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.