Rivalries have always been a big part of Hockey. Crosstown teams, a goon who took out your favorite player, it all feeds into a hatred at the sight of an opposing jersey.
The Flyers, Rangers, Devils, and Capitals have had some great battles dating back to the old Patrick Division. Add the Penguins and subtract the Islanders after realignment, and the new Atlantic Division was only going to get tougher.(Sorry Isles fans, I know the league didn't help you on this one)
As a hockey fan I've been treated to some great battles over the years. As a Flyers fan I've also had my heart broken over the years. When Scott Stevens caught Eric Lindros with his head down and ended his career, he became public enemy number one. The fact that it was one of the five greatest hits I've ever seen didn't occur to me till well afterward. The fact that it was legal didn't matter. I was a fan first, and the rivalry fueled my desire for revenge. A good rivalry can remove any common sense in a fan's thought process. Every hit by a rival is a penalty, every shift is watched like a cop on a stakeout. How many times have you said to a buddy," He's a good player and all, but I HATE him, he plays for the ______."
The Flyers and Rangers have been the top rivalry as far as Flyers fans are concerned for many years. In the last few seasons though, The Rangers sporadic play has dimished it in favor of Sid and the Pens and Ovie and the Caps. I see that all about to change with the blueshirts signing Donald Brashear. He has now played for three teams in the division
(Flyers, Caps, Rangers) and understands the rivalries better than most. He's at his best when he is under someone's skin. I expect him to play up to the hatred between the Atlantic teams, especially the Flyers and Devils.
In the last few years the Pens-Flyers rivalry has heated up. Two straight years of playoff exits for the Flyers at the hands of the Penguins. When these two teams get together, the play gets chippy, and big hits are common. With the addition of Chris Pronger, this should only add fuel to a five-alarm fire. Malkin and Pronger going head to head, shift after shift, trying to one up each other. As a Flyers fan I'm optimistic.
As a hockey fan?I have goosebumps thinking about the past.As long as the league let's these guys play, We should see a return to the gritty style that the east is known for.