off in skill (and actually started to come back). But really, the games haven’t been close, or shown any sort of hate for almost a decade.

  21. Personally, I think the Leafs-Habs rivalry is all but dead, at least as far as the players are concerned. They haven’t met in the playoffs for a long long time (thanks, Kerry) and the only reason this lives on is the fans, who know the history. I don’t want to kill it, but I have recent memory of playoff battles with Ottawa and feel more “hate” for them than the Habs.

  22. Can any Red Wings fans describe how they view the San Jose Sharks? I know that here in San Jose, most Sharks fans view the Red Wings as our biggest rival by far, but I have a feeling that to Detroit, the Sharks are just another annoying team to play against.

  23. Think ya might have blew it with the Ottawa-Toronto one there. Toronto-Boston would seem much more unrequited to me (if Toronto has bigger fish to fry (read: bigger fish to be fried by) then Boston has that ten-fold).
    Really geographical rivalries are the only ones that last over time though. The answer to Detroit-Colorado still being a rivalry being no pretty clearly proves that.

  24. I usually love your opinions Bourne, but as some of the posters above stated; you’re totally off about the Toronto-Ottawa rivaly. Yes, it’s not like the years past where it was a heated rivalry. But there’s always something there- usually more just for bragging rights between the Sens and Leafs fans.

    And you can’t say they don’t have a history. Leaf fans and Sens fans all remember the classic playoffs battles (Which Sens unforunetly have never won). Not to mention, great moments like Alfie hitting Tucker and than scoring, Alfie fake throwing the stick and Leafs winning 4 straght playoff series in a row, etc.

  25. Success looks good on u Justin. Congratulations
    Greg c Adams
    Duncan bc

  26. Look, everyone outside of Vancouver hates the Canucks. That doesn’t make it a rivalry.

  27. I’m a big Leafs fan and I moved to Vancouver in 2008. Completely unbeknownst to me I discovered that most people here hated Toronto and the Leafs. I was somewhat surprised because in Toronto at the time no one held any hostility towards Vancouver, and I would say most people even kind of liked their team and considered Van a cool city.

    Since then Vancouver has shown another side and become viewed as a bunch of gutless, divey, bitey, whiners. So now it’s easy for everyone to hate them back.

    • You didn’t know about Vancouver’s hate-on for the Leafs for the exact reason we all hated them – no one in Toronto knew anything about any other team except maybe the Habs and Bruins. CBC’s Leaf-centricity drove us mad – still does, even though things have evened out a bit. Now that the Nucks are one of the top teams we don’t think about Tronna too much – too bad, it’s always nice to get your blood up for a game! Hopefully the Luongo trade happens and the Buds can maybe become competitive again so we can rekindle our unrequited rivalry with you! (although, maybe now with all off hockey’s new found hate for Van, maybe it’ll be required after all)

      Anyway, I miss when Colorado was good, and Calgary was decent – those were some games to get fired up over! Iginla and Ohlund, yes please!!

  28. Not a hockey rivalry, but a NCAA football one (hey, until the NHL comes back I’m allowed to watch other things, okay?!). I’m a Univ. of Michigan grad, and I have to say:

    Michigan State University.

    We already have OSU in terms of rivalry.

    I’m sorry MSU, no disrespect. You guys have a football program that’s great (the last few years a far sight better than ours). You guys are a good university (my brother is a student there, and I’ve visited frequently, and almost did my PhD there), but seriously.

    We hate OSU. OSU hates us. You guys hate us. We….sorta…know you exist…and are a good football team…and we try to beat you.

    Yeah, that pretty much sums up our feelings. No disrespect intended, but our hate energy is entirely focused on OSU.

    Sorry. It’s not you, it’s us. We’re…just not that into you.

  29. “are the Red Wings/Avalanche still rivals?”

    If you had made a list of 4, this would have been your 4th. Sorry CO.

  30. The whole Toronto-Montreal ‘rivalry’ is a Toronto media creation anyway. Growing up as a French Canadian kid watching hockey in the 70′s and 80′s, the only teams that mattered were the Islanders, the Oilers, the usurpers who were trying to break the Canadiens records. We hated the Bruins and the Flyers. We hated the Nordiques very quickly after they joined the league, and hated them with white hot intensity. I still seethe and clench my fists when I see Dale Hunter. I still think he should be in jail.

    When I started speaking English and having to watch hockey on CBC, I was dumbfounded to hear that we were embroiled in this great rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I had never heard a peep about that on La Soirée du Hockey. I never had an inkling that this ridiculous team with Tiger Williams and Mike Palmateer and Harold Ballard that we swept two years in a row in the opening series of the playoffs was one of our rivals.


  31. As a Minnesota fan, I don’t think many around her consider it a rivalry. More of we just hate the team for numerous reasons, starting with their 2003 team that Minnesota beat in the playoffs was full of ass-hats like Bertuzzi and Ruutu, Ohland breaking Koivu’s leg with a two hander, and their current diving unlikeable-ness.

  32. How about Boston and Buffalo? Definitely on the Buf side but more like an annoying flea on the Boston side

  33. I’d have to say that anyone’s past rivalry with the Leafs is almost non existant because Toronto has been so awful for almost the last decade. As a Habs fan, I would say the biggest rivalry is Montreal and Boston. Evry time they meet is a virtual slugfest. it’s almost like those teams care more about beating each other up than winning. Also the fact they have met so often in the playoffs the last decade and they are in the same division so they play each other so much in the regular season and the original six history. It doesn’t matter if they have roster turnover either. These two teams always hate each other.

    I would also say I absolutely despite the Flyers too, but doesn’t everyone outside of Philly?

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