Are the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks Still a Rivalry?


Take a trip with me down memory lane, back to the Stanley Cup playoffs of 2011.  The Vancouver Canucks finished off the Chicago Blackhawks in a thrilling seven game series that eventually ended in overtime off of a Chris Campoli failed clearance and Alex Burrows slapshot that would find its way past Corey Crawford.

This marked the third straight year that Canucks and Hawks met in the playoffs and, at the time, it was considered one of, if not the best, rivalries in the game.  Four years later does either fanbase still harbor any hatred for the other?

The animosity first appeared in a regular season game late in 2009 where, after Dustin Byfuglien took some shots at Robert Luongo, a line brawl broke out.  This would set the scene for the second round of the 2009 playoffs where, after being down 2-1 in the series, the Hawks would eventually take the series in six with Patrick Kane netting a hat trick in the clinching game.

Most Hateful Moment?  Game 2, which saw an unfathomable 102 penalty minutes doled out, featuring 4 game misconducts, 6 roughing calls, and 1 slashing and cross-checking call each.

The following season saw these two teams meet once again in the second round of the 2010 playoffs.  Throughout the series, these teams proved they had little love for each other.  However, the Hawks would again triumph in six on the way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 49 years.  At this point there was little doubt: the Hawks and Canucks had the most intense and competitive rivalry in the sport.

Most Hateful Moment?  Game 3, a game in which the Hawks won 5-2 and featured 56 combined penalty minutes including 3 game misconducts and 3 roughing calls.

Meeting for a third straight time in the 2011 playoffs, the Canucks finally looked poised to vanquish the Blackhawks.  After all, they just won the President’s Trophy and the Hawks, having been decimated by the salary cap, just barely backed into the playoffs as an 8th seed.  It started out just as you’d imagine, with the Canucks dominating and going up 3-0 in a series full of classic moments.  The Blackhawks fought back valiantly and almost completed the greatest comeback of all the time but Roberto Luongo and Alex Burrows made sure the Canucks would finally get past their nemesis.

Most Hateful Moment?  Game 4, though it all started in game 3 when Raffi Torres absolutely crushed Brent Seabrook’s head with a blindside hit and somehow escaped suspension.  Things boiled over in a game 4 that featured 98 penalty minutes, 6 game misconducts, 2 fighting majors, 6 roughing calls, and 2 boarding infractions.  This series truly did not disappoint.

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That was the last time these two teams met in the playoffs.  Even without the benefit of a playoff matchup, they still found a way to rekindle the hatred the following season.

In a late regular season game, Duncan Keith elbowed Daniel Sedin in the head, giving him a concussion and knocking him out of the rest of the regular season and the first few games of the playoffs.  As they were repeat President’s Trophy champions, Canucks fans felt very hard done by Duncan Keith’s elbow and cheated out of another possible Stanley Cup run.

Not to exonerate Duncan Keith in any way, as he has a history of retributory cheap shots, but it was gentle Swede Daniel Sedin who started the encounter, giving Keith a cheap shot of his own.

As the years have passed and many of the major players involved have left, there isn’t as much hatred between the two fan bases.  For the Canucks, Raffi Torres, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Maxim LaPierre, and Tanner Glass have all moved on to other teams.  The only candidate left to really hate is Alex Burrows.  You can hate the Sedins for being awesome and scoring goals on you, but not for being dirty players.

For the Hawks, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Adam Burrish, and Dave Bolland are all gone.  You can still hate Duncan Keith (and Canucks fan assuredly do) and maybe you dislike Patrick Kane’s brash style of play, but it’s tough to hate on guys like Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.

In fact, in the last six games these two teams have played, they have only had a combined 88 penalty minutes.  Compare this to the totals of the 2009 playoffs (220), 2010 playoffs (158) and 2011 playoffs (204) and one can see that the games are much more civil now.

This rivalry will probably end up much the same as the Red Wings – Avalanche rivalry of the late 90s, early 2000s.  As soon as more of the major players leave (Toews, Kane, the Sedins) there really won’t be any reasons left for these two teams to hate each other.

Because this rivalry was never really about the cities or even the teams themselves; it was about the players involved.  It’s easier to respect a team when Raffi Torres isn’t trying to spear everyone in sight.  It’s easier to respect a team when Dave Bolland isn’t yapping about the “Sedin Sisters”.

So, no, there probably isn’t much of a rivalry there anymore, at least not one that truly gets everyone in a frenzy.  But, man, they’ll always have those 3 straight matchups that will be fondly (hatefully) remembered as classics, when two teams were at their best, going blow for blow, truly hating each other with every ounce of their being.  And that’s really what rivalries should be about.