It’s rivalry week here at SB Nation and One Foot Down, and we couldn’t let the football program have all the content. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team doesn’t have quite the history of the football team, but that doesn’t mean their rivalries can’t....rival the football program’s. In fact, there are quite a few mutual rivals on this list, here’s a look at the biggest rivals for Notre Dame hockey.
In a surprise to nobody at all, the Michigan Wolverines make almost any list of Notre Dame rivals. The hockey rivalry isn’t quite as well publicized as football, but that doesn’t mean it is any less intense. In fact, the hockey teams have an added animosity to their matchups, they are conference foes as well. From 1992-2013 both teams played in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association before going their separate ways after the 2012-2013 season, Michigan to the newly formed Big Ten hockey conference and Notre Dame for a brief stint in Hockey East. When Notre Dame joined the Big Ten for the 2017-2018 season the rivalry was reignited. The two teams have met three times in the NCAA tournament with Notre Dame winning twice, including their two runs to the 2008 and 2018 national championships. Their conference affiliation has meant that the two teams have played on the big stage of tournaments often, and in 2019 they even played outdoors at Notre Dame Stadium.
While their time as conference rivals in Hockey East lasted only a few years, the rivalry between Notre Dame and Boston College goes back decades on the ice. In fact, the rivalry predates the football version, with the first hockey game between the two teams taking place in 1969. The teams play each other for the Lefty Smith-John “Snooks” Kelley Memorial Trophy, named of the two schools most legendary coaches (Smith at Notre Dame and Kelley at Boston College). Boston College holds the all time edge 24-20-2, but much of the advantage was gained during Notre Dame’s down years of the 1990s after reinstating their varsity program. Of late, the two teams have traded blows fairly evenly while maintaining a yearly home-and-home meeting since Notre Dame moved on to the Big Ten. Unfortunately, Boston College owns the biggest win in the rivalry, beating Notre dame 4-1 in the 2008 national championship.
While not as heated as the Michigan rivalry, Notre Dame does have some other conference rivalries, most notably with the Michigan State Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The four were conference foes in both the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and now the Big Ten. The Michigan State rivalry also carries over from the football field. Notre Dame doesn’t have the big game history with either team that they do with Michigan or Boston College, but they’ve been building it up in recent years with Notre Dame’s wins in the Big Ten tournament. Another rivalry growing in the Big Ten is with the Penn State Nittany Lions, who have been built recently as the antithesis of Notre Dame. Notre Dame has built a reputation as a defensive team with strong goaltending, while Penn State has built themselves on speed and scoring, and the contrast has led to some fun meetings recently.
One of the great things happening in college hockey right now is the expansion of teams, especially those in non-traditional hockey markets. This is highlighted by the recent success of the very new Arizona State Sun Devils program. While I don’t see a rivalry beginning between Notre Dame and Arizona State, their success opens the door for other programs to begin. Could the Irish see some ACC foes join college hockey in the future? How about the USC Trojans? It is certainly possible, but the beauty of Notre Dame is that anybody can become a rival, just look at all the rivals of the football program.