Scott Hartnell and Dion Phaneuf had plenty in common.
Both were high draft picks out of the WHL. Both made a mark early in their NHL careers in the Western Conference before joining big-market Eastern Conference franchises as key parts of blockbuster trades. Both were leaders who played with a physical edge and were usually good for a memorable soundbite resulting in them being two of the more popular yet polarizing stars of the salary cap era.
They also really, really didn’t get along on the ice.
Hartnell, who retired prior to the 2018-19 season and has since transitioned into an analyst role with the NHL Network, was a guest Good Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan where he reflected on his rivalry with Phaneuf.
“Well, we fought about a half a dozen times him and I so there was always some bad blood,” Hartnell said with a chuckle Wednesday.
Hartnell and Phaneuf only dropped the mitts with one another three times in the NHL but it probably felt like they fought more frequently considering all the post-whistle shenanigans that didn’t result in a major penalty.
Their first tilt was in 2010, however the rivalry took on a life of its own a couple years later when Hartnell was mic’d up during the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
Hartnell was on Team Alfredsson, while Phaneuf earned a spot on Team Chara. During that game, Hartnell assisted on a Henrik Sedin goal and as he went back to his team’s bench to celebrate he skated past Phaneuf and let out the now-infamous: “Suck it, Phaneuf — woo!”
Less than two weeks after the all-star showcase, Hartnell’s Flyers hosted Phaneuf’s Maple Leafs where the two fought in front of the Toronto net less than a second after Hartnell scored a goal.
“You always kinda looked ahead (on the schedule) and if you needed a fight to try and get you out of a little scoring drought or kinda get you into the game it was always good to get into battles early with him,” Hartnell explained. “He always made you pay the price in front of the net, always hacking and whacking. A solid NHL career that he’s had. It was always fun to get him going.”
The pair fought one last time in 2018 when Hartnell was back on the Nashville Predators and Phaneuf was with the Ottawa Senators.
Despite their frequent tussles, Hartnell doesn’t appear to hold any grudges with Phaneuf, who spent the 2018-19 season with the Los Angeles Kings and is currently an unsigned free agent.
“He was a leader,” Hartnell added. “He was a big catalyst, played on some good teams. Unfortunately, kinda like me, never did win (a Stanley Cup) but a guy that always would give anyone a fair shot.”
In terms of on-ice friction, hockey fans today have Doughty vs. Tkachuk, Reaves vs. Wilson and Marchand vs. everybody to look forward to, but will any of those rivalries span as many years as Hartnell vs. Phaneuf did?