The rivalry between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs is an interesting one. Considered by some to be the most intense in the NHL. On ice, the rivalry has been lackluster for years, though it’s a little different amongst fans.
Ask a Leaf fan what team they hate more than anyone, and most will say the Sens.
Ask a Sens fan what team they hate more than anyone, and some will say the Leafs.
For those who don’t cheer for either team, I’ll give you a quick history lesson.
I’m only going to talk about the modern era Senators because most Toronto fans don’t consider the original Ottawa Senators a legitimate part of the current Senators history and to appease all readers I think it’s best to just leave it.
The year was 2000, and both the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs were elite powerhouses in the East. Earlier that season, Sens forward, and current NHL Star, Marian Hossa clipped young stud defenseman Bryan Berard in the eye, ending his season. Fans of the blue and white were up in arms, and though viewed as an accident throughout the league, some fans didn’t take so kindly to it.
2000 was also the first year that the Sens and Leafs met in the playoffs. Maple Leafs ended the playoffs for the Senators in 6 games, and fans of Toronto saw this as revenge for what happened earlier in the season.
The very next season the Ottawa Senators finished 2nd in the East, and the Buds finished 7th, which equated to a first round playoff matchup. The Sens had swept the season series and were the favourites to take them out early in the playoffs. In a major upset, the Leafs swept the playoff series, thus creating the first bit of hate Sens fans had ever had for the Toronto Maple Leafs team.
The next year, also in the playoffs, an incident happened. One that would change the rivalry forever. Late in Game 5, Darcy Tucker had control of the puck on the boards. Daniel Alfredsson hit Tucker and on what became a controversial non-call. Alfredsson, with the puck, went to the net and scored the game winning goal. The moment of the hit can be seen in the halls of the SBP, where the Senators play their home games.
The very next season tempers flared once again when Leafs forward Darcy Tucker attacked Chris Neil on the bench. This was an unprovoked attack and created outrage within the Senators team. Punches were thrown and order was restored. Post-game Tucker claimed the Neil had spit on him, an allegation which has never been proven. Neil denied the incident had ever taken place.
In the same game, with minutes remaining on the game, Tie Domi jumped on Magnus Arvedson from behind and threw several punches at him, not giving Arvedson a chance to stand up for himself. Domi received a roughing minor, instigator minor, fighting major, misconduct and game misconduct. Arvedson received nothing. The next day a 5 game suspension was handed out to Tie Domi for this disgusting act of aggression rarely seen in hockey.
In January of 2004 while playing a game in Nashville, Mats Sundin, captain for the Leafs, had his stick snap on him. Instead of tossing it to the ice like we see most often in the NHL, Sundin threw the stick over the glass and into the crowd. He received a one game suspension for this, as well as league wide mockery. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson did his own impression of the play.
The single game that Sundin was suspended for was also the game against the Senators. Alfredsson had his stick break and fake tossed it into the crowd. This created an uproar, mostly because the Leafs lost that game by a score of 7 to 1.
When we hear “Alfie Sucks” chants, and him being booed, most say that the fake toss incident is the cause. I’ve taken to asking many “Leaf fans” why they boo Alfie, and most respond with “he’s the Senators captain, oh and he also sucks”. Maybe that’s a paraphrase, but it’s certainly never a logical answer.
Since these playoffs, the Leafs have fallen to near obscurity in most hockey circles, and seemingly play their most important games when playing the Sens.
In the eyes of most Leafs fans I’ve talked to, the Battle of Ontario is alive and well, and in the eyes of most Sens fans I’ve talked to, the Battle of Ontario is dying, and a lot consider teams like the Habs, and Buffalo bigger rivals because of past years, but the battle in the stands tells a different story.
I’m a Sens fan living just outside of Toronto in Leafs country and get a lot of flack but am unable to give too much, which is due to the ratio of Leaf fans to Sens fans.
My personal take on Leaf fans is that the majority of them aren’t real fans and only watch the ones against rivals, like the Habs and Sens.
This includes the fans who go to games in Ottawa. When the Senators became part of the NHL 21 years ago, the majority of hockey fans in Ottawa were either for Leafs or Habs. Obviously a whole lot switched over to the Sens, but there is still a large constituency of non-Senator fans in Ottawa. So this, as expected, equals a large constituency of non-Senator fans coming to game against the Leafs.
The majority of Leaf fans are spectacular humans, but the few who aren’t really ruin the experience for the fans. Every single fan base has their fair share of complete, total idiots and the Leafs have the biggest fan base in the league, so that equals much more complete, total idiots.
I’ve had some experiences with Leaf fans I hope to never replicate, most notably a bus ride from a game in 2012.
I was staying in a hotel, and across the road there was a restaurant that had a shuttle service taking fans to and from the game, a service that is utilized by a lot of fans who don’t live in Ottawa (like me), or who don’t enjoy that post game traffic jam that the regulars of SBP have become so accustomed to.
The shuttle ride was about 50/50 in terms of Sens to Leaf fans, with most Sens fans being older and probable Ottawa natives and most fans of the Blue and White being in their 20′s and probable out of towners. The ride there was alright, with the odd chirp from the front of the bus to the back where the Leafers had set up camp. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the game, and it seemed no one seemed overly intoxicated at this point.
The game was a blowout – in the Leafs favour, with a final score being 5 to 0. I was expecting World War III to break out as my dad and I were walking to the bus, and my expectations were most definitely met.
By this point the Leaf fans had finished supporting my beloved Sens by purchasing an abundance of 10 dollar alcoholic beverages all before last call in the 2nd intermission. I thank them for not only supporting my team by buying the ticket, but also the wages of the Ottawa Senators by getting all those extras.
With the sad, sad fans sitting in the front, the rambunctious, heavily intoxicated, pepperoni smelling fans in the back saw this as an opportunity to show their pride which I totally respect. I’m sure that if the Sens had won a blowout game I’d be yelling too, just not to the same extent and I wouldn’t smell like sweat and beer. It’s also okay that they stunk of alcohol and pepperettes because if you’re buying a ticket to the game, I think you should be allowed to do whatever you want.
Half way through the bus ride home, these “fans” began the ever lovable “Alfie Sucks” chant, most likely not knowing why Alfie sucks, or if their team was even above .500 that year. Only knowing that it has become a ritual to boo that #11 whenever he touches the puck, to give him a little added boost perhaps, only because that’s what their drunken friends had also been doing.
They know his name, and they know he sucks, and they’re also homophobes, so the “Alfie Sucks” chant quickly morphed into an “Alfie Sucks D*ck” chant. For most of the sober humans who had their morals still intact, this was a disgusting sign of their ignorance and Sens and Leaf fans had come together at last in their loathe for the idiots at the back of the bus.
An elderly lady, in her early to mid 70′s was the first to stand up, calling what they were saying disgusting and ignorant. She definitely had a point. In response to this absolutely ridiculous comment that the lady had made, the drunken fans in the back began a “Lady Who Stood Up Sucks D*ck” chant, though in smaller numbers because I like to believe that most of the people are actually good humans and chirping Daniel Alfredsson is a lot more forgivable than an old lady.
These are the type of comments that Burke, former GM of Leafs and GM at the time of this, would be horrified to hear. As most know, Burke is a strong supporter of gay rights and had a gay son, Brendan, who tragically died in a car accident in February of 2010 at the age of 21. He helped create the You Can Play Project, website here. I recommend everyone look at this website, and perhaps donate to as good a cause as any.
Her husband had stood up and was preparing to defend his wife by heading to back end of the bus to begin a fight with people who were 50 years younger. A Leaf fan, who was thankfully not morally corrupt, stopped him and yelled to the back of the bus a couple obscenities, asking them to stop, proudly representing his Kessel jersey on his back.
He got a nice “if you’re not going to stick by the Leafs then take that jersey off!”, a hilarious statement.
The bus ride finally came to a stop after a couple fights almost ensued. I realized when I had gotten off the bus that the two maniacs who were making all the commotion were staying in my hotel and I held the door for them as they walked through and got a “thanks buddy” as they walked past. I did this not as a sign of respect or forgiveness but to make them feel like horrible humans. I go by the cliche saying that is “killing people with kindness”. Words I try to live by.
Ottawa and Toronto have a rich history of hard fought playoff battles but those days have since fizzled out.
On Saturday, April 20th, 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff spot. They did this in a game against Ottawa in Ottawa. The game was the last of the season between these two and had a 4-1 final score.
I speak for not only Senator fans, but fans of hockey in general when I say congratulations to Toronto. Though, it’s true some horrible experiences have come at the hands of Leafs Nation, but they’re a team who deserves to have made the playoffs at least once in the last 9 years. Ownership that could care less about on ice product has made it hard to create a winning team and atmosphere but I think they’ve finally done something right.
Nazem Kadri is hitting his stride this year, Phil Kessel has finally learned to pass, and their supporting cast hasn’t been this deep in recent memory.
Though, not built for a long run in the playoffs, you never know what can happen and no one should ever be surprised to see a team like this go deep. See 2012 Stanley Cup winner, the LA Kings.
Like I previously noted, most Leaf fans are great people and every fanbase has fans that they wish they didn’t. The Toronto Maple Leafs have an enormous fanbase so they have a good amount of terrible fans, more than any other.
I can’t speak for everyone, but this avid hockey fan is very proud in what the Leafs have accomplished, and wish them a long playoffs, and a bright future, when not playing the Senators. I know most true hockey fans can agree.
This is a mini documentary about the rivalry that takes place in the stands. Very well done. Recommend all hockey fans watch to get a visual of what being a Senators fan is like when attending these games; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FNPqzymadU