One of the best parts about hockey is the intenseness of a good rivalry. Over the years, there have been many, between both teams and individuals. But one of the most noteworthy of the last few years has been the feud between Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. With their respective teams not meeting this season, fans will miss some entertaining bouts between the two that some say are good for the league. Since we won’t see this in 2020-21, let’s take a trip down memory lane to relive this great modern rivalry.
How It Started
During the 2016-17 season, Tkachuk proved to the Flames that he could more than hold his own as a rookie in the NHL. He put up solid numbers and showed the league that he could get under anyone’s skin. With the finish line in sight, the Flames and Kings were neck and neck in the standings for one of the final wildcard spots in the Western Conference and would meet three times at the Scotiabank Saddledome over the final month of the season.
In the second of those three meetings on March 19, Tkachuk elbowed Doughty behind the Kings’ net towards the end of the first period, causing the LA players to go after Tkachuk. After the dust settled and the game continued, the Flames went on to win 5-2.
After the game, Doughty famously held nothing back in his comments on the incident. “He’s a pretty dirty player, that kid,” said the veteran defenseman.
Tkachuk received a two-game suspension for the incident, and the tables were set for the March 29 rematch.
Things Heat Up
Tkachuk got the first word in the day before the game, stating that he “expected more” from Doughty after his comments from the previous game. (from ‘Flames rookie Tkachuk on Doughty’s comments: ‘I expected more from him’,’ Calgary Herald, 03/29/2017). On gameday, you could tell things would be heated as both teams exchanged words during warmups.
In the first period, Tkachuk fought Brayden McNabb of the Kings. Then in the second period, he proceeded to attempt a large open-ice hit on Doughty, who barely missed. The Kings won the final meeting 4-1, with the Flames ultimately ending up in the playoffs over the Kings. The two teams would have to wait a while to see each other again.
Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds
Early in the 2017-18 season, the Flames and Kings met at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In a spirited contest, Tkachuk and Doughty ended up in the penalty box late in the game for separate reasons, and both players had words for each other.
The incident in the penalty box showed that Doughty was still not done with Tkachuk, not by a long shot.
Doughty has never been afraid to share his opinion on Tkachuk with the media.
After the Kings won in overtime against the Flames on Jan. 24, 2018, Doughty was asked if Tkachuk might be the most hated player in the NHL. “I’m pretty sure he might be,” he replied.
Towards the end of the 2018-19 season, Doughty was asked if he had gained any respect for Tkachuk. “No respect for him, none. I respect everyone else. I’ll never talk to him off the ice.”
At the start of the 2019-20 season, the constant comments from Doughty showed to have little effect on the Flames’ star forward, with Tkachuk saying it all “goes right in one ear, out the other.”
One Last Scuffle
The Flames and Kings met twice in the month of October to start 2019-20. In the second matchup, the Kings dominated. As they were leading 4-0 in the final period, Doughty hit Tkachuk low, bringing both of them down and causing a full-on line brawl between the two teams.
The remaining matchups in 2019-20 were remarkably civil compared to this.
A Year Apart
With the divisions realigned for this 2020-21 pandemic season, this marks the first time in history that Calgary and Los Angeles will not play each other in the regular season. It also means we will have to wait a year before we see any more shenanigans in the Doughty-Tkachuk rivalry.
This is disappointing, not only for fans of the Kings and Flames but for hockey as a whole. Rivalries and spats are a good way to generate interest and fan engagement for the game. Not only do the fans of the combatants get involved, but fans from other teams often start paying attention to see the fireworks. Similar to the Doughty-Tkachuk rivalry, the Evander Kane-Ryan Reaves rivalry brings a lot of eyes to games when the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks match up.
In the North Division, Tkachuk will see no shortage of his other enemies in the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, to name a few. Doughty will also get to square off against the Anaheim Ducks and Sharks, but there’s no denying the aura that Doughty and Tkachuk’s matchups have. The first Flames-Kings meeting of 2021-22 will be interesting, to say the least.