The Battle of Ontario is a rivalry between the Ontario cities of Ottawa and Toronto, most notably the rivalry between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, often described as one of its top rivalries. The teams both compete in the Atlantic Division and with current NHL scheduling, they meet 4-5 times per season. Games between the teams are often televised nationally on the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

Battle of Ontario
Ottawa Senators Toronto Maple Leafs
First meeting October 20, 1992

Maple Leaf Gardens (Toronto)

Latest meeting February 18, 2017

Air Canada Centre (Toronto)

Next meeting TBD
Meetings total 137
All-time series 67–57–3–9 (OTT )
Regular season series 59-41–3–9 (OTT )
Postseason results 16–8 (TOR)
Largest victory OTT 8–0 TOR

October 29, 2005

Longest win streak OTT W7
Current win streak OTT W2
Post-season history
  • 2000 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Maple Leafs, 4–2
  • 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Maple Leafs, 4–0
  • 2002 Eastern Conference Semi-finals: Maple Leafs, 4–3
  • 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Maple Leafs, 4–3

Early history Edit

Games between Ottawa and Toronto ice hockey teams date back before the founding of the NHL. The Maple Leafs, as the Toronto Arenas, and the original Senators were two of the founding teams of the NHL. Both cities also have histories of Stanley Cup winners, meeting once in February, 1904, with the original Ottawa Senators defeating the Toronto Marlboros. After the original Ottawa NHL franchise relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, as the Eagles in 1934, Ottawa-area hockey fans became fans of other NHL teams. However, during this time, a Ottawa-Toronto sports rivalry continued between the Argonauts and Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Modern era Edit

The modern Ottawa Senators entered the NHL in 1992, but the rivalry between the two teams did not begin to emerge until the late 1990s. From 1992 to 1998, Toronto Maple Leafs was in the Western Conference and Ottawa Senators was in the Eastern Conference, which meant that the two teams rarely played each other. But before the 1998–99 season, the conferences and divisions were re-aligned, and Toronto Maple Leafs was moved into the Eastern Conference's Northeast Division with Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres.

The rivalry reached new heights in 2000, as the teams met for the first time in the playoffs with Toronto Maple Leafs dispatching Ottawa Senators in 6 games. Some Leafs fans saw this as revenge, since the Senators' Marian Hossa had accidentally clipped the Leafs' Bryan Berard in the eye on March 11, ending the young defenceman's season and almost his career.

21st century Edit

The next season, they met again in the first round as Ottawa Senators entered the playoffs ranked 2nd in the East and Toronto Maple Leafs 7th. While Ottawa Senators were expected to defeat Toronto Maple Leafs, especially since they had swept the regular season series against them, the Maple Leafs swept the series in a major upset instead; Ottawa did not score their first goal of the series until 16:51 of the third period in the third game.

In 2001–02, the teams met in the playoffs for the 3rd-straight year. The two teams were very evenly matched, and Toronto Maple Leafs managed to win the second-round series in the full 7 games and advance to the conference finals. One notable incident occurred late in Game 5, when Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson hit forward Darcy Tucker in a questionable hit-from-behind (that did not draw a penalty), and then seconds after hitting Tucker, scored the game-winning goal.

In 2002–03, the rivalry hit an all-time high when Darcy Tucker attacked the Senators' Chris Neil, who was sitting on the bench. This resulted in numerous players exchanging punches before order was restored. Tucker, Neil and Shane Hnidy all received fighting majors and game misconducts for the same incident. After the game, Tucker claimed Neil spit on him, an allegation which Neil denied. The NHL board looked into this claim and concluded that Tucker's allegation was false. Tempers remained frayed, especially with 1:23 to play, when Toronto's Tie Domi went after Magnus Arvedson and threw several punches at Arvedson. Video evidence showed Arvedson spearing Domi just prior, awaiting the faceoff. Domi received a roughing minor, instigator minor, fighting major, misconduct and game misconduct. Arvedson did not get a penalty on the play. Suspensions were announced a few hours after Tucker and Domi appeared at NHL head offices in Toronto for a hearing. Tucker was suspended for five games, without pay, after it was determined that Neil did not spit at Toronto's bench. Domi was suspended for three games, also without pay. A total of 163 minutes in penalties were called in the game.

On January 6, 2004, the Maple Leafs were playing a game against the Nashville Predators, when Leaf captain Mats Sundin's stick broke on an attempted shot at the blue line and he threw it away in disgust. Instead of hitting the glass, the stick accidentally went over and into the crowd. The NHL reacted by giving him a 1-game suspension. The game he was suspended for was a game against Ottawa Senators in Toronto. During the game, Daniel Alfredsson's stick broke, and he immediately faked a toss of his stick into the stands. This caused an uproar with the Maple Leafs, in part because they had also lost the game 7–1. Alfredsson dismissed the Leafs' reaction, calling it an over-reaction. This incident added to the rivalry, and Leafs fans continue to boo Alfredsson at future games.

Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs matched up in the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years in 2003–04. Alfredsson guaranteed a victory after the Leafs took Game 5 to lead 3–2. He delivered on his promise in Game 6, but Ottawa goaltender Patrick Lalime turned in a lackluster performance in the series finale, allowing Toronto Maple Leafs to win the series. After the series, the Senators traded Lalime to the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Head Coach Jacques Martin was fired.

Post-lockout era Edit

In 2005–06, the two teams nearly met again in the playoffs, but Toronto Maple Leafs missed qualifying by 2 points. As Ottawa Senators clinched the top spot in the East, Toronto claiming 8th position would have ensured a first-round match-up. Ottawa Senators largely dominated the season series by winning 7 of 8 games (including three routs of 8–0, 8–2 and 7–0).

In 2006–07, Toronto Maple Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs, finishing in 9th position, and thereby missing for a second consecutive year. Meanwhile, Ottawa Senators made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Ottawa Senators won the season series 5-1-2.

The 2007–08 season was characterized by a share of lopsided victories by the two teams against each other; for example, wins of 5–0 and 8–2. Toronto Maple Leafs failed to make the playoffs for the 3rd-straight season, this time by 11 points. Ottawa Senators finished in 7th place in the East after a 15–2 start and leading the league at 1 point, barely making it into the playoffs. Ottawa Senators were swept 4–0 in the first round by Pittsburgh Penguins in a rematch of the previous year's series. Although Pittsburgh was heavily favoured to win, the fact that Toronto's Mark Bell laid what Jason Spezza described as a "clean dirty hit" on Daniel Alfredsson in the April 3 game at Toronto, thereby sidelining him, may have worsened their situation.

The 2008–09 season was a poor one for both teams, with Ottawa Senators finishing 11th and Toronto Maple Leafs 12th in the Eastern Conference. This marked the first time that both Ontario teams failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs since Ottawa Senators joined the NHL in 1992.

The 2009–10 season saw Ottawa Senators finish 5th in the Eastern Conference and face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, while Toronto Maple Leafs finished last in the conference and failed to make the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year. Toronto Maple Leafs won the season series, however, 4–2.

The 2010–11 season was a poor one for both the Ontario teams. Despite Toronto Maple Leafs posting its best regular season record since the 2006–07 season, the team missed the playoffs for the 6th consecutive season. Meanwhile, Ottawa Senators finished with a record of 32–40–10 and missed the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 seasons. The 74 points put up by the Ottawa Senators was the lowest total put up since the 1995–96 season. The season series was tied 3–3.

The 2011–12 season saw Ottawa hosting the 59th NHL All-Star Game. A franchise-high five Ottawa Senators were elected to the team – Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Colin Greening represented the Senators. Meanwhile, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf represented Toronto. Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson ended the season with 78 points and won the Norris Trophy. Ottawa Senators finish 8th in the East and qualified for the playoffs, while Toronto Maple Leafs once again failed to qualify for the 7th consecutive season. The season series was again tied 3–3.

The 2012–13 season was cut short by the most recent lockout, which delayed opening day until January 19, 2013. Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs met 5 times in the 48-game season, with Toronto Maple Leafs taking the season series 4–1. Toronto Maple Leafs finished the shortened season in 5th place in the Eastern Conference and clinch their first playoff spot since 2004, while Ottawa Senators finished 7th in the East. The Sens were matched up in the first round vs the Montreal Canadiens. They took the series in 5 games before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The Leafs lost in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins and failed to pass the first round.

The 2013–14 season saw both Ontario teams miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2010–11 season. Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs met 4 times in the 82-game season, two of which were decided in shootouts. Toronto Maple Leafs took the season series 3–1. The Senators finished 11th in the East with 88 points, and the Leafs finished in 12th place with 84 points.

The 2014–15 season saw Ottawa Senators finish 7th in the Eastern Conference with 99 points, securing the first wildcard playoff position. Toronto Maple Leafs failed to make the playoffs finishing last in the Eastern Conference with 68 points. On October 22, 2014, the Maple Leafs vs Senators game was postponed due to the 2014 Ottawa shootings. It was rescheduled for November 9, in which Maple Leafs won 5–3. Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy for the second time in his career.

The 2015–16 season ended with Ottawa Senators sweeping the season series 4-0 over Toronto Maple Leafs. Ottawa Senators finished 5th in the Atlantic Division and 8 points out of playoff contention. Toronto Maple Leafs had a season finishing last in the league. On February 9, 2016 there was a rare trade between the two division rivals. The trade saw Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert, and Cody Donaghey traded to Ottawa Senators for Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg, and a second-round pick in 2017.