The Stanley Cup Final matchup — Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago BlackHawks — places those grand old northern cities in a rare sports class. They have completed the grand slam.
Oklahoma City is an infant as a major-league city, and its playoff rivalries are yet to be written. But some ancient gothams have been at this business since 1871, including Philadelphia and Chicago. And with the Flyers-BlackHawks Stanley Cup Final, Philadelphia and Chicago now have been paired against each other in the championship round of all four major American team sports. Even if most of the matchups involve franchises no longer with us.
Hockey, you know about.
Football: the Chicago Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles squared off in back-to-back NFL title games, with the Cardinals winning in 1947 and the Eagles in 1948. The Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960.winning in 191947 and 1948.
Basketball: The Philadelphia Warriors beat the Chicago Stags in the 1947 finals of the Basketball Association of America; the BAA eventually became the NBA. The Warriors moved to San Francisco in 1962; the Stags folded in 1950.
Baseball: The Philadelphia Athletics beat the Chicago Cubs in the World Serieses of 1929 and 1910. The Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955.
So Philly has a 4-1 edge on Chicago. Of course, Chicago is playing short-handed in the rivalry, since it’s cursed with the Cubs and White Sox.
Only one other pair of cities have squared off in the finals of all four sports, and their rivalry is a lot more modern than Chicago-Philly. Boston and St. Louis have become frequent combatants in title games or series even though their post-season rivalry didn’t start until 1946.
The Red Sox and Cardinals have played in three World Serieses: 1946, 1967 and 2004, with St. Louis winning the first two and, maybe you heard, Boston winning in ’04. The 2001 Patriots (suburbs count) beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. The Celtics and St. Louis Hawks met in the NBA Finals in 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1961, with the Hawks winning only in ’58. The Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968. And the Boston Bruins beat the St. Louis Blues in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final. So Boston has a 6-3 edge on St. Louis.
Only two other pairs of cities have met in the finals of three of the four major sports. And both include Boston.
Boston-New York: The Bruins beat the New York Rangers in both the 1972 and 1929 Stanley Cup Final; the 2007 Giants (I count the Meadowlands as New York in football but not in basketball or hockey) beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl; the Mets beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series; and the Red Sox won the World Series in 1916 over the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) and in 1912 over the New York Giants. So Boston has a 4-2 edge on New York; so much for the Curse of the Bambino.
Boston-Philadelphia: The 2004 Patriots beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl; the Flyers beat the Bruins in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final; and in an amazing stretch of city rivalry, the Boston Braves beat the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series, then the Red Sox beat the Phillies in the 1915 World Series. So Boston leads Philly 3-1.
Boston and New York, and Boston and Philadelphia, won’t complete their grand slam without NBA reconfiguration. Boston, Philly and New York have been in the same division or conference since the league was formed.
Championship matchups can make for strange bedfellows. Dallas and Buffalo have met in as many different sports finals (two; Super Bowl and Stanley Cup) as New York and Chicago. Los Angeles and Newark (NBA, NHL) the same as LA and Chicago.
The cities that meet the most often in finals are, no surprise, Boston and Los Angeles, thanks entirely to the NBA, where the Lakers and Celtics have played each other in 10 Finals. Chicago and New York (baseball, NFL) have met in nine championships, matching Boston and St. Louis.
New York’s championship history is fun to browse. Gotham has been paired with 30 other cities, not counting its own boroughs.
Chicago nine times and Los Angeles seven (all between 1963 and 1981; four World Series, three NBA).
Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis each six, with the latter two all coming in baseball.
Baltimore five (one baseball, four NFL) and Green Bay five (all NFL).
Minneapolis four (two NBA, two NHL).
Cincinnati three (all baseball), Detroit three (one NFL, two NHL) and Toronto three (all NHL).
Atlanta, Cleveland, Edmonton, Washington, Vancouver, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh all twice. And Buffalo, Denver, Miami, Montreal, Louisville, Phoenix, Oakland, Providence, San Francisco, Rochester, San Antonio and Salt Lake City once each. Before you write, no, it wasn’t the Knickerbockers vs. Jazz in a New York/Salt Lake matchup. It was the New York Nets (playing on Long Island) against the Utah Stars in the 1974 ABA Finals.