Rivalries can often times be what truly drives a sport, as well as an extremely effective bait that lures casual fans into arenas and stadiums, around the globe.
and so on, so forth…
What about the NHL? What are it’s rivalries in the new realignment era? More specifically, who are the Chicago Blackhawks’ rivals, in the newly remixed Central Division.
The Blackhawks are joined in the newly formed Central Division by: the St. Louis Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Minnesota Wild, the Winnipeg Jets, the Dallas Stars, and the Colorado Avalanche.
Notice anything missing?
That’s right, the Detroit Red Wings are no longer in the same division as the Blackhawks, thus ending a rivalry that had lived since 1926.
Who will the Blackhawks’ rivals be in the new Central Division?
That depends. A rivalry must occur naturally. They form when two teams play each other, in several hard fought and/or meaningful contests. Just like the Hawks and the Vancouver Canucks.
What about the St. Louis Blues?
The Hawks and Blues have always had a healthy rivalry, ever since the Blues’ inception, in 1967, and it is as alive today, as it has ever been. The Blues have improved vastly, in the past few seasons, and have viciously battled the Hawks to be the top team, in the old Central Division. The rivalry will definitely continue into the new Central Division. This rivalry got a nice kick from the Blues’ marketing department, when they unveiled their “Keep the Red Out” campaign(following suit of the Nashville Predators) to keep Hawks fans out of the Scottrade Center. In order to buy tickets for a game against the Hawks, a fan must purchase a package of tickets. It’s hard telling how that portion of the plan will work, with secondary ticket markets, but their true plan has already worked. The real plan of this marketing scheme was to put more wood on the fire of this rivalry, and as a result of enhanced fan excitement: more ticket sales, more merchandise sales, and more money. The Hawks/Blues rivalry is as strong as it has ever been, and it will only continue to get stronger, in the new Central Division.
How about the Nashville Predators?
The Predators have battled the Hawks hard, in the uber competitive old Central Division, the past several seasons. As previously mentioned, the Predators started the “Keep the Red Out” campaign, just like the Blues. Unlike the Blues, the Preds had a lost a tough playoff series against the Hawks, back in 2010. Fans, players, and coaches never forget those losses, until they best the team that broke their heart, and aside from a regular season game here and there, the Predators are yet to do that. This rivalry had grown stronger in recent years, as the young franchise in Nashville is still developing it’s first rivalries. Their rivalry with the Blackhawks will only continue to develop, in the new Central Division.
What about the Minnesota Wild?
The Hawks and the former Minnesota NHL franchise, the Minnesota North Stars(now fellow division mates the Dallas Stars) were former bitter rivals of the Hawks, and now that the Wild and Hawks are now division mates, their rivalry should certainly grow. The Wild were an expansion team back in 1997, and have’t been consistently competitive, and at the same time they haven’t played many meaningful games against the Hawks(with all due respect to last years playoff series). The Wild are a team on the rise, and the Hawks are the team to beat, in the new Central Division. A rivalry is very much in the works.
How about the Winnipeg Jets?
The Jets boast a roster, full of ex-Hawks from the last two Stanley Cup winning teams. The Jets will finally have a much more reasonable travel schedule, and that will definitely help them, as they don’t have to pretend that they play in Atlanta anymore. In the old South East Division, of the old Eastern Conference, the Jets were a playoff bubble team, the last couple of seasons. It’s anyone’s guess how they will fare this season. They could very well be a surprise contender, and if they are, it would might be a fun and interesting rivalry, with so many familiar faces on the Jets’ roster.
What about the Dallas Stars?
Probably not this year
Back in the 90’s, the Stars were the team to beat, in the pre-expansion era Central Division. Mike Modano and Co. had the Hawks number, and it was frustrating to fans, but nevertheless a true rivalry never formed. Now that the Hawks and Stars are division-mates, once again, the tables have turned. The Hawks are the team to beat, and the Stars find themselves in an era of rebuilding. If the Stars somehow find their way to being truly competitive, then they could very well be a rival, for the Hawks. That’s not likely to happen, at least not this season.
How about the Colorado Avalanche?
The Avalanche, like the Stars, are in a rebuilding state, at the moment, and don’t figure to be competing for the Central Division crown. Also like the Stars, they have not been regularly competitive since their 90’s glory days. Although the Avs boast a tricky roster, full of young and speedy players, they have too many question marks, going against them. It’s hard to see them as anything but cellar-dwellers, this season. However, stranger things have happened. Last season, the Avs ended the Hawks historic streak, to start the season, but after winning the cup, the Hawks don’t figure to be a team on the lookout for revenge. The Avs are a tricky team, and if their rebuild is on the right track, they might, one day, make a good rival matchup, for the Hawks. In all likelihood, though, not this season.
Rivalries must happen naturally, and with the Hawks playing each divisional foe several times each season, the new Central Division is fertile ground for a new rivalry to grow. When a new rivalry does grow, you’ll know, as marketing departments love a good rivalry to generate fan excitement, and ultimately revenue. Rivalries aren’t just tools for Capitalists, they truly are a lot of fun for fans, as they generally feature the most exhilarating and fun hockey games to watch.