PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) —Philadelphia and Pittsburgh share the same state, the same blue-collar grit that is established through fighting, and come Wednesday evening, they will share the same ice as they quest for the same vision of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Sidney Crosby saw Jakub Voracek’s glove on the ice and wasn’t going to let his opponent pick it up easily.
Crosby pushed the glove away with his stick and reignited a melee in a good, old-fashioned Pittsburgh-Philadelphia playoff game that featured three fights, way more scrums and 158 penalty minutes. When Crosby was asked afterward why he did it, the Penguins captain responded: “I don’t like them. I don’t like any guy on their team.”
Those were the days.
“It was awesome,” then-Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. “If you look at it, it was wild. It really was. You had villains on both sides and people that hated each other.”
That was six years ago. Is a rivalry still a rivalry in a league that has made a concerted effort against over-the-top hits and where fighting is truly a rare sight?
NHL executive Colin Campbell once famously said the league sells hate, and at no time is hate more widely bought, sold, distributed and celebrated than during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The NHL’s divisional playoff format was brought back specifically to ignite old rivalries and create new ones, which has been a successful venture even if hate looks different than it did in the days of the “Broad Street Bullies.” Playoff rivalries are no longer about dropping the gloves or laying out bone-crushing hits.
Teams now play fewer regular-season games against each other and are made up of more skilled players and fewer enforcers. Still, thanks to how tight the league is and the volcanic snowball effect of what a playoff series does to hockey players and coaches, rivalries might have a different look but they have plenty of smoldering intensity.
“Playing against teams with high stakes when there’s a lot on the line — win or go home — that’s how you have rivalries,” veteran New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle said. “When it’s us or it’s them, that’s how you find those rivalries. The same guys for two weeks, I think that’s how you build them.”
The first round in the Eastern Conference this year already has two old-school rivalries with the Penguins and Flyers meeting in the playoffs for the first time since their epic 2012 showdown.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)