After 50 years of NHL hockey in this market, you’d think that perhaps one team might stand out as the Canucks rival.
However, it’s still very much up for debate.
Vancouver doesn’t have an embedded geographic rivalry like the one in Alberta. They’ve also seen rivalries that existed in the old Northwest Division with the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild dissipate with the divisions being realigned.
That being said, they’ve certainly built up rivalries with a few clubs over the years. Here’s a quick look at who’s in the running for the Canucks biggest rival of all-time, and who’s in the running to spark a rivalry with the Canucks in the near future.
Who is the Canucks’ Biggest Rival?
Despite the sheer number of the games that are played in the regular season, we all know that rivalries are born in the playoffs.
With that being said, there’s really only two options, in my mind, for which teams are considered the Canucks’ biggest rivals when looking at the scope of the last 50 years.
Canucks vs. Chicago, Regular Season: 96-105-22
Playoff Series: 2-3 (Canucks beat Chicago during the Conference Finals in 1982 and First Round in 2011)
Before we get to the best part of this rivalry, it does start in 1974 when both the Blackhawks and the Canucks were in the same division. Chicago generally had the better team, but this rivalry went to the next level during the Conference Finals in 1982, when Roger Neilson raised the white towel of surrender.
The Canucks won that series to reach the Conference Final, but saw their playoff hopes dashed during the next meeting in the 1995 Conference Semifinals when the Blackhawks swept the Canucks on the back up three come-from-behind victories.
However, we all know that this rivalry really was ignited between about 2008 and 2013, when these two teams were two of the best in hockey. There were brawls during the regular season, but more importantly it was the three straight playoff matchups in three years that saw these teams create one of the best rivalries in hockey.
Chicago got the upper-hand with two playoff series victories and multiple Stanley Cup wins, although fans in Vancouver got their vengeance with one of the greatest goals in franchise history from Alex Burrows.
The Calgary Flames
Canucks vs. Flames Regular Season: 127-159-33
Playoff Series: 2-5 (Canucks beat Calgary during the Preliminary Round in 1982 and in the 1994 Quarterfinals)
In their 50 year history, there’s no team that the Canucks have faced in the playoffs more than the Calgary Flames. In fact, 28% of all playoff series in Canucks franchise history (12 of 43) have been against either the Flames or the Blackhawks. There’s your useless statistic of the day.
Geographically, the Canucks don’t ignite the same hatred or rivalry for Flames fans that the Oilers do, but there’s certainly enough of a rivalry here for each fan base to deservedly despise one another.
Back in the 1980s, the Canucks and the Flames met in the Preliminary Round for three straight seasons. The Canucks were victorious during the first matchup in 1982, which was the franchise’s first ever playoff win. The Flames got their revenge by winning the next two playoff matchups in 1983 and 1984.
In 1989, the heavily favoured Flames once again lined up against the Canucks in the first round. Even though the series appeared to be a mismatch on paper, the Canucks pushed the Flames to seven games, before Joel Otto’s overtime winner in Game Seven propelled the Flames to the next round, and eventually the Stanley Cup.
Both the Canucks and Flames were considered two of the better teams in the Western Conference in the early 1990s, which helped keep the rivalry alive. They played another fantastic series against one another in 1994, this time with Pavel Bure’s legendary overtime winner in Game Seven propelling the Canucks on another long run of their own.
The rivalry cooled until the early 2000s, when Markus Naslund’s Canucks and Jarome Iginla’s Flames met in the First Round in 2004, with the Flames winning the third consecutive match-up between these teams that went to overtime in Game Seven.
Of course, there was the John Tortorella and Bob Hartley fueled brawl in 2014 that helped re-ignite the rivalry in the 2010s. Just a year and a half later, these teams had another heated matchup in the playoffs.
Add all of this together, and I would say that the Flames are probably the Canucks most worthy rival in franchise history. That feels a little odd to say, since the Flames would pick Edmonton as their #1 rival, but it just goes to show that there’s room to take on more rivals here in Vancouver.
Here are the results from our Twitter poll.
It's rivalry week here at @SBNationNHL. Out here on the West Coast, the #Canucks biggest rival is arguably up for debate.— Nucks Misconduct (@nucksmisconduct) July 9, 2020
We have a couple questions for you, but let's start with this:
Who is the Canucks' biggest rival?
Canucks’ Rivalry Odds and Ends
Who do you hold more of a vengeance against?
Which franchise do you hold more of a vengeance against?— Nucks Misconduct (@nucksmisconduct) July 9, 2020
Should have seen that one coming. It’s easier to still hold a grudge against Boston with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara still making an impact for the team. Not to mention, they didn’t fall down to the NHL basement like the Canucks did, and they’ve made it to two additional Stanley Cup Finals since 2011.
While there’s nothing current that would make you want to despise the Rangers, the sting of having Mark Messier and Mike Keenan join the team in the late 1990s after beating the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals is a scar that will last a lifetime.
Which other Pacific Division has low-key driven you crazy over the years?— Nucks Misconduct (@nucksmisconduct) July 9, 2020
I’ll get to Seattle in a minute as we look towards the future, but first a quick note of the other poll.
While playoff history would suggest that the Canucks biggest rivals are the Blackhawks and the Flames, perhaps there’s an argument to be made for some of our other division rivals.
Of all those teams, I think the Kings are the next pick for the Canucks best rival. They has some good playoff battles in the 1980s and 1990s, along with two matchups in three seasons in the 2010s. Dustin Brown rocking Henrik Sedin in the playoffs also helped spark this rivalry, as this led to some chippy playoff matchups as well.
While the Oilers might make sense geographically, this matchup has always been one-sided. At one point in the ‘80s, the Canucks were winless in 27 (!!!!) straight games against Edmonton.
The matchup evened out in the 1990s and early 2000s before the Sedin era took off. Over a span of 10-12 years there, the Canucks dummied the Oilers like a big brother picking on their little sibling.
Suffice to say, it’s always been lopsided one way or the other.
Looking Forward: Who will be the Canucks next rival?
As mentioned before, there’s room for new rivalries in Vancouver. With a young team on the rise and the promise of playoff games on the horizon, new rivalries are bound to be born.
The first obvious candidate to be the Canucks next rival, will be their closest geographical opponent in Seattle. Of course, geography plays a role, but it will be up to the two teams to play entertaining and memorable hockey against one another.
Here are some of the other options for the Canucks next rival.
Despite the geographic rivalry, there’s been next to no memorable playoff history between these two clubs. Perhaps this will change in the 2020s with some of the games best young stars occupying prominent roles with these two teams.
Vegas Golden Knights
This “rivalry” hasn’t gotten off to a good start for the Canucks, but both teams play a similar style of up-tempo hockey. Give it a playoff matchup or two between these two rowdy fanbases, and a rivalry could be ignited.
This has all the components of a great rivalry and let’s be real, the Canucks want to be on Colorado’s level.
Already at Cup contender status, Colorado has some of the best stars (and one of the best teams) in hockey. If you squint hard enough, perhaps you can envision the Canucks soon following suit.
There’s the draw of the two superstar centres in Nathan MacKinnon versus Elias Pettersson, two star wingers from the 2015 draft class in Mikko Rantanen and Brock Boeser and of course, two of the best young defencemen in the game with Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes.
This is the most enticing potential rivalry right now. All that it needs is a little playoff juice to fire it up.
Finally, aside from a potential rivalry with Seattle, who would you like to see the #Canucks begin a rivalry with over the next five years?— Nucks Misconduct (@nucksmisconduct) July 9, 2020
So, who do you think is the Canucks best rival of all time? Who would you like to see them start up a rivalry with in the future? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @nucksmisconduct.