SUN Hockey Pool

Picking a fight

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

The NHL wanted bad blood, and it's getting it.

Despite numerous, valid complaints about the schedule, there's no disputing the number of disputes that have arisen from eight divisional games a year.

Apparently, familiarity really does breed contempt because rivalries are popping up faster than you can drop a glove.

Everyone knows about the Oilers vs. Flames, Isles vs. Rangers, and Charles Wang vs. credibility, but some of the newer battle lines are every bit as intense.

Here are a few to remember if you subscribe to an NHL TV package:

WASHINGTON vs. ATLANTA: Bob Hartley has a lot of enemies around the NHL. Craig MacTavish joined the club during Hartley's Colorado days and it carried over into the now famous line brawl with Atlanta. Pat Quinn wanted a piece of him after Atlanta ran amok in the waning, brawl-filled moments of a 9-1 Toronto win last year.

Now it's division rival Washington with the hate on after Andy Sutton's cheap shot lit a fire under the final 62 seconds of their last meeting - resulting in five fights, 176 penalty minutes and three suspensions.

With Sutton on one side, Donald Brashear on the other, and four more games left, expect more fireworks, especially since both coaches aren't afraid to play a little dirty. Hartley's track record is well known and after the Sutton elbow, Glen Hanlon put Brashear, Jon Erskine and Matt Bradley out for the ensuing three-on-three, and showed zero remorse after the fines and suspensions.

ANAHEIM vs. PHOENIX: The desert warfare erupted last year when Todd Fedoruk, responding to Denis Gauthier's vicious hit on Joffrey Lupul, knocked Petr Nedved on the IR with a flying elbow. Despite a three-game suspension, he said he'd do it again in a heartbeat: "You have to send a message," said Fedoruk, "that we're not going to stand for it."

Wayne Gretzky, tired of seeing his team pushed around in this West Coast beef, wasn't going to stand for it, either, and added gunslinger Georges Laraque.

When Fedoruk broke his cheekbone in a fight, the Ducks dealt him to Philly and acquired George Parros. Just in case anyone thought cooler heads were prevailing.

PHILLY vs. CROSBY: The Flyers welcomed Sidney Crosby into the NHL last season by breaking three of his teeth with a high stick and publicly accusing him of being a diver and a baby.

The infamous Philly fans, who once booed Santa Claus when he appeared at halftime of an Eagles game, taunt him mercilessly every time he visits.

For some reason it became very personal, very quickly. But Crosby hasn't backed down one bit. He scored the overtime winner in the broken tooth game and feasted on the Flyers ever since, scoring two or more points in six consecutive meetings.

NASHVILLE vs. COLUMBUS: The Preds and Jackets have a nasty little thing going, and have for quite some time. Nobody knows how it started (perhaps it spilled over from Tennessee-Ohio football), but some of the highlights include Jordin Tootoo allegedly biting Tyler Wright, Jamie Allison getting into it with some Columbus fans, who, in turn, stole one of his gloves; and Rick Nash getting in his first NHL fight. Most recently, Jody Shelley called Tootoo a midget.

"I think it started with (GM Doug MacLean) bad-mouthing us, saying how they should be beating us,'' Preds goalie Tomas Vokoun said. "That gives you extra motivation. You want to keep a team like that behind you.''

TAMPA vs. FLORIDA: You might think the NHL's biggest rivalry in Florida is hockey vs. interest in hockey, and to a certain extent that's true, as evidenced by the 4,000 empty seats in Miami the last time they played.

But there are some teeth in the South Florida water. They had a line brawl during a pre-season rookie tournament a few years back, and another game with two separate line brawls. Last Wednesday, there were six fighting majors and a game misconduct, which is pretty good for a one-goal game.


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