It’s Rivalry Week at SBNation! We’ve looked at the best rivalries in the NCAA and the NWHL, but now all of our writers talked about what the best rivalry in the whole sport is.
Mike Murphy: The rivalry that I am most fascinated with and invested in is the emerging three-way rivalry between Team USA, Team Canada, and Team Finland. For years, Finland has been overlooked as the hockey superpower it is because of the epic battles and gold medal games between Canada and the U.S. But the Finns’ silver medal finish — which was inches away from being gold — at the 2019 Worlds in Espoo has officially made the annual battle to establish dominance in international women’s hockey a three horse race.
Finland claimed bronze at the 1998, 2010, and 2018 Olympics and has never finished lower than fourth in the final standings in 19 appearance at the IIHF Worlds. Their current roster boasts the best defender in the world and potentially the best goaltender in the world. It’s about time that mainstream media outlets show more respect for what the Lady Lions have accomplished and what they represent.
Michelle Jay: I’m inclined to say USA v Canada because, in my opinion, that’s the greatest rivalry in all of hockey. But outside of that, it’s quite obviously the Battle of Comm. Ave, aka Boston University vs Boston College. The two Hockey East teams are separated by three miles, literally. They’ve met 56 times with with BC being the victors in 30 games, BU 19, and seven ties.
Even BC agrees with me.
Eleni Demestihas: I could say USA vs. Canada for obvious reasons, but I actually think that rivalry has thawed a bit in recent years, particularly after this last Worlds. I agree with Michelle that BU vs. BC is a great rivalry, but I actually think the best rivalry in Hockey East right now, at least in my eyes, isn’t a Beanpot rivalry at all- it’s BC vs. UConn. UConn gets slept on a lot. They’re not a top team in their conference by any means, but any time they play BC, no matter where BC is ranked, it’s insane to watch. These teams absolutely hate each other. UConn plays a physical game and BC tends to be fast. It’s always extremely chaotic and a lot of fun to watch. I’ve watched a lot of BC over the past three years and many of my favorite games were times they’ve played against UConn, particularly in the playoffs.
Casey Bryant: As far as North American pro hockey is concerned, the Buffalo Beauts and Metropolitan Riveters have probably the spiciest rivalry in the NWHL. A lot of that is perpetuated by Riveters’ captain Madison Packer, who has been around since the league’s inception and plays with a heavy physical edge. Not only is she hard-nosed, but she’s the best player on the team, which makes for a frustrating combination for opponents.
The Riveters in general have always been a scrappy team. They have been involved in the league’s two fighting majors, both times with the Beauts. Both times, Packer was in the thick of it. Add in a contentious 1-0 Isobel Cup Final game in 2018 and you’ve got the basis of a fierce rivalry.
Gabriella Fundaro: My all-time favorite rivalry is probably, to the surprise of no one, the good old Minnesota-UND matchups of years past. This one had all the elements of a truly enticing rivalry: a national powerhouse and perennial favorite opposite an underdog team on the rise. Both sides had some major cornerstone wins as well, which only adds to the lore for me; in 2013, Minnesota knocked off North Dakota in a triple-overtime thriller in the NCAA quarterfinals en route to an undefeated season. The following year, UND snapped the Gophers’ record win streak on the road at Ridder. And beyond that, there was just no shortage of heated moments between the two teams.
There are so many other college hockey rivalries that I love tuning in for nowadays. Princeton-Cornell has been great in recent seasons; Robert Morris and Mercyhurst always seem to be within a hair of each other for the CHA crown; the Border Battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin is just consistently some of the best hockey we see every year at this level.
Two stand out above the rest for me right now, though. The longstanding rivalry between Clarkson and St. Lawrence is a classic, and I love that these schools tend to see each other more than twice a season. And there’s been a lot of intensity brewing between Wisconsin and Ohio State in the WCHA; the Buckeyes seem to love playing spoiler for the Badgers late in the season.
Anne Tokarski: Like everyone else, I think USA v Canada is always an intense, emotional match-up to watch, but for me, the Border Battle between Wisconsin and Minnesota takes the cake as the best rivalry in women’s hockey. While Minnesota has historically had the slight upper hand in the rivalry — 52 wins to the Badgers’ 41 — there’s definitely something so exciting about seeing some of the brightest stars in women’s college hockey go head-to-head four times a season.
Not to mention that so many of the players on Minnesota and Wisconsin’s rosters are the future of the international rosters we mentioned before — there are a lot of American, Canadian, and Finnish superstars in the making on these two WCHA squads, so that gives the rivalry a little extra edge that you won’t see anywhere else.
Plus...how many times have these two teams met in the Frozen Four or the national championship? That’s just one indication of how genuinely competitive and on par with each other these two teams are, and that competition makes Wisconsin vs. Minnesota a treat to watch no matter the occasion.
...and Minnesota agrees with me.