Hockey fans enjoy rivalries.
The rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alec Ovechkin has proven to be one of the most enjoyable in recent memory.
With good reason, every matchup is a breathtaking display of what hockey is all about. The NHL is aware of its popularity exploiting every chance it has to play it up and undoubtedly hype the match up.
Stick handling, skating, shooting, passing, and bone crunching body checks are on display when the two superb performers and their teams face off.
Every time the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals face off stadiums, sellout and television viewership rises. As far as playing styles go, Crosby and Ovechkin could not be more different. Crosby displays all of the skills and has proven himself to be a clutch performer. Ovechkin is speedy, elusive and adds a hitting dimension which is a throwback to a previous NHL era.
Crosby has captured the hearts of hockey fans especially in Canada and Pittsburgh winning a Stanley Cup and a gold medal for Team Canada in the Winter Olympics. Both men have been natural competitors since their rookie seasons.
Ovechkin won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year as well as several Art Ross scoring titles and MVP awards while Crosby won a MVP, an Art Ross Trophy, and a Stanley Cup.
The NHL has a rich history of rivalries. Decade after decade exciting rivals have emerged which energized the game. Crosby and Ovechkin were not the first marquee rivals in the NHL.
In the early 1950’s the chief rivalry was between Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. A sub-rivalry during that time was the Plante-Sawchuck goaltending rivalry.
Similar to Crosby and Ovechkin both men possessed different skill sets. Richard was a skilled goal scorer who at times was unstoppable even with a defender draped on his back. From the blue line in the Rocket was the most dangerous and effective goal scorer anywhere.
Howe was a breathtaking physical specimen with superior all around skills and a nasty disposition similar to Richard. The rivalry went on long after both men retired creating debate about whether the new NHL award for the top goal scorer would be the Rocket Richard Trophy or the Gordie Howe Trophy.
Richard won out on that one.
When the Redwings met the Canadians at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit or at the Montreal Forum, there was not an empty seat in the house and excitement was in the air.
Following the Howe-Richard rivalry going into the 1960’s was the, Hull-Mahovolich rivalry then the Orr-Park rivalry in the 1970’s.
In the 1980’s was the Lafluer-Perreault rivalry between the two Quebec born superstars who competed since childhood, and the Trottier-Gretzky and Lemieux-Gretzky rivalries in the 1990’s.
In the early 2000’s Scott Stevens and Eric Lindro’s were heated rivals generating fierce battle and intensity every time their teams played one another.
The thing that every rivalry had in common was the enthusiasm of the fans and the dominance of both players. Wayne Gretzky said,” When I was playing, I knew when I played Mario (Lemieux) that I was going to have a good game. ”
Bobby Orr was just as adamant when he played against the New York Rangers and Brad Park.
Orr was the best defenseman in the NHL and Park was the second best. Boston was the best team in the league and the New York Rangers were the second best. The hype was incredible and the games were a great display of the talents of Orr, Park, Esposito, Ratelle, and all the rest.
Let’s have a look at ten of the best rivalries of all time in the NHL.