As a kid who grew up during the 90’s and was hockey-crazed, the Battle of Ontario has always been one of my favourite rivalries in professional sports. I was born and raised a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs (I used to describe that as a misfortune, but it’s not looking so bad lately), so naturally, I took pleasure in watching the Ottawa Senators lose whenever I could – and thankfully for me, the Sens lost to the Leafs plenty… And usually in the playoffs.
Of course, that success only lasted so long… And by the post-lockout era, the Leafs were consistently missing the playoffs while the Sens actually had some success. Some of my friends who had previously identified themselves as Leafs fans (maybe they weren’t really fans at all) jumped the bandwagon and hopped on with the Sens, which I think only served to fuel my dislike for the team even more.
One fixture for the Sens through it all was enforcer Chris Neil, and while I may have said or thought some nasty things over the years about Neil’s play (especially against my Leafs), it’s pretty hard not to respect him for the fact that he managed to make a long career in a role that has more or less disappeared from the NHL in recent times: the tough guy.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) December 14, 2017
And given all those great years of rivalry between the Leafs and Sens, there’s no shortages of scraps between Neil and the Leafs’ most recognizable tough guy from recent years, Tie Domi. Let’s have a look at a them:
That wasn’t the first scrap between the two, but it WAS the first one with video on hockeyfights.com.
A couple weeks later, there was a rematch.
Later in that same game, you may remember Darcy Tucker charging at Neil on the bench and a melee ensuing:
Of course there’s more between Neil and Domi:
He also scrapped with a number of other Leafs over his career. Remember Nathan Perrott? If I’m honest, I don’t… But he did have a pretty good scrap with Neil once:
I’ll be honest, I miss Wade Belak, and not just because of the tragic way his life ended. I genuinely enjoyed watching him play, and scrap. A bit of a tough go round this time, but you can’t win ’em all.
A little bit later on, Neil shared a trio of fights with Luke Schenn:
Well, they were valiant efforts, but I’d say Neil got the better of Schenn each of those times.
Neil’s scrap with Garnet Exelby was a bit scary, with Exelby hitting his head hard on the ice:
I miss Mike Brown‘s time on the Maple Leafs… mostly because of that epic moustache, but also because of his willingness to drop the gloves:
Colton Orr had big shoes to fill, wearing #28 and following in Tie Domi’s footsteps. He did not disappoint:
Orr got in a couple good shots that time around, but Neil got his revenge a little over 2 years later:
One of the least likely candidates I would expect to go toe-to-toe with Chris Neil is Mikhail Grabovski, but that happened once…
And then there was this battle with Frazer McLaren. Battling through the grips of the linesmen, do you think they wanted a piece of each other?
And, for his final fight against the Leafs, he took on Brandon Prust:
And there you go. Certainly not a reel of his biggest career highlights, but as a Leafs fan, that’s about the best you’re going to get from me.
Congratulations Chris Neil, on a career well fought.