The boos rain down from the orange-clad stands of the Wachovia Center.
Sidney Crosby stands at center ice with the puck on his stick.
As he skates forward, the crowd’s rage toward him hits a fever pitch. He shoots…. and he scores.
With a huge smile on his face, Crosby skates back toward his teammates to celebrate. The Penguins win the game 3-2 in a shootout.
Welcome to the Battle of Pennsylvania.
The Pittsburgh Penguins also faced the Philadelphia Flyers two days earlier in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won that game as well, by a 6-1 score. However, what stood out the most were the three fights that broke out in the first few minutes of the first period.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers do not like each other.
“I don’t really like playing against them,” said Evgeni Malkin back in February 2008, when asked about the Flyers.
“I don’t like that team.”
The Penguins and Flyers have faced off in the playoffs in both of the last two seasons. Both times the Penguins were victorious. But that hasn’t cooled down the rivalry one bit. In fact, it’s made it stronger.
Penguins fans dislike the Flyers. Flyers fans dislike the Penguins. Penguins and Flyers fans dislike each other.
And this dislike isn’t new. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have been at odds with one another since the two teams entered the league in 1967. During the first part of the rivalry the Flyers dominated. Until the 1990s, the Penguins were beaten badly by the Flyers, especially when the two teams played the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
However, the emergence of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr turned the tables toward the Penguins for the first time. Throughout the 90s the teams battled each other frequently. Stars such as Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau lined up against Lemieux and Jagr, bringing the rivalry to a fever pitch.
In 2008 the Penguins defeated the Flyers in a playoff series for the first time. They repeated the feat in 2009.
It’s now common to hear chants of “CROSBY SUCKS!” in Philadelphia and “GO HOME FLYERS!” in Pittsburgh. The heat in this rivalry grows with every meeting between the two Pennsylvania franchises. In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang accused Scott Hartnell of biting his finger during a scrum.
Despite the Flyers struggles this year, the two teams currently line up against one another quite well. Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Gonchar, Orpik and Fleury suit up in black and gold. Richards, Carter, Briere, Pronger, Timonen and Emery oppose them in orange and black.
Both teams are filled with talent and every player on each team knows what this feud means to both cities.
The NHL has several great rivalries. The Canadiens versus the Bruins, the Red Wings versus the Blackhawks and the Rangers versus the Devils are all historic, anger-filled battles. However, at this point in time, it is difficult to say any of these can stand up to the Penguins versus the Flyers in terms of pure hatred and intense competition.