For nearly a century, we have seen the sometimes friendly-sometimes embittered pathos that comes from the decades of Bruins and Canadiens rivalry. There are no two hockey teams in the whole entirety of professional hockey history who have faced off more often. As of New Year’s Day this year, the Winter Classic marked the 910th time that both Original Six teams have skated together. That is a lot of teams yelling, and supporting, and having hearts broken at the hands of the same team, over and over again.
The start was the 1929-30 season. The Boston Bruins, at the time, had the best winning percentage in the young league. The center at the time, Cooney Weiland, was a powerhouse scoring 43 goals in 44 games in that season. It was looking like the Bruins were a sure bet for the Stanley Cup, no questions asked. Then came the Canadiens, who overtook the Bruins, winning two to zero. This upset is that match that ignited the most passionate, longest running NHL rivalry.
For years, player join the teams knowing the importance of beating the rivals. And the scales of power and dominance have continued to tip between the two teams. Until 1986 the Candiens dominated not just the Bruins, but the entire league. They won 18 consecutive playoff series against the Bruins, winning 18 Stanley Cups. “I hated Montreal growing up because they kicked our asses throughout the entirety of the ’70s and well into the ’80s,” said Brian McGonagle, who has been a credentialed Bruins reporter for Barstool Sports Boston since 2010-11. “They were just so goddamn stacked … The B’s were always a notch or two below.”
But then in the late eighties, the Bruins pulled it out and started winning again. At one point the Bruins won four out of five playoff series, and that’s when the Montreal side of the rivalry truly began. After so much constant domination, the Canadiens didn’t fear anyone. Suddenly the bruins not only posed a threat, but took over entirely.
In recent years, social media and the internet have exacerbated the issue, making it easier to rile people up outside the rink. And while the respect is there on both sides, there is a very definite contrast in play style and mentality. The Bruins are bruisers, who get in there is rough it up. The Canadiens tend to dance lightly across the ice, darting quickly in and out. This can perpetuate stereotypes of big, slow American bullies versus antsy players that would rather fall from a phantom hit than take a real one.
That hockey is a Canadian sport doesn’t help, either. There is a sense on both sides of knowing which way is the right way to play. The contrasting styles of playing only add to what all adds up to a great rivalry.
While it may seem like a fierce and aggressive competition sometimes, there is nothing but great respect from players on both sides. Of course, we all know which side I root for.