Vancouver Canucks Rivalry Debate: Chicago Blackhawks or Boston Bruins?

Adam Graham@@adam_grahamAnalyst IIJanuary 28, 2012

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 07:  Maxim Lapierre #40 of the Vancouver Canucks and Gregory Campbell #11 of the Boston Bruins fight on January 7, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

If Thursday’s NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft was any indication, the rivalry between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins extends beyond the white ice in terms of its bitterness.

As captain of his All-Star team, who will lace up their skates for what will inevitably turn into a pickup game on Sunday, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara avoided selecting any of the three All-Stars from the Canucks (Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler).

This has certainly created a buzz among fans and media members in the Pacific Northwest.

What’s also notable is that Chara did select Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price to play on his team.

So here, we thought the Bruins and Canadiens had the most bitter rivalry in the NHL, and Chara goes ahead and picks a Canadien over three Canucks.

With Chara’s disdain for the Canucks in mind, lets analyze which team is a more bitter rival to Vancouver—the Bruins or Blackhawks.

Up until a few weeks ago, this question was a no-brainer. The Blackhawks and Canucks have met in the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, and they’ve also taken part in numerous fights, the occasional donnybrook and have even shared a few choice words for each other through the media.

If you need evidence for any of this, you can click here to look at my overview of this rivalry from back in December.

However, the Bruins are a different bunch of animals to the Canucks. They’re a team the Canucks don’t see as much because they’re in the Eastern Conference, and while conventional thinking tells you that hurts the rivalry, the anticipation factor begs otherwise.

The two rivals' only matchup of the regular season that took place a few weeks ago made it clear that these two teams were champing at the bit for the full six months since the end of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Canucks were anxious to exact at least a small measure of revenge on a team they feel are sore winners and don’t play the game the right way. Meanwhile, the Bruins, not to mention the Boston media, see the Canucks as a bunch of arrogant divers and hold a surprisingly large grudge against a team they already defeated to win the Stanley Cup.

The result was one of the most memorable regular season games the NHL has seen in years, and it had everything to do with the built-up hatred and frustration—nearly seven months of it to be exact.

The Canucks and Blackhawks, on the other hand, play each other at least four times per season (more if they meet in the playoffs), so the players can always just wait until next time to get their revenge. After all, with the Blackhawks, "next time" is usually only a month or two away, not seven.

The proof of this lies in the two meetings between the Vancouver and Chicago so far this season. Do you remember what happened in them?

If you answered yes, you’re clearly a die-hard fan because neither game was very memorable.

Both meetings resulted in lopsided victories for the visiting squad, one in Chicago and one in Vancouver. There were a couple of isolated fights in the game that took place in Chicago, but it didn’t come close to comparing to the bad blood that was on full display in Boston on January 7, not to mention the trash talk that went on for days after the game ended.

Both players and coaches got into it (via The Star), and at one point a player and a fellow sports writer even engaged in a spirited debate.

When the dust settled, the Canucks and Bruins exchanged more blows through the media in one week then the Canucks and Blackhawks have in over two years. That is saying something, considering the war of words between Alain Vigneault and Dave Bolland, not to mention Ryan Kesler and Andrew Ladd.

In short, the debate between the Bruins or the Blackhawks being the Canucks' biggest rival is a question of quality vs. quantity. No one can argue over which rivalry has more chapters because the Canucks and Blackhawks have been battling it out in both the regular season and the playoffs since 2009.

However, you could also make the argument that too much of a good thing can eventually become harmful. Vancouver and Chicago have faced each other 33 times over the last three-and-a-half years, and while many of those games have been wonderful, some have been duds.

On the other hand, the Canucks and Bruins' only playoff meeting was on the biggest stage in hockey, which is a big part of why these two teams have delivered eight straight epic battles within the last seven months.

Would there have been a few forgettable games between these teams if they played each other as many times as the Canucks and Blackhawks have? Perhaps, but we’ll never know because the Canucks and Bruins share the element of anticipation when it comes to their rivalry.

It’s an element that allows bad blood to slowly come to a boil. Players, coaches and members of the media in both cities stir the pot for long periods of time until it all boils over when they finally do meet.

For this reason, the rivalry between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins appears to be much more bitter than the rivalry between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, at least for the time being.


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