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What the Derby means to me

From the Canadiens and the Nordiques to Inter and AC Milan, nothing beats The Tel Aviv Derby between Maccabi and Hapoel

Dov Halickman Photography

With Maccabi Tel Aviv about to face Hapoel Tel Aviv in the “Big Derby” on Sunday night, I thought it was a good time to look back at some of the great Derby moments that I experienced growing up in North America.

Growing up in Montreal, the closest thing we had to a Derby was when the Montreal Canadiens played the Quebec Nordiques. There was always plenty of passion and emotion all thrown together for one of the fiercest rivalries in NHL hockey history. Unfortunately, the days of that rivalry are long gone when the Nords moved to Colorado back in 1995.

The “Battle of Quebec” as it was billed in the media never seemed to disappoint as the players on both teams played as it was do or die. In fact sometimes these two sides would meet in the playoffs which was certainly the case. From the “Good Friday Massacre” to the great 1993 series when the Nordiques led the Habs two games to none and then saw the Canadiens rattle off four wins in a row, there was never a dull moment.

My next Derby experience takes us to New York City and the Rangers/Islanders rivalry. Again, these were some of the most amazing games that ever took place on an NHL ice surface and still takes place today. The atmosphere that the fans create usually outweighs these games and the club’s haven’t met each other in the playoff since the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

New York also features a pretty neat baseball Derby that began in 1997 when the New York Mets visited Yankee Stadium to take on the pinstripes. I was at the game that day back on June 16th and unfortunately saw the Mets whitewash the home team 6-0. But that Derby only began to heat up, hitting its pinnacle in 2000 when the two teams faced off in the World Series. And what a World Series that was!

The Yankees won in five games and I had the chance to be at game two and the game five clincher at the old Shea Stadium. The second game will go down in infamy as a broken bat by Mets catcher Mike Piazza was thrown at him by Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens setting off fireworks early on in the game. Of course game five on Shea Stadium turf saw the Yankees win the World Series in a hard fought battle in what could have been a once in a lifetime occasion.

I’ve also been to the Milan Derby, the “Derby Della Madonnina” that pits AC Milan and Inter which in itself is a site to behold between two of the great Italian sides. The crowd, fans and players certainly all got into it from every which angle. Lots of fun and lots of passion in one of the greatest games on earth.

Of course living in Israel since 2004 has allowed me the chance to attend a number of Tel Aviv Derbies that always seem to feature the best of the best from the players on the pitch to the fans in the stands. From Tifo to cheering, the Tel Aviv Derby is second to none. You can always count on action from both sides and intensity that blows away any other matchup that I can remember. Be it from the Eran Zahavi last second goal Derby to the abandoned Derby in 2014 you never know what you’ll get when Maccabi Tel Aviv kickoff against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Another chapter on this great rivalry will be written Sunday night. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.