An NHL rivalry is a beautiful thing.
The hatred between two teams fueled by passionate fans goes back to the early days of the original six. Toronto and Montreal, Chicago and Detroit; teams who met up on a regular basis developing a general hatred for one another made for some classic tilts.
More recently, think back to 1996-2002. Within those seven years, Colorado and Detroit met in the playoffs five different times, sparking some of the most memorable battles in NHL history.
People still talk about that 1997 fight between Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon, and what about that punishing hit on Kris Draper delivered by Claude Lemieux.
Remember that? Of course you do. As fans you know you cheer for one team or the other—never both.
Team rivalries are great, but has there ever been a real rivalry between two superstar players?
I don't just mean two players on different teams who were both statistically great when their teams met up. I don't just mean two players who battled each other for tops in the league in scoring.
I mean a real superstar rivalry. I mean two players who have all that, but also really, really hate each other.
The answer to that question is no, there has never been a rivalry quite like that.
Since they both came into the league, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have bombarded highlight reels, caused goalies to re-think their career choice, and sent play-by-play announcers home with a sore throat.
They've been compared on every level and the debate of who is better will live on far longer than their careers.
Still, knowing all of that, who would have thought that putting these two on the same sheet of ice would cause such an explosion.
It looks like the instigator rule has finally done something good for the game. These two can't rely on a teammate to take care of the physicality while they bulge twine, so they've taken matters into their own hands—the target just happens to be each other.
In the latest meeting of the Penguins and Capitals, things between the two All-Stars finally boiled over into more than just an on-ice battle. Their true feelings came out, resulting in some pushing and shoving, a whole lot of talking, and a wave goodbye from Ovie.
That's not where things ended, though. Post-game interviews found the two still going at it verbally. It's official—these two don't like each other.
As reaction to the feud, the question has been asked whether or not this rivalry is good for the game. Is it really a good thing to have the two best players in the NHL hate each other?
It's as simple as that.
If this rivalry continues at its current pace, we could be in for one heckuva ride. When these two play each other in the future, we can look forward to more than just lighting of the lamp. Get ready for the lighting of a fire under the two most prolific, exciting players on the planet.
Only good things can come from this. We can already expect a lot on the score sheet when these two face off, but throw in all this extra stuff, and we have got ourselves a recipe for one delicious rivalry.
Don't worry about picking sides or debating about who's right and who's wrong. This rivalry isn't about who wins or loses. It's about what happens on the next shift.
Who really knows what started this feud. Some say Crosby is mad that he's been dethroned as the best player; others say Ovechkin doesn't like all the attention Sid gets in North America.
It could just boil down to two extremely competitive individuals with an unbelievable drive to win-at-all-costs colliding at full speed, both incredibly committed to out-do the other.
There is only one more meeting between the two in this regular season, so we can only hope Sid gets his team in gear and makes into the playoffs. The potential for greatness in a postseason matchup between the two is endless and could result in the classic rivalry we're all discussing for years to come.
We hope the wave Ovechkin gave Crosby in their last meeting was not "goodbye," but rather, "see you soon, Sid."
Sit back, relax, and enjoy as it all unfolds right before our eyes.
No matter how ugly things get, this NHL rivalry is a beautiful thing.