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Rivalries Old and New Take Sports Spotlight

May 31, 2013 by Tim


In sports, nothing compares to the intensity of a matchup between heated rivals. The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings series in the second round of the 2013 NHL Playoffs is evidence of just that, as the seven-game tilt between the two longtime adversaries was one of the most exciting in recent memory. If the defining characteristic of a rivalry is its enduring nature, that puts the Hawks-Wings series at the top of the NHL, considering the teams have faced off more than any other in league history. Since first playing in 1926, the teams have met almost 900 times, including 81 playoff games in over 16 series, 9 of which Chicago has won. This famous rivalry possesses all of the ingredients of a great one, including history, geographic proximity, and competitive balance.

While Detroit’s upcoming move to the Eastern Conference will put an end to the incredible divisional and playoff battles that sports fans have grown accustomed to, there are plenty of healthy rivalries still in store, with many set to be renewed across the sports landscape in the weeks to come.

NHL | Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins
The animosity between these two teams dates back to 1980, when the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise irked Boston by deciding to change their official colors to black and gold, the very colors that the Bruins had sported since their inception in 1924. As far as on-ice action, the most memorable battles between the two teams took place in 1991 and 1992, when the teams met in consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, both of which the Penguins won on their way to back-to-back Stanley Cup victories.

One of the Penguins’ key players in those series was Jaromir Jagr, who was among the team leaders in goals both seasons. Now, Jagr—whose photo is framed in the Penguins’ “Ring of Fame” display in the locker room— is a member of the Boston Bruins, the same team that he helped eliminate from the postseason over 20 years ago. The other player who serves as a major point of contention between the teams is Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla, who rejected a midseason trade to Boston, deciding that he would rather play with Sidney Crosby and the top-seeded Penguins. There will be plenty of scores to settle once the puck finally drops on June 1.

NBA | Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
While the 2013 NBA Playoffs are largely devoid of any remaining longtime foes, the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers series has all the makings of a staunch rivalry. With both young and talented squads figuring to be among the Eastern Conference’s top contenders for years to come, great potential exists for these teams to meet in the postseason many times in the coming years. While short on history, this series has made up for it with its incredibly physical and contentious nature. The Pacers’ team-oriented and balanced brand of basketball has served as an entertaining foil to the LeBron James-led Heat, a team that features an up-tempo and often times flashy style. If these teams can keep their rosters intact in the future, this series has the chance to be one of the generation’s best rivalries.

MLB | New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Perhaps the most recognizable in all of sports, this rivalry will be renewed with a weekend series from May 31 – June 2. With over 110 years and 2,100 games in the storied history between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the clashes have seen everything from curses and brawls to some of the most memorable postseason series in the history of the MLB, including an unforgettable six-year stretch from 1999-2004 in which the teams met up three times. As is often the case, the upcoming series will be between two evenly matched teams fighting for AL East supremacy.

Tennis | Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer
One of the greatest rivalries in the history of the sport, these tennis superstars could potentially meet up in the 2013 French Open Final, in what would be another incredible chapter in this historic tale. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated tennis since 2004, combining to win 27 of the 37 Grand Slam events in that time period. With 30 total head-to-head matches—Nadal holds a 20-10 advantage—the two have met up in 20 finals, including the championship match of eight Grand Slams. Whether a Nadal-Federer final takes place or not, fans will forever remember the many battles between these two fierce competitors.

Golf | Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson
These two giants of the golf world have established their rivalry as the biggest of the era, and will add another installment in June at the year’s second major championship, the U.S. Open. As the two active players with the most major championships to their names, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have engaged in many epic battles, and have even both handed the green jacket to one another in years past at The Masters. When in the same pairing, the two truly bring out the best in each other—in 30 head-to-head matchups at several tournaments over the years, the two are tied at 13-13-4.

Boxing | Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez
Boxing fans were undoubtedly thrilled when news broke via Twitter on May 29 announcing that the next Floyd Mayweather fight will feature “Money” Mayweather (44-0) putting his undefeated record on the line against a fellow unbeaten in up-and-coming boxing phenom, Canelo Alvarez (42-0). While the Sept. 14 bout—set at a 152-lb catchweight— is just a few months away, the outspoken Mayweather’s penchant for creating animosity may give the Mayweather-Alvarez fight the feel of a long-established, bitter rivalry by the time the opening bell sounds.

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