Like many sports, the NHL has some great rivalries; the Penguins and Flyers for example. The Islanders and Rangers, the Flames and the Oilers, Red Wings and Avalanche, all three Californian teams… Rivalries are formed for lots of reasons, many are down to geography, relative successes or because Claude Lemieux sucker-punched Slava Kozlov. Whether formed on the ice, or by broadcasters looking to add some tension, rivalries have become part of the sporting landscape. Rivalries are of course deeply personal, so I’m going to explore some of these across the different sports teams I follow.
Hockey: Detroit Red Wings & Colorado Avalanche
In the mid 1990s, the rivalry between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche was one of the most heated in sport and even made waves outside of hockey circles. As a European whose entire hockey world consisted of the Northern Premier League (those were the days), news about massive brawls cemented my already blossoming love for the Red Wings as well as my hatred for the Avs. That was 20 years ago though, and while feelings in the locker rooms are always a bit different when the two teams meet, is there still a legitimate rivalry?
Yes and no. Back in the day, the Avs and Wings were great teams and the games mattered, both teams shared a conference and were both vying for the Stanley cup. It’s been a decade since the Red Wings had any success, and even longer for the Avs. When it comes to recent Stanley Cup conversations, neither team is relevant (although Colorado are starting to look competitive). Of course no team wants to drop points, but games between the two don’t matter as much as they used to. The banter is still there, and many of us have fallen foul of one of Carl’s game-day bets:
3 weeks ago, the Detroit Red Wings played the Colorado Avalanche. My good friend @CarlLandra and I made a bet. Losing team would have to wear the winning team’s jersey for a whole day. So if you see this Duchene jersey downtown Toronto today, say hi!@4thLinePodcast pic.twitter.com/SR4lrcmDQV
— Nick (@nickseguin19) April 7, 2018
Full respect to friend of the show Nick for doing that. At the height of the rivalry Nick’s forfeit would have seen him on the receiving end of a Darren McCarty like beating, but the fierce animosity between fans of both teams has gone, replaced by good-hearted humour, mostly.
Football: Detroit Lions & Green Bay Packers
The rivalry between the Lions and the Packers is one of the oldest in the NFL. The two teams first met in the early 1930s and have been division rivals for just as long. In that time the Packers have won dozens of titles, including two Super Bowl trophies. My Lions on the other hand, have won just two division championships in my lifetime (and not much else before then). The Detroit Lions are the only team to play for the entire Super Bowl era without ever making the final.
The Packers are by no means the Lions’ only foes. Detroit has had rivalries with the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns too. The Bears are division rivals although the rivalry with the Browns is primarily to do with the teams’ preseasons games and is known as the ‘Great Lakes Classic’ and has one of the worst trophies in sport.
The Packers are definitely rivals, but at the same time, it’s hard to hate on a team as good as Green Bay. Of course a win over fellow NFC North teams feels good, but the Packers are a good team and you have to respect that. Aaron Rodgers is one of the quarterbacks in the league, and he’s surrounded by talent. Some teams make it way too easy hate but Green Bay is a city with a population of about 17 people, yet the team has a great fanbase. You don’t generally choose which team to follow, and my heart is firmly in Detroit, but if it wasn’t, I’d probably be a Packers fan. I like green.
Soccer: Newcastle United & Sunderland AFC
History has a large part to play, in the English Premier League one of the biggest rivalries is between Liverpool FC and Manchester United, despite both cities each having two decent (mostly) Premier League teams each. Sure, when Manchester United and Manchester City meet, those games count for bragging rights, but the feelings and emotions are heightened ten-fold when United and Liverpool play. That rivalry stretches back to the industrial revolution and disputes over access to trade. Glasgow’s Old Firm derby in the SPL between Rangers and Celtic is also built on more than just proximity, with Rangers being traditionally a Protestant club, and Celtic Catholic. Both of these rivalries stretch back over a century, but there are plenty of more recent tilts. Let’s just say that soccer rivalries are intense.
The cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, in the North East of England, have hated each-other since the English Civil War and not much has changed in the last 350 years. The Tyne-Wear derby (named for the rivers each city sits on) is infamous and is reputedly more fierce than the Milan Derby. No game elicits as much emotion for fans as the derby, and the two games each season when the teams met were easily the most important two games of the season.
What makes the games so life-or-death for the fans is that neither team is actually that good. The problem with the Premier League is that very few teams ever win it, so for teams like Newcastle and Sunderland who at best are mid-table teams, victory is in the derby is only worth bragging points. The first Tyne-Wear derby was in 1883, and the last was in 2016. This is because unlike in North American where sport where sucking gives you access to the best player in the draft, in if you suck in the football leagues, you get relgated and don’t get to play in that league.
When Newcastle were relegated in 2009, some Sunderland supporting friends of mine popped the champagne. It matters that much. Unfortunately while Newcastle are currently in the top flight, Sunderland aren’t, and probably won’t be for a while. As a Geordie, I’ve been raised to hate Sunderland (and I still do), but I want the team to do well because I miss the derby. My team will likely never win anything of note in my lifetime, but a win over the Mackems is our Champions’ League Trophy. No games matter as much to Newcastle fans as the Tyne-Wear derby. If you’re still unconvinced about how passionate fans get about this tilt? Here’s an upset fan attacking a police horse after the game:
The 4th Line Podcast does not endorse punching horses.