Battle of Ontario

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Ottawa Senators-Toronto Maple Leafs
Regular Season History
Number of Meetings 99
Record Ott: 50-39-3-7 (.556)[1]
Tor: 46-42-3-8 (.520)[2]
First Meeting October 20, 1992
First Result Tor: 5-3
Location Maple Leaf Gardens
Last Meeting April 12, 2014
Last Result Ott: 1-0
Location Canadian Tire Centre
Next Meeting October 22, 2014 (Postponed[3] next scheduled meeting January 21, 2015)
Location Canadian Tire Centre
Current Streak Ott: 1
Playoff History
Number of Meetings 24
Record Tor: 16-8 (.667)

The Battle of Ontario is a rivalry between the Ontario cities of Ottawa and Toronto, most notably the rivalry between the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL), often described as one of its top rivalries.[4] The teams both compete in the Atlantic Division and with current NHL scheduling they meet four to five times per season. Games between the teams are often televised nationally on Hockey Night in Canada.

Early history[edit]

Games between Toronto and Ottawa ice hockey teams date back before the founding of the NHL. The Toronto Arenas and original Senators were founding teams of the NHL, and continued their rivalry once the Toronto St. Pats became the Leafs in 1927. Both cities also have histories of Stanley Cup winners, meeting once in February, 1904, with the original Ottawa Senators defeating the Toronto Marlboros. After the original Ottawa NHL franchise relocated to St. Louis, Missouri as the Eagles in 1934,[5][6] Ottawa-area hockey fans became fans of other NHL teams. However, during this time, a Toronto-Ottawa sports rivalry continued between the Argonauts and Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.

Modern era[edit]

The modern Senators entered the NHL in 1992, but the rivalry between the two teams did not begin to emerge until the late 1990s. From 1992–98, Toronto was in the Western Conference and Ottawa was in the Eastern Conference, which meant that the two teams rarely played each other. But before the 1998–99 season, the conferences and divisions were re-aligned, and Toronto was moved into the Eastern Conference's Northeast Division with the Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and Buffalo Sabres.

The rivalry reached new heights in 2000, as the teams met for the first time in the playoffs with the Maple Leafs dispatching the Senators in six games. Some Leafs fans saw this as revenge, since the Sens' Marián Hossa had accidentally clipped the Leafs' Bryan Berard in the eye on March 11, ending the young defenceman's season and almost his career.

21st century[edit]

The next season, they met again in the first round as Ottawa entered the playoffs ranked 2nd in the East and the Maple Leafs 7th. While the Senators were expected to defeat the Maple Leafs, especially since they had swept the regular season series against them, the Leafs swept the series in a major upset instead; Ottawa did not score their first goal of the series until 16:51 of the third period in the third game.

In 2001–02, the teams met in the playoffs for the third straight year. The two teams were very evenly matched, and the Maple Leafs managed to win the second-round series in the full seven games and advance to the conference finals. One incident happened late in Game 5 when Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson hit forward Darcy Tucker in what Toronto called a hit-from-behind, and then seconds after hitting Tucker in the Leafs zone, he scored the game-winning goal.

In 2002–03, the rivalry hit an all-time high when Tucker attacked the Senators' Chris Neil, who was sitting on the bench. This resulted in numerous players exchanging punches before order was restored. Tucker, Neil and Shane Hnidy all received fighting majors and game misconducts for the same incident. After the game, Tucker claimed Neil spit on him, an allegation which Neil denied. The NHL board looked into this claim and concluded that Tucker's allegation was false. Tempers remained frayed, especially with 1:23 to play, when Toronto's Tie Domi jumped Magnus Arvedson from behind and threw several punches at Arvedson. Domi received a roughing minor, instigator minor, fighting major, misconduct and game misconduct. Arvedson did not get a penalty on the play. Suspensions were announced a few hours after Tucker and Domi appeared at NHL head offices in Toronto for a hearing. Tucker was suspended for five games, without pay, and it was made clear at the hearing that Neil did not spit at Toronto's bench. Domi was suspended for three games, also without pay. A total of 163 minutes in penalties were called in the game. The Maple Leafs went on to win the season series, but the Sens still topped off the NHL.[7][8]

Another incident in the regular season fueled the rivalry even more. On January 6, 2004, the Maple Leafs were playing a game against the Nashville Predators, when Leaf captain Mats Sundin's stick broke on an attempted shot at the blue line and he threw it away in disgust. Instead of hitting the glass, the stick went over and into the crowd. The NHL reacted by giving him a one-game suspension.[9] The game he was suspended for was a game against the Senators in Toronto. During the game, Daniel Alfredsson's stick broke, and immediately he faked a toss of his stick into the stands. This caused an uproar with the Maple Leafs, in part because they had also lost the game 7–1. Alfredsson dismissed the Leafs' reaction, calling it an over-reaction. This incident added to the rivalry, and Leafs fans continue to boo Alfredsson at games.[10]

Ottawa and Toronto matched up in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years in 2003–04. Alfredsson guaranteed a victory after the Leafs took game 5. He delivered on his promise in game 6, but Ottawa goaltender Patrick Lalime turned in a lacklustre performance in the series finale, allowing the Leafs to beat the Senators in the series. After the series the Senators traded Lalime to the St. Louis Blues, and Ottawa head coach Jacques Martin was fired.

Post-lockout era[edit]

In 2005–06, the two teams nearly met again in the playoffs, but the Maple Leafs missed qualifying by two points. As the Senators clinched the top spot in the East, the Maple Leafs claiming eighth position would have ensured a first-round match-up.[11] The Sens largely dominated the season series by winning 7 of the 8 games (including 3 routs of 8–0, 8–2, and 7–0).[12]

In 2006–07, the Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs, finishing in ninth position, and thereby missing for a second consecutive year.[13] Meanwhile, the Senators made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.[14] The Senators won the season series 5-1-2.

The 2007–08 season was characterized by a share of lopsided victories by the two teams against each other; for example, wins of 5-0 and 8-2.[15] The Leafs failed to make the playoffs for the third straight season, this time by 11 points. Ottawa finished in 7th place in the East after a 15–2 start and leading the league at one point,[16] barely making it into the playoffs.[17] The Sens were swept 4–0 in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins, in a rematch of the previous year's series.[18] Although Pittsburgh was heavily favoured to win, the fact that the Leafs' Mark Bell laid what Jason Spezza described as a "clean dirty hit" on Alfredsson in the April 3 game at Toronto, thereby sidelining him, may have worsened their situation.[19][20]

The 2008–09 season was a poor one for both teams, with the Senators finishing 11th and the Maple Leafs 12th in the Eastern Conference. This marked the first time that both Ontario teams failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the Senators joined the NHL in 1992.

The 2009–10 season saw the Senators finish 5th in the Eastern Conference and face the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, while the Leafs finished last in the conference and failed to make the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year. The Leafs won the season series 4-2.

The 2010–11 season was a poor one for both the Ontario teams. Despite the Leafs posting its best regular season record since the 2006–07 season, the team missed the playoffs for the 6th consecutive season. Meanwhile the Senators finished with a record of 32-40-10, and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The 74 points put up by the Senators was the lowest total put up since the 1995–96 season. The season series was tied 3-3.

The 2011–12 season saw Ottawa hosting the 59th NHL All-Star Game. A franchise high five Senators were elected to the team. Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Colin Greening represented the Senators, while Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf represented the Leafs. Erik Karlsson ended the season with 78 points and won the Norris Trophy. The Senators finish 8th in the East and qualify for the playoffs. The Leafs once again failed to qualify for the 7th consecutive season. The season series was tied 3-3.

The 2012–13 season was cut short by the most recent lockout which delayed opening day until January 19th of 2013. The Leafs and Senators met five times in the 48 game season, with the Leafs taking the season series 4-1. Toronto would finish the shortened season in 5th place in the Eastern Conference and clinch their first playoff spot since 2004. Ottawa would finish 7th in the East. The Sens were matched up in the first round versus the Montreal Canadiens. They took the series in five games before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2nd round. The Leafs lost in game 7 against the Boston Bruins and failed to pass the 1st Round.

The 2013–14 season saw both Ontario teams miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2010–11 season. The Leafs and Senators met four times in the 82 game season, two of which were decided in shootouts. The Leafs took the season series 3-1. The Senators would finish 11th in the East with 88 points, and the Leafs finished in 12th place with 84 points.

On October 22, 2014, the Leafs vs. Senators game was postponed due to the 2014 Ottawa shootings.

References[edit]