Found April 30, 2013 on
Boston Sports Then & Now:
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
New England Patriots
Boston College Eagles
Phil Kessel is a focal point today of a Boston-Toronto rivalry that spans all four major sports.
The city of Toronto comes to Boston tonight in more ways than one. The big focus is the Maple Leafs’ arrival to start their NHL playoff series with the Bruins. And the reeling Blue Jays are in Fenway to start a three-game series with the scorching hot Red Sox. These coming few days promise to write another chapter in the long sports history between the cities of Boston and Toronto.
Toronto is the only city to have a team in the same division as Boston in all four major professional sports. I’m giving Toronto credit for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL—with Toronto only being an hour and half over the border and actually hosting a Bills’ home game every year I don’t feel like that’s a reach. And the Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors are all division rivals of the Bruins, Red Sox and Celtics respectively. So to commemorate this gala week of Boston-Toronto battles, let’s look back at some high points of the municipal rivalry…
It’s the longest-running of the four rivalries and by a lot. Much of the history of this rivalry was authored in the Original Six era of the NHL. The Bruins ran into a Maple Leaf road block in the semi-finals in 1933, 1935-36, 1948-49 and again in 1959. On the positive side, Boston knocked off Toronto to win the Stanley Cup in 1939.
These teams haven’t met in the playoffs since the early 1970s. Boston beat Toronto in five games en route to their Stanley Cup in 1972, and the B’s swept the Leafs in 1974, on a path that would lead to the Finals.
Realignment moved Toronto out of the conference for the better part of two decades, and the Leafs haven’t been relevant the past several years. The biggest connection between the two teams has been a trade. Toronto can thank Boston for their current leading scorer, Phil Kessel. Of course Boston can thank Toronto back for the draft picks that were used on Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Sounds like a deal that worked out pretty well for all concerned.
RED SOX-BLUE JAYS
Roger Clemens’ amazing career turnaround after leaving Boston for Toronto has since been called into question.
Maybe not the longest-running rivalry since Toronto’s baseball team didn’t exist until 1977, but there’s a good amount of lore built up here. These two franchises had their best rivalry in 1990-91, when each season saw them battle to the wire for AL East title.
Boston won the 1990 race, clinching on the penultimate day of the regular season. The clinching win came in Fenway against the Chicago White Sox when Red Sox rightfielder Tom Brunansky made a spectacular sliding catch off a line drive off the bat of Ozzie Guillen to preserve a 3-1 win and prevent the race from going to the final day of the season. One year later, Toronto appeared to have the division sewn up shortly after the All-Star break, but the Red Sox ripped off a torrid hot streak in August and September to make it close, before finally coming up short. In both years, the AL East champ fell to the Oakland A’s in the playoffs.
The days of 1990-91 might have been the best, but the saga of Roger Clemens was surely the most notorious point in the relationship between these two baseball franchises. It was Toronto that Clemens opted to sign with after then-Boston GM Dan Duquette decided Clemens was in serious decline after the 1996 season. It was an entirely defensible decision at the time by Duquette—particularly given that one year later he was able to acquire Pedro Martinez, but when Clemens magically turned his career around and won four more Cy Young Awards (including two in New York), the GM caught a lot of heat. Of course we know now that Roger got some extra medical assistance in pulling off his miraculous revival that started with back-to-back Cy Young Awards in Toronto in 1997-98.
Drew Bledsoe first helped Bill Parcells end a Buffalo dynasty, then the quarterback became a Bill.
The then-named Boston Patriots won their first division title in 1963 when they beat Buffalo in a one-game playoff for the AFL’s Eastern Division title. This rivalry has been mostly quiet over the years, with the Pats having stirred up more animosity for the Jets and more of a lore with the Dolphins. But New England-Buffalo has had its moments.
Since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970, the biggest on-field moment has been a 1994 regular season game in Buffalo. Both teams needed to win to keep playoff hopes alive. For the Pats, this was about marking their arrival as a contender under Bill Parcells. For the Bills, it was a proud champion—four straight AFC crowns from 1990-93—making its last stand. New England won easily 41-17 and made the postseason the following week.
Doug Flutie would have perhaps his best year as a pro in 1998 when he took over the Buffalo starting job after an injury and led the team into the playoffs. The man who became a legend while at Boston College and later played three years for the Patriots, made his triumphant return to Foxboro in November of that season. The homecoming was spoiled was the Pats won 25-21 on a late touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe to Ben Coates.
And speaking of Bledsoe…again, we have a situation where the biggest moment in a rivalry is not on the field, but off of it. After losing his job to Tom Brady, it was Buffalo that Bill Belichick ultimately traded Bledsoe too. The Bills were also the destination for New England’s All-Pro safety Lawyer Milloy two years later. Milloy had gotten into a very public battle with Belichick early in the 2003 season leading ESPN’s Tom Jackson to infamously tell the country “They (the Patriots) hate their coach.” New England only won the Super Bowl, sans Milloy.
If you’ve never felt any animosity for the Raptors or even felt an extra chill down the spine when these two franchise meet, I can’t say I blame you. There’s certainly nothing on the basketball court that’s memorable here and if there’s a noteworthy personnel connection I’m not aware of what it might be. The C’s and Raptors have some work to do.
Boston’s rivalry with Toronto doesn’t get the same kind of media love affair that our battles with New York do. But the Boston-Toronto showdowns cover every sport. New additions to the historical treasure chest will be made this week, especially on the ice.
BEST OF MAXIM
Phil Kessel made headlines Monday, quite frankly, by not saying anything. The Maple Leafs forward dodged the large pack of hockey media following Toronto practice, and that caused quite a stir.
The Leafs were back at practice Tuesday, and this time around, it was Kessel making news by talking — although not really saying much. The soft-spoken Kessel was his typical reserved self...
from Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe,
Phil Kessel is a man of few words and, when it comes to facing his former team, a man of even fewer goals.
Give Kessel credit. The former Bruin spoke postgame on a night when his silence on the ice spoke volumes about his reputation as a faux franchise forward. Turned into white noise on skates, Kessel could only watch as the...
BOSTON — Phil Kessel was on the ice for 13:51 in Game 1 against the Bruins on Wednesday night, but we only know that because it’s what the statsheet tells us, as well as the fact that No. 81 in white was booed and heckled every time he touched the puck.
The Maple Leafs forward was pretty much invisible in Game 1, a 4-1 loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. Admittedly, Kessel did make...
The Bruins-Maple Leafs first-round playoff series is a matchup filled with players, coaches and a pair of organizations under immense pressure for a multitude of reasons. But it’s tough to argue that anyone will feel the weight of the world on their shoulders more than Leafs forward Phil Kessel.
The 25-year-old (he’s really only 25?) is a polarizing figure, and this series will...
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
Phil Kessel has managed the impossible — he’s pulled a disappearing act before the playoff series begins against the Boston Bruins.
And in doing so, refusing to fulfil his contractual obligations and meet with the media, he wound up embarrassing team management in the process.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” said...
“Thank you, Kessel” is a popular refrain around Boston any time the B’s and Maple Leafs square off, and that won’t change as the two face off in the playoffs.
However, a more discerning fan will note that Boston and Toronto are linked by more than just the trade that sent Phil Kessel north in exchange for draft picks that turned into Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Bruins...
The media spotlight may not bother most of the players, coaches and management of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but for Phil Kessel, it is as comfortable as the proverbial ant feels underneath the magnifying glass.
Kessel is the Leafs best player, with four 30+ goal seasons and scoring in the top 10 of the NHL for the second year in a row, but those gaudy offensive numbers have not...
Toronto Maple Leafs forward #81 Phil Kessel will have his hands full against his former club and Boston Bruins defenseman #33 Zdeno Chara in this series
After failing to win the Northeast Division for the first time in 5 seasons, the Boston Bruins fell to the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They still get home ice advantage, but instead of facing the New York Islanders...
The Bruins woke up Sunday morning knowing they were headed to the playoffs, but they didn’t know who they would be facing. Toronto, Ottawa or the New York Islanders could have been the first-round opponent of the B’s. When the club went to bed late Sunday night, the dust had settled, and the club’s first-round series was set.
The Bruins, of course, will take on the Maple Leafs...
There’s no way around it; the Bruins did not play their best hockey down the stretch.
Playing a lockout-shortened schedule that was condensed even further due to multiple postponements, Boston went 2-7 over its last nine games and lost the Northeast Division title — and No. 2 seed that comes with it — on the final day of the regular season. Dropping to the No. 4 seed in the...
The playoffs are upon us and the attention that the Bruins have gotten for backpedalling into the playoffs now shifts to their first round playoff matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins finished the season 3-5-2 in their last 10 and blew numerous attempts to wrap up the Northeast Division as the Canadiens also stumbled down the stretch. The Bruins play of late, and...
8 a.m. ET: The Bruins were simply not good for the last month and a half of the regular season. Luckily for them, however, the regular season is over and the slate is wiped clean once the playoffs begin. The playoffs begin for the B’s on Wednesday night in Boston.
The Bruins host the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night in the first of a seven-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs...
from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,
If you’re going to win in the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
But none of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, Dion Phaneuf nor James Reimer were good on Wednesday night in the Maple Leafs’ first Stanley Cup playoff game in nine years.
Like the majority...
Tyler Seguin during a game against the Buffalo Sabres during the 2010-11 season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Boston 28-14-6 vs. Toronto 26-17-5
For the first time in nine seasons, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s right, last time the Maple Leafs made the Stanley Cup Playoffs was during the 2003-04 season.
So, starting tonight, the Leafs...