With less than a week to go before the playoffs start, there remains a good possibility that we’re going to see a series between the Maple Leafs and Senators. That would be a great matchup – one of the best possible – and would feature two underdog teams that few expected to be in the playoffs at all.
But more importantly, it would mark the resumption of the Battle of Ontario, the rivalry that dominated the province for a good stretch of the pre-lockout years, and continued to simmer after that even though one of the teams decided not to make the playoffs anymore. It was a great rivalry, one that alternated between dramatic playoff showdowns, legitimate bad blood, and goofy “Wait, did that really just happen?” scenes.
But which Battle of Ontario moment is your favourite? And more importantly, what does that choice say about you as a person? Let’s find out, as we run through 12 of the most memorable moments in the rivalry’s history.
Moment No. 1: Daniel Alfredsson’s hit from behind on Darcy Tucker
A rarely acknowledged fact about the Battle of Ontario is that it didn't always involve all that much bad blood. In 2000 and 2001, the two teams hadn't built up much in the way of animosity, and the matchups felt like more a geographic novelty than a real rivalry. Even the two fan bases largely got along.
But it's not hard to pinpoint the exact moment that changed. It came in the final minutes of game five of the 2002 matchup between the two teams, with both the game and the series knotted at 2–2.
You really couldn't draw up a better playoff controversy. Tucker was a divisive player, beloved as a gritty warrior in Toronto but viewed as a pest and diver by Sens fans. Meanwhile, Alfredsson was considered a virtual saint in Ottawa, but the moment transformed him into the rivalry's arch-villain in the eyes of Leaf fans.
Having Alfredsson escape a penalty for drilling Tucker into the boards was near-perfect; having the Senators' captain score the winning goal seconds later was downright diabolical.
What it says about you: You are a Senators fan, and there's a 90–per cent chance you remember this moment more fondly than your wedding day or the birth of your children.
Moment No. 2: Ricard Persson boards Tie Domi
Domi was front and centre throughout the rivalry's heyday, and normally anything that left him bloodied would be just fine with Ottawa fans. But that wasn't the case in game six of the teams' 2002 second-round matchup, when a hit from behind worked against the Senators just two days after Alfredsson flattened Tucker.
The Senators were looking to close out the series on home ice, and had jumped out to an early 2–0 lead that Leafs coach Pat Quinn later admitted had him worried the final might end up being 10–0. Ottawa fans were already breaking out the mocking "goodbye" chant. That's when Persson decided to drill Domi from behind, cutting the Leafs' enforcer and earning a five-minute major.
The Leafs scored twice on the power play, and went on to win the game 4–3. The two teams headed back to Toronto, where the Senators went out meekly with a 3–0 loss.
The hit led to one of the rivalry's most memorable quotes, when Alfredsson told reporters that they'd be going on to the next round "if Domi had better balance".
What it says about you: You're a Leafs fan, and your life goal is to someday meet Domi and personally thank him for not having better balance.
Moment No. 3 The first shootout
When the NHL emerged from the year-long lockout that killed the 2004–05 season, it was with a full slate of 15 opening-night games on Oct. 5, 2005. But only one, featuring the Leafs and Senators in Toronto, went to a shootout, marking the first time in league history that the tie-breaker gimmick made an appearance.
Alfredsson got the honours of taking the first shot and scoring the first goal. Three current Hall of Famers were involved in Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour and Eric Lindros. Dany Heatley ended it by scoring the first-ever shootout winner. And yet somehow, the most memorable moment from the whole thing has become Jason Allison's slow-motion attempt, which is rumoured to still be going on to this day.
What it says about you: You still think the shootout is cool. Hi there, Mr. Bettman, thanks for reading.