Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Top 10 Dumbest Moments in the Battle of Ontario

On Saturday, the Leafs and Senators will end their seasons with a head-to-head matchup. The game will feature a pair of terrible teams, little or no intensity, and two fan bases who will be secretly hoping their team loses for a better draft spot.

What better way to end another installment of the most over-rated rivalry in hockey?

While any fan can see that the Battle of Ontario is dying, the truth is that it was never much to get excited over in the first place. The Sens always win in the regular season, the Leafs always win in the playoffs, and every incident that showed the slightest hint of bad blood was immediately ruined by horrified cries for everyone involved to be suspended.

The rivalry has featured a handful of legitimately memorable moments, such as Alfredsson's hit from behind, a pair of game sevens, and Gary Roberts killing and eating anyone who looked at him sideways. But the honest truth is that it's been much more likely to feature cringe-inducing moments of embarrassment and stupidity.

While it took some work, I've managed to narrow the list down to a top ten. So here they are, the Dumbest Moments in the History of the Battle of Ontario.

#10 - McCabe vs. Chara

Sens fans are unanimous in their love for the famous Youtube clip of the massive Zdeno Chara rag-dolling a helpless Bryan McCabe. It's basically their "All Heart" video. And let's face it, Leaf fans started to enjoy it too once they turned on McCabe in recent years. In fact, it's quite possible that this is the most famous one-on-one fight in Battle of Ontario history.

Here's the problem: it was pretty much the worst fight ever. Nobody threw a punch. The referees didn't even hand out fighting majors. And while people forget this now, Chara ended up missing time because he wrenched his back flinging McCabe around.

That's right, the most famous fight in this so-called rivalry involved no punches, and the guy who won hurt himself. Ladies and gentlemen, the Battle of Ontario!

#9 - The jersey bylaw

Frustrated with the way that Toronto fans continually took over the building every time the Leafs came to town to play the Senators, Ottawa city council passed a bylaw in 2004 that banned the wearing of Maple Leafs jerseys at the Corel Center. That would be one of the funniest lines I've ever written, except that it's true.

While the rule was meant to be "tongue-in-cheek", Ottawa city council still took the time to make it an official order. Leaf fans who wore their jerseys to the game would be "fined" a canned food donation, with proceeds going to the Ottawa food bank.

Toronto city council considered passing a retaliatory motion that would similarly fine anyone wearing a Senators jersey at the ACC, before realizing that the Toronto food back didn't really need three cans of food.

Instead, the Maple Leafs themselves stepped up with a $5,000 donation to the Ottawa food bank, and invited the Senators to match that with a donation of their own to the Toronto food bank. Nobody can find any evidence that the Senators ever did.

#8 - Every regular season game between 2002 and 2007

There were two things you could count on every single time the Leafs and Senators played each other during this stretch: The Senators would win 8-1, and every Senator fan would immediately declare that this meaningless regular season win made up for all the playoff losses.

The only exception to this rule was the opening game of the 2005 season, when in an act of abject cruelty the Senators intentionally let the game stay tied so that Leaf fans would be forced to watch Jason Allison's shootout attempt.

#7 - Tucker vs. Eaves

In October 2006, midway through one of those Senator blowout victories, Darcy Tucker got into a fight with Patrick Eaves. While Eaves wasn't much of a fighter, he did his best. In the end he ate a few rights, shrugged his shoulders and skated to the penalty box.

End of story? No, of course not, because this is the Battle of Ontario and every minor scuffle has to result in the Senators calling for a suspension. So Ottawa fans, coaches and media spent two days sobbing about how awful it was for Tucker to pick on a poor defenseless player who, after all, was only two inches and fifteen pounds bigger than him.

The Senators, most notably Chris Neil, spent the next 48 hours telling any reporter within earshot that Eaves would be avenged. In doing so, Neil repeatedly reminded everyone of how badly Eaves had been pummelled. Sure, by the end of it Eaves looked like he wanted to hang himself, but it made Chris Neil look good and that was really the entire point all along.

When the teams met for the highly anticipated rematch two night later, Neil lined up across from Tucker on the opening faceoff, leaned in and ... said something to him.

That's it. That's the end of the story.

Nothing else happened the rest of the game. After two days of swearing revenge into any TV camera he could find, Chris Neil gave Darcy Tucker a stern talking to and then called it a night.

Word is that if that hadn't worked, the Sens were going to have Brian McGrattan write Tucker a strongly worded letter.

#6 - Cory Cross scoring an overtime goal

When Cory Cross is scoring overtime goals, your rivalry sucks.

#5 - "We're Gonna Kill 'Em!"

In 2004, the Leafs and Senators were set to meet in a deciding game seven. With tensions high and nationwide media attention focused on the series, rookie Senators owner Eugene Melnyk decided it would be a great idea to publicly guarantee an easy win.

"We're going to kill 'em," Melnyk told the Toronto Star. "We're going to go in there and beat them on their own ice in front of their fans!"

Now, it was one thing when Daniel Alfredsson guaranteed that the Sens would win the series after a game five loss. After all, Alfredsson made guarantees that didn't come true all the time. And at least he was a player, meaning he could have some impact on the game's outcome. (He didn't, of course, because it was a game seven and he's a Senator. But he theoretically could have.)

Melnyk was different. Here was some guy in a suit running his mouth in a cheap bid for media attention. What did he think he was, an Ottawa city councillor?

After the Leafs were done curb-stomping the Senators in game seven, Tie Domi thanked for Melnyk for providing the Leafs with extra motivation. For his part, Melnyk learned a valuable lesson and didn't get into any more trouble for advocating killing until this year, when he suggested that any Sens fan who was unhappy with the team's miserable season should strap a bomb to themselves.

#4 - Domi vs. Arverdson

In a late season game in 2003, Tie Domi became involved in an altercation with the Sens' Magnus Arverdson. A frustrated Domi eventually punched Arverdson in the face with a gloved hand, at which point Daniel Alfredsson attempted to swing his stick like a baseball bat at Domi's head.

Hey, I'll bet you can't guess which one of them got suspended!

The league banned Domi for three games, largely based on the news that Arverdson had been diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose. After the suspension was announced Arverdson miraculously recovered and played in the Senators' next game without any facial protection, while everyone agreed to just never mention his "injuries" ever again.

This incident is notable for two things: it happened in the same game that saw Darcy Tucker dive into the Sens bench (a moment that will not make this list because, well, it was awesome), and it resulted in one of the great Nick Kypreos moments of all-time:

#3 - Joseph vs. McGeough

The Leafs and Senators met for the first time in the playoffs in 2000. After the Leafs won the first two games at home, the series shifted to Ottawa.

With five minutes left in a tight game, the Senators scored a goal on a play which saw Daniel Alfredsson appear to trip up Curtis Joseph. Referee Mick McGeough correctly ruled that because it was the post-season Alfredsson could cheat as much as he wanted to without being called, and the goal stood.

An incensed Joseph charged into the corner to argue but lost his balance and crashed to the ice instead, taking McGeough down with him. The collision was clearly accidental and, it goes without saying, completely hysterical -- especially the part where Joseph has to stop to ask if McGeough is OK before half-heartedly resuming his tirade.

How did Sens fans react? Say it with me, children: by calling for a suspension!

Even though McGeough himself said the collision was accidental and the league took no action, Sens fans insist to this day that Joseph "attacked" McGeough. The reality, of course, is Joseph didn't attack anything other his own dignity by proving that he couldn't skate fifteen feet without falling all over himself.

#2 - Chiarelli vs. Neale & Cole

If you live outside of Ottawa then it goes without saying that you've never heard of Bob Chiarelli, but he was the mayor of Ottawa for ten years. As far as spotlight-hogging mayors go, Chiarelli could best be described as "Mel Lastman without the charisma". And like everyone who lives in Ottawa, he spent most of his time unsuccessfully trying to get people in Toronto to notice him.

In 2001, the CBC assigned Bob Cole and Harry Neale to call the Leafs/Sens series. Aware that Ottawa fans hate Bob Cole, and realizing that a playoff series against Toronto meant that somebody might actually pay attention to the Senators for once, Chiarelli decided to make himself the story.

Chiarelli went to the local media and announced that Cole and Neale were "Maple Leaf homers". The idea was apparently that Chiarelli would earn some local brownie points and a little national attention, Cole and Neale would play along, and eventually both sides would bury the hatchet at around the same time that the heavily favored Sens wrapped up the series.

Instead, Neale's public response to Chiarelli was, and this a real quote: "Take a big bite out of my ass". This made for the second best soundbite in Battle of Ontario history, trailing "boo hoo" but coming in slightly ahead of "there were a couple of purse-swingings". And then the Leafs swept Ottawa.

Bob Chiarelli has literally never been heard from again.

#1 - The Stick Throw

It takes a really dumb moment to be the dumbest in the entire history of this dumb rivalry. And good god, this moment was dumb.

Midway through the 2004 season, Leafs captain Mats Sundin was suspended one game for throwing a broken stick into the stands. He missed a game against Ottawa, and during that game Daniel Alfredsson famously mocked Sundin when his own stick broke by pretending to throw it into the stands before dropping it on the ice instead.

If you read that paragraph and thought to yourself "That sounds unbelievably boring", then you're apparently not a Toronto or Ottawa fan. No, to the average Leafs and Sens fans, the series of events I just described are the most controversial thing that has ever happened.

Leaf fans were outraged that Alfredsson would dare mock to Sundin. Ignoring the fact that it was a joke, a playful jab from one friend at another, Leaf fans have booed Alfredsson every time he's touched the puck ever since. (Note: Leaf fans now pretend that booing Alfredsson started after his hit from behind on Tucker in the 2002 playoffs. They're lying.)

For their part, Ottawa fans defended Alfredsson. They were right to do so, but since this involves the Leafs, Sens fans had to go completely overboard. To this day, every Ottawa Senators fan insists that Alfredsson's fake stick throw is the funniest thing that anyone has ever done, ever. Not just in hockey -- anywhere. If you ask a Senators fans to create a Mount Rushmore of comic genius, it will include George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Daniel Alfredsson pretending to throw his broken stick.

Seriously, the next time you find yourself talking to a Leafs fan and a Sens fan at the same time, casually mention the Alfredsson stick throw. The Leafs fan will start ranting like Christian Bale, while the Sens fan immediately starts fake-laughing like Arsenio Hall circa 1991.

At that point, you have my permission to pull out a gun and shoot both of them.

Honorable mentions: Tom Barasso swearing live on Hockey Night in Canada, Domi vs McGrattan, Ron Wilson calling for a stick measurement, the Flu Game, the "Dandyman" getting fired for making jokes about spousal abuse, Pat Quinn pretending he didn't know the names of any Senator players, "if Tie Domi had better balance we'd have won".

If I missed any, it's probably because I've blocked them out. Let me know if the comments and I'll add them.


  1. First thing that caught my eye in the Domi-Arverdson clip, watch the ticker at the bottom, Jerry Rice signed to Oakland... *shudder*

  2. I remember all of these incidents like it was yesterday. I'm so furiously apathetic about it I could just go about my business. All these points being made, what, in your mind, is the "best" Leafs rivalry? Montreal, Bruins? I do find that the Sens and Detroit have equally reputable fans. But the Norris division was a long time ago now.

  3. I have to agree with you DGB, the "Battle of Ontario" has become pretty lame. It was pretty much made up by the media anyway. People forget the rivalries that existed when the same teams would meet in the playoffs year after year. There isn't a rivalry in the game today that matches some of the classics from the 80's, like Montreal/Quebec, Montreal/Boston, Toronto/Detroit, Edmonton/Calgary etc. I'm afraid that until the league goes back to divisional playoff series, we won't see rivalries like that again.
    As for the list of dumbest moments, add an honourable mention to the Ottawa Senators for moving most of their home games vs the Leafs to mid-week, in the lame hope that Leaf fans wouldn't be able to make it to the games.

  4. One that deserves to be mentioned (and that Deano touched upon), is the reaction of Sens fans when the Leafs fans go into Scotiabank Place and drown them out. Listening to the Team 1200 the day after a Leafs-Sens game, all you hear about is the "classless" Leafs fans who dared to support their team, and the fact they chant for their team too loud.

    I'm not a Leafs fan at all, but I've always appreciated the fact you guys support the team, no matter where they are in the standings (that, and the fact you don't need a "make some noise" sign on the Jumbotron to get the crowd to cheer, unlike in Sens nation).

    I also think Dandyman deserves to be on the list, and more than an honourable mention.

  5. What is the "Pat Quinn pretending he didn't know the names of any Senator players" line? I'd love to hear that one.

  6. @Mike Harrop

    It wasn't one line, he would do it after just about every game towards the end. He'd refer to guys like Hossa and even Alfredsson as "that kid" or "that guy".

    It drove the Ottawa media guys crazy, which of course was Quinn's whole point.

  7. Very, very slick of you, DGB. Just a few short minutes ago, my reaction to the BSBoO was, meh, whatever.
    Now that my memory is churning over these episodes, especially having lived in the Ottawa broadcast area for most of them, I'm rapidly remembering just how much I detest the Sens, their media, and especially their fantastically ignorant fans. And I'm laughing a little at how righteously furious my brothers and I would get watching some of these games- I thought for sure my "violent tendencies" little brother was going to kill a co-worker who was a Sens fan.
    Hats off to you, sir! :)

  8. Wow. What a post. The jersey by-law could've been higher up based on stupidity but it's not so much funny, just sad.

    Your take on the stick incident is awesome.

  9. (Note: Leaf fans now pretend that booing Alfredsson started after his hit from behind on Tucker in the 2002 playoffs. They're lying.)

    Really? Because I remember it being because of that. Either way, I stopped booing Alfredsson when Mark Bell channelled all of Leaf Nations hatred (for whatever reason) into one devastating clean hit that left the sens, as you put it, checking to see if their laces were tied properly.

    "if Tie Domi had better balance we'd have won".

    All-time greatest cop out from a fucking captain.

  10. The Cory Cross goal was memorable as it got me out of a math quiz by my Leafs fan teacher that I most surely would have failed. Said teacher also had a miserable attempt at playoff beard, bore a strong resemblance to Emilio Estevan and claimed to be mistaken for Coach Bombay at one point, and pronounced 'peanuts' strangely, which caused a whole classroom full of 17-year olds to think he said someone was 'allergic to penis'.

    Oh, and I think an honourable mention should go to the guy who showed up at (I think) game 3 of the Cup Finals in the front row at Scotiabank Place in a Leafs sweater.

  11. 'Estevan'? Son of Martin Sheev, I guess.

  12. Best. Post. Ever.

    Is there an echo in here?

  13. I HATE the Ottawa Senators more than anything in life (followed closely by the Habs), and I can always tell if someone is a serious fan by asking them why we boo Alfredsson. If they mention the stick bullshit, then I dismiss them as fairweather fans who only listen to the media. EVERYONE knows it's all about the hit from behind from Tucker, followed by him bitching about Domi staying on his feet as PPP said.

    This whole post just makes me hate them even more.

  14. Hey Down Goes Brown, this is a really great top ten list. You have some really great analysis and the videos make it complete. I really enjoyed reading and watching it. You can post this to our site and then link back to your site. We are looking for top ten lists and our users can track back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

  15. To me it was never so much a rivalry as a team who that I could not stand in any way shape or form.
    For instance, I hate cockroaches but I would never consider me and them to have a "rivalry"

  16. I always boo Alfredsson because I hate his stupid prop humour.

    Wait a minute.... that's Carrot Top.

  17. Out of curiosity, is Bob Chiarelli any relation to former Sens GM Peter Chiarelli?

  18. Out of curiosity, is Bob Chiarelli any relation to former Sens GM Peter Chiarelli?

    Yes, Bob's his uncle.

  19. The "if Tie Domi had better balance" line would have been a worthy entrant on the list, just because of how completely unaccountable it was (and the fact that the Leafs got a minor penalty in the middle of that major).

    I do disagree with the Flu Game making honourable mention, though. That was, in fact, awesome. I was working late and had taped that game but overheard somebody saying that the Leafs won on my way home...when fast-forwarding through the game and seeing Ottawa up 4-0, you can imagine my anticipation to watch the rest of the game. It was like Christmas morning.

    Also, isn't "Boo Hoo" in response to the Flu Game?

  20. @Varry Galk

    The Flu Game was almost so dumb that it circled all the way around and became awesome, if that makes sense.

    And yes, "boo hoo" was from the flu game. Probably the only good thing Owen Nolan ever did for the Leafs.

  21. Oh man, the flu game. I almost forgot about that shit. What an epic contest.

  22. What's the flu game?

    An epic regular season game in 2003 or 2004. Both teams had a bad case of the flu, especially Ottawa. The Sens jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but then players started getting sick. Players were literally playing a shift, then running to the dressing room to do some business, then coming back out to play again.

    By the end of the game, the Sens had something like ten players left. The Leafs came back in the third period and won the game in overtime on an Owen Nolan goal.

    Afterwards, a reporter asked Nolan if he felt bad for Ottawa since the whole team was so sick, and he responded with the infamous "boo hoo".

  23. lol! Svehla and his 67 jersey! totally forgot about that one. classic!

  24. To be fair who isnt two inches and 15 pounds bigger than Darcy Tucker.

  25. "every incident that showed the slightest hint of bad blood was immediately ruined by horrified cries for everyone involved to be suspended"

    This blog aside, following hockey before the age of the internet was a lot less stressful. I'm sure just as many whining crybaby idiots harbored their ass-hat opinions back then, but these days I have to actually sort through them whenever I access message boards, youtube or tsn.

    Extra kudos for not turning a blind eye to Leaf fans in this post. The majority of them more than rival Sens fans for utter failure.

  26. This is terrible. I know it makes sense geographically, and the Leafs have a much more sensible travel schedule in the East, but you guys need to come back to the Western Conference, the Central Division in particular.

    Seriously, I grew up watching the Leafs and Hawks kill each other, and I miss it terribly. Come on back and we'll reform the Norris. We can even get the Wild into the Division, if they'll promise to dump that stupid trap.

  27. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Battle of Ontario!"

    bill simmons reference?

    Your blog is hilarious man, don't ever got "too busy" and not update.

  28. @CT

    Seriously, I grew up watching the Leafs and Hawks kill each other, and I miss it terribly. Come on back and we'll reform the Norris.

    Oh man, I wish. Bring Grimson with you.

    We could go back to this.

  29. i was just over on a sens fan site linked from PPP, the things that those fans find funny is bordering on pathetic, i think the battle of ontario is more of a sens thing. Leafs fans are generally more concerned with montreal, boston and signing Marius Czerkawski

  30. How about when the Sens were about to start their playoff series against the Pens either last year or the year before, and during the pregame show, there was a wide shot of Scotiabank Place (and the lifeless void that surrounds it), when a couple of guys in Sens jerseys ran up and started yelling into the camera: "Suck it Leafs! Go Sens! Leafs suck!", apparently not knowing what game they had actually purchased tickets for.

  31. Well played.

    Joseph versus McGeough was hilarious. I remember when that goal went in my reaction went from BULLSHIT to YELL AT THE REF to OH HOW EMBARRASSING withing approximately 5 seconds.

    Just hilarious. As were the Sens fans I know that tried to portray it as though a leaf player hit a ref in the knee with a lead pipe.

    And the stick toss is another classic. One the reasons I'm most happy we no longer have Sundin is that it now might be possible to get away from the constant inane Alfie/Sundin comparisons.

    Alfie pantomiming the stick toss was funny. But not that funny. And to this day, it's hard to find a Leaf fan who doesn't describe that as a "classless" act, or a Sens fan who doesn't think it belongs up there with Monty Python-level deep-fried comedic gold.

  32. Thanks for the post DGB. Another great one as always. Did anyone notice who the defense pairing was during the Joseph - McGeough incident? It consisted of Cory Cross and Gerald Diduck. Epic, truly epic.

  33. It's amazing how many players get ground through the mill in professional sports. I forgot all about Gerald Diduck, but remember the game "vividly"(well, at least the incident). How can you forget Cory Cross, though? Makes Jason Alison look like he's skating like Pavel Bure.

  34. who was the Dandyman? whatd he say?

    1. Dandyman was basically Ottawa's radio version of Don Cherry, except less intelligent and insightful.

      One show, he basically said that Tie Domi practiced his left hooks on his wife. When his co-host tried to get him to back away, he said it again. It got back to Tie, he threatened to sue, and the radio station fired him.

      It was the greatest thing Tie ever did for Ottawa. Dandyman was absolutely unlistenable

  35. "You can't beat us in the playoffs"
    "You can't do anything after you beat us in the playoffs!"

    Non-Sens and Non-Leafs fan

  36. Darcy Tucker claiming to be spit at.

  37. My favorite series was 2001. The Leafs weren't even supposed to make it out of that one alive. Remember who swept who? Oh well, another day in the life of Canada's most deeply loved and bitterly hated professional sports team. The LEAFS.

  38. Yes, and we all remember last season. Very impressive.

  39. This article doesn't seem like what it's supposed to be. I think it ended up being the writer taking a dumb situation and pointing out all the things Ottawa did wrong. I'm a Sens fan and I know they've done some dumb stuff but maybe you should point out some of the many dumb things the Leafs have done. Fuck you

  40. ^^Being this buttmad ГOГ¡¡ ^^

  41. The Leafs and their 9 year play-off drought was funnier then anything mentioned in this article.

  42. Bob cole sucks kessel's one remaining nut

    Some people still can't deal with an article back from 2009

  44. Sens fans call for DGB to be suspended following this article! :-P

  45. As someone who grew up in a small town near Ottawa, and who doesn't really like the leafs, and will somewhat cheer for the Sens, but isn't really a fan, my thought, as I lived through all this nonsense and the bickering of the fans was that Ottawa and their fans were desperately trying to gain some attention and legitimacy, and the leafs, well, the leafs employed Domi, Tucker, and Green, all at the same time, so the IQ level was pretty low, and they were as easy to hate as just about any team in history, including the Broad Street Bullies. You can't have three chumps like that on your team and not expect that people are going to think less of you.

    1. And your point?

      Hate whatever team you want - it's a free country.

      Still doesn't take away the silliness from both sides as the guy described (YES, he covered silliness on BOTH sides, your fanboi-ness is clouding you vision). So now you are getting people who are still butt-hurt after all these years complaining of biased coverage?

      Let me guess: Fair is only when you deem it to be so. "I'll know it when I see it!" right?