Toronto Maple Leafs-Ottawa Senators Rivalry
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs
Ottawa Senators
Maple Leafs Stanley Cups: 13
Senators Stanley Cups: 0
Playoff Meetings: 4 (since 1992)
Maple Leafs Playoff Series Wins: 4
Senators Playoff Series Wins: 0
Maple Leafs Hall of Fame Members: 56
Senators Hall of Fame Members: 1
Last Senators Championship: N/A

History - Cultural Comparison - Playoff Record - Gallery of Images - Main Discussion

  1. Johnny
  2. The Toronto Maple Leafs-Ottawa Senators rivalry, also known as the Battle of Ontario, is one of the most bitter rivalries currently in the National Hockey League. The two teams compete for the large hockey fanbase of Ontario, and are known to have very divided sets of fans. The two teams compete within the Northeast Division of the NHL, and meet frequently during the regular season and playoffs.

History[edit | edit source]

Early history[edit | edit source]

Modern Era[edit | edit source]

The modern Senators entered the NHL as an expansion team in 1992, but the rivalry between the two teams did not begin to emerge until the latter half of the decade. From 1992 to 1998, Toronto was in the league's Clarence Campbell/Western Conference and Ottawa was in the Prince of Wales/Eastern Conference, which meant that the two teams rarely played each other. However, 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, Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and Buffalo Sabres.

By 1999, both Ottawa and Toronto were elite Eastern Conference teams, annually competing for the division title. Not all Maple Leafs fans in the Ottawa area became Senators fans upon the revival of the Ottawa NHL franchise. This has resulted in a base of Maple Leafs fans who attend Leafs-Senators games in Ottawa.

In 2000, the teams met for the first time in the playoffs, with the Maple Leafs (Northeast Division winners that year) dispatching the Senators in six games. Some Maple Leafs fans saw this as revenge, as Senators Marian Hossa had accidentally clipped the Maple Leafs' defencemen Bryan Berard in the eye on March 11, nearly ending the young players's season and almost his career.

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. Ottawa did not score their first goal of the series until 16:51 of the third period in the third game.

In 2002, the teams met in the playoffs for the third straight year. The two teams were very evenly matched, and the Maple Leafs, despite missing several key players, managed to win the second-round series in the full seven games and advance to the conference finals. One incident happened late in game five when Senators 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. Tucker suffered an injury on the play, and Alfredsson was not penalized or suspended for it. This began the ongoing Toronto fans' booing of Alfredsson. Tucker had gotten his share of hatred in the first round against the New York Islanders when he wasn't penalized for a hit that dislocated the right knee of the Islanders' Michael Peca. That play, despite no punishment for Tucker, was still included in a video of "unacceptable plays" that the NHL sent to all its teams.

In 2003, the rivalry hit an all-time high when Tucker attacked the Senators' Chris Neil, who was sitting on the bench. Neil started punching Tucker back, which caused Tucker to then attack Shane Hnidy, as Hnidy had started beating on Tucker as well. This resulted in numerous players exchanging punches before order was restored. Tucker, Neil and 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 denies. The NHL board looked into this claim and concluded that Neil did not do this. 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. The 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, despite the Senators finishing at the top of the NHL.

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 Maple 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. 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 badly, by a score of 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 in both Toronto and Ottawa.

Ottawa and Toronto matched up in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years in 2004. Alfredsson guaranteed a victory after the Leafs took game 5. He delivered on his promise in game 6, but the Sens turned in a lackluster performance in the series finale. As was the case each time prior, the Maple Leafs beat the Senators in the series. Senators goalie Patrick Lalime was traded to the St. Louis Blues after the NHL lockout. Ottawa coach Jacques Martin was fired after the series.

Post-Lockout Era[edit | edit source]

In 2006, 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. The Senators largely dominated the season series by winning 7 of the 8 games, including 3 routs of 8–0, 8–2, and 7–0, which may have been the main catalyst for the Maple Leafs' failure to make the post-season.

In 2007, the Leafs nearly qualified for the playoffs again, but finished in ninth position, and thereby missing out for a second consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Senators made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to champion Anaheim Ducks.

The 2007-08 season was characterized by a share of lopsided victories by the two teams against each other. The Maple Leafs failed to make the playoffs for the third straight season, this time by 11 points. Ottawa had also been struggling going into the post-season, finishing in 7th place in the East despite a 15–2 start and leading the league at one point. However, the Senators barely made it into the playoffs, and were swept 4–0 in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in a rematch of the previous year's series. Although Pittsburgh was heavily favoured to win, the fact that the Maple 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.

Cultural Comparison[edit | edit source]

Category Toronto Ottawa
Population 2,503,281 812,129
Founded 1793 1850
Pro sports teams 6 1
Universities 8 4
~131,700 (2.4/100 residents) ~52,000 (6.4/100 residents)

Playoff Record[edit | edit source]

     Maple Leafs      Senators

Season Round Result
1999-00 Conference Quarterfinal Toronto 4-2
2000-01 Conference Quarterfinal Toronto 4-0
2001-02 Conference Semifinal Toronto 4-3
2003-04 Conference Quarterfinal Toronto 4-3
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.