If there’s anyone in Southern California who might have a good beat on NHL rivalries, it’s Darryl Sutter. His playing days were spent in Chicago, where the Blackhawks went through the wars with a number of teams. Then, Sutter was the coach and general manager in Calgary, where the Flames annually are a part of the “Battle of Alberta” with the Edmonton Oilers, as well as rivalries with other Canadian teams. The past couple months have given Sutter an introduction to the Kings-Anaheim Ducks rivalry, but Sutter hasn’t yet put much stock in it.
SUTTER: “Rivalries are created more outside than inside. It’s a rivalry if it’s a huge playoff series. I was probably in two of the greatest ones ever: Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Minnesota, and it was all because of you beat the (crap) out of each other at playoff time. Fans like to see blood and guts. So until somebody tells me otherwise, that’s what it is. When I was in Calgary, with Edmonton there wasn’t a rivalry there because, when I first went there, neither team was ever in the playoffs. Then it became where one team was and one team wasn’t, so it was a rivalry created by the fans, not by the teams. Nowadays, in these cross-town rivalries, these guys golf together in the summer and they go to meetings with each other and they live close to each other. I don’t know what that rivalry is. I haven’t seen it.”
Sutter has a point. In talking casually with players, one gets the sense that Vancouver and San Jose are more heated rivals than the Ducks, for the Kings. In terms of Calgary, and Sutter’s opinion that there wasn’t a rivalry with Edmonton, who did the Flames look to as their fiercest rivals?
SUTTER: “Vancouver, clearly, because of the playoff series. We were an underdog and they were the favorite. And we beat them, so it was a rivalry. It becomes ingrained in your teams. Heck, when I first went there, our captain lived in Edmonton in the summer and their captain lived in Calgary. Where was the rivalry? You’ve got tougher traffic than me?”