That eternal Pennsylvanian struggle comes to a metaphorical and physical head on the ice. The two Pennsylvania NHL teams meet on Tuesday, Oct. 29 in Pittsburgh (and again on Jan. 21 and Jan. 31). There will certainly be plenty of options to choose from for PA hockey betting.
Considered one of the most intense rivalries in any sport, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have faced each other close to 300 times, including four times in the playoffs in the last 10 years alone.
It gets heated, no matter the stakes. And it’s a joy to watch (and bet on).
In honor of the renewal of the Pennsylvania Cold War for another year, here are a few facts that may (or may not) influence who you take on the puck line.
Battle of the NHL: Penguins vs. Flyers
The Pens and Flyers both play in the Metropolitan division, so they face each other multiple times a year. They have a storied history with all the hallmarks of a classic telenovela. There is drama, violence, derogatory fan chants, coach fights, grown men taunting each other in furry costumes. There was even a five-OT playoff game.
The rivalry goes by a number of nicknames, including the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Cold War, and the Keystone State Rivalry.
Here are some historical touchstones and random facts to help you pick a side to bet on:
The Broad Street Bullies, the nickname given to the Flyers’ rough-and-tumble Stanley Cup-winning teams of the 70s, were fearless and fun to watch but they can’t push over the Pens when it comes to franchise success.
The Penguins not only call two of the best players to ever pick up a hockey stick their own in Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby, hey also lay claim to five Stanley Cup victories (1991,1992, 2009, 2016, 2017).
The Flyers have only won two, although they were back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.
While the Penguins have had more success in general, the Flyers fare significantly better in the Philly-Pittsburgh rivalry.
They have a better head-to-head historical record (180-103-30-10) and simply own the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, the Pens’ home ice. They’re 14-3-0-3 since the arena opened in 2010.
While Pittsburgh holds more Cups, when they face each other, the Flyers have come out on top.
April 2018: Penguins and Flyers faced each other over six games in the first round of the 2018 playoffs. Pittsburgh won and moved on.
February 2019: Penguins and Flyers faced each other in the 2019 NHL Stadium Series. Philadelphia won 4–3. In the previous Stadium Series game the teams played in 2017, Pittsburgh won 4–2.
In recent years the Penguins eliminated the Flyers from the playoffs in 2008, 2009 and 2018; in 2012 the Pens were eliminated by the Flyers in the first round in a stunning upset as the Pens were heavily favored to win the Cup that year.
In total, the franchises have met seven times in the playoffs. The Flyers have won four series and the Penguins three.
Deadspin considers the Flyers-Penguins rivalry to be the best rivalry in the NHL.
In 1975, the Pens’ creditors demanded payment of back debts, which nearly forced the team into bankruptcy.
In 1979-80, the Flyers set an NHL record for most games in a row without a loss: 35. No team in North America in hockey, baseball, football, or basketball has had more straight wins.
In 1968, the Penguins’ mascot was a live penguin named Pete. He made his first appearance in front of 9,198 fans at the Civic Arena in February 1968. His last appearance was in November 1968. He died of pneumonia shortly after.
Then came Gritty
Since 1992, the Penguins’ mascot has been Iceburgh. Until September 2018, the Flyers were only one of two NHL teams without an official mascot. Now, a seven-foot furry orange creature with googly eyes named Gritty is the official mascot for the Flyers.
In Gritty’s first appearance at a Flyers game, he slipped and fell onto the ice. CBS Sports described Gritty as the “most horrifying and beloved” NHL mascot.
Naturally, Gritty and Iceburgh are rivals too.
Battle of Pennsylvania: Steelers vs. Eagles
While Steelers-Eagles and Pirates-Phillies don’t bring quite the same heat as Flyers-Penguins, much like a bench-clearing brawl the intra-Pennsylvania rivalry spills over to the NFL and MLB to some degree too.
The Eagles–Steelers rivalry dates back to 1933 and is, unsurprisingly, also known as the Battle of Pennsylvania. Both teams have rabid fan bases who both root for their teams and often lay down some football bets on the squads as well.
Given that legacy, it’s hard to believe the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles now only play each other once every four years.
It can be even harder to believe the two teams actually merged into a single NFL team — the Steagles — for one season.
During the 1943 season, the Eagles and Steelers merged because both teams had lost many players to military service during World War II. The league’s official record book refers to the team as “Phil-Pitt Combine,” but the unofficial “Steagles” has become the enduring moniker.
Key Steelers facts
- Six Super Bowl wins, most recently in 2008
- The same number of Super Bowl appearances (8) as the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys
- Made it to the playoffs 13 times since the year 2000, most recently in 2017
- Played and/or hosted 27 conference championship games
Key Eagles facts
- One Super Bowl win in 2017
- Made it to the playoffs 12 times since the year 2000, most recently in 2018
The Steelers and Eagles last faced each other on Sept. 25, 2016. The Eagles won 34–3.
- The Steelers have lost nine straight games on the road against the Eagles, dating back to 1966.
- The Eagles consistently rank among the best in the NFL for attendance and have sold out every game since the 1999 season.
- In a Sports Illustrated poll of 321 NFL players, Eagles fans were selected as the most intimidating fans in the NFL.
- An Emory University study ranked Eagles fans at No. 3 and Steelers fans at No. 5 among all NFL fan bases
- In the last home game of the 1968 season Eagles fans booed and pelted Santa Claus with snowballs during halftime.
- In December 1948 during the Eagles’ first NFL Championship, a blizzard covered the stadium. The Eagles offered any fan free tickets to the game if they came with a snow shovel and helped remove the snow. Almost six decades later, hundreds of fans worked again to clear snow from a stadium field, this time prior to an Eagles game NFC championship game. Fan James Phillips shoveled for hours in sub-zero temperatures without gloves and ended up losing several fingers due to frostbite. And he didn’t even make our list of the Top 10 Eagles Fans of All Time.
- The Steelers have actually had three team names in their history: Pirates, Steagles, Steelers.
- No player numbers have been retired by the Steelers, but certain numbers are not handed out to new players each season, including #12 (Terry Bradshaw), #31 (Donnie Shell), and #47 (Mel Blount).
- The Eagles’ mascot Swoop is said to have gained humanoid appearance and size after a fan gave him a Philadelphia Eagles jersey.
- The Steelers’ mascot made his debut in 2007. Steely McBeam is a steel worker named by a Steelers fan as part of a contest.
- The Steelers can lay claim to the #1 play in NFL history, according to a recent ranking on NFL.com. The Immaculate Reception, as it’s called, happened as the seconds ticked down on the 1972 AFC Divisional playoff game. The Steelers trailed the Raiders, but Franco Harris’ incredible, deflected catch and run ultimately led them to a 13-7 win.
Battle of Pennsylvania: Pirates vs. Phillies
The Pirates and Phillies had one of baseball’s greatest rivalries before the Pirates moved to the NL Central in 1994.
In fact, nine out of 10 NL East titles went to either the Phils or Bucs back in the 70s.
Today the rivalry is less intense, but fans remain wary of each other. The Pirates’ much-criticized release of Juan Nicasio to the Phillies earlier this year is just one example of ongoing discomfort.
World Series titles
The Pittsburgh Pirates have won five World Series titles, most recently in 1979 (so, not at all recently). The Pirates last played in the postseason in 2015.
The Philadelphia Phillies have won two World Series titles, most recently in 2008 (2003–2012 referred to as “The Golden Era”). The Phillies last played in the postseason in 2011.
The rivalry between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates was considered by some to be one of the best rivalries in the National League. After the Pirates moved to the NL Central in 1994, the teams now only face each other in two series each year and the rivalry has diminished.
However, many fans, especially older ones, retain their dislike for the other team and regional differences between Eastern and Western Pennsylvania still fuel the rivalry.
All-time since 1887, including the years it was the Pittsburgh Alleghenys vs. the Philadelphia Quakers, Pittsburgh leads 1,219-1,069. Take from that what you will.
Phanatic v. Parrot
The Phillies’ mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, made his debut in April 1978. According to his official biography, the Phanatic is originally from the Galápagos Islands and is the Phillies’ biggest fan.
The costume/puppet designers who created Miss Piggy and other puppets for The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock claim their company is the rightful creator of the Phillie Phanatic.
The Phillies filed a copyright lawsuit against the company. “As the Phillies tell it, they’ve been threatened that if they don’t pay up, the Phanatic will be declared a “free agent”, meaning, at least in theory, another club could negotiate to use the costume.”
The Pirates’ mascot is Pirate Parrot, who “hatched” on April 1, 1979, a year after the Phillie Phanatic was introduced.
In 1995, Pirate Parrot was briefly paired with a secondary mascot, the Buccaneer, who was simply a man in pirate’s garb who led the crowd in organized cheers. The man who played the Buccaneer, Tim Beggy, was arrested along with a woman in July 1995, while skinny dipping after hours in a closed public swimming pool. Beggy’s arrest attracted national attention, including jokes on The Tonight Show, and the Pirates subsequently discontinued the use of the character in the wake of the negative publicity.