February 7, 2010
Battle of Ontario's 'a terrific rivalry'Maple Leafs and Senators have packed a lot into 100 matchups
The Battle of Ontario only seems like The Hundred Years War, as it reached the 100-game mark on Saturday night.
From their unplanned birth -- they were supposed to be the Hamilton Steelers when the NHL approved a Canadian expansion team with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992-93 -- the Sens took the Argos-Ticats football rivalry and raised it to a new level of ferocity. Up until the lockout, fueled by four playoff meetings in five years, the Battle of Ontario had surpassed the Leafs-Canadiens ancient feud.
"Look at all the incidents that have happened," Leafs radio voice Dennis Beyak said.
"The Mats Sundin-Daniel Alfredsson throw-the-stick in the crowd play, Tie Domi getting hit from behind, leading to a big power-play goal, the Alfredsson-Darcy Tucker situation and Tucker going into the bench in Ottawa.
"There was Curtis Joseph running into referee Mick McGeough in Ottawa where everyone in Ottawa felt Curtis should be suspended, Cory Cross scoring an overtime winner when it looked like Ottawa was coming back in that series, and Leafs players such as Alyn McCauley and Gary Roberts elevating their game whenever they played Ottawa.
"There was the game in Ottawa when Toronto was down a few goals and a bunch of Ottawa guys came down with the flu. They had about seven guys go off the bench sick and Toronto came back and won.
"Then there was an Ottawa game in Toronto when they spanked the Leafs about 8-2. I remember that game, going home on the GO train, a mother and her little son, the only game they were coming to that year and the son was so devastated that they'd been beaten by Ottawa so badly."
After the Maple Leafs had their way with Ottawa the first few years, the Bytowners came back and dominated the regular season. And Alfredsson and Heatley scored at the ACC in the NHL's first shootout game after the labour stoppage, leading to five years of shootout horrors for Toronto. Ottawa has spoiled five straight Toronto home openers in all.
"It's a building (in which) we know we've got to come and be prepared to play," Mike Fisher of the Senators said. "We've had some disappointing losses here at times. Some big wins, too. We feel like the rivalry has been getting better. We've got to be at our best."
The Battle has had its funny moments, too.
"I remember all the people in Ottawa with Sens jerseys one game where Toronto took a 4-1 lead," Beyak recalled. "They peeled them off and had Leafs jerseys underneath.
"All those things add up to a terrific rivalry and a terrific series and hopefully we see it again."
BATTLE OF ONTARIO AT 100
HOW THE SENATORS AND LEAFS STACK UP AGAINST EACH OTHER
REGULAR SEASON (76 GAMES)
Wins Losses Ties OT losses
Ottawa 42 27 3 4
Toronto 31 35 3 7
POSTSEASON (24 GAMES)
Series wins Game wins Goals
Ottawa 0 8 42
Toronto 4 16 57