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Does the NHL need more rivalries?

Jan 17, 2012, 3:16 PM EDT

Fight Getty Images

Interesting piece here by the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran in which it’s argued the NHL could use a few more intense rivalries.

The article led off with Hall-of-Fame defenseman Mark Howe recalling his first game against Boston after being traded from Hartford to Philadelphia: “One of the veterans from the Flyers came over and said: ‘You haven’t played in one of our battles with the Bruins before, have you?’ I said: ‘No, I haven’t.’ He said: ‘We’re just telling you, be ready.’”

Wonder how often conversations like those happen anymore.

McGran then addressed the current state of NHL rivalries:

The league tried to exploit the Rangers-Flyers rivalry for its annual Winter Classic. It might have been smarter to have a second Boston-Vancouver game. The Stanley Cup winner and runner-up — who only play each other once a year in the regular season — absolutely hate each other.

The rematch — the Canucks won — had people talking. Why didn’t Roberto Luongo play? There were lots of fights. When a Boston TV station had a Vancouver columnist on the air to talk about why Vancouver players wouldn’t fight, he was sandbagged by an appearance of Bruins tough-guy Shawn Thornton, who countered every point.

That’s not to say Bruins-Canucks is the NHL’s only current rivalry, but it’s sure felt that way at times this season. Other rivalries that come to mind include Bruins-Habs and Canucks-Blackhawks. And what do all three of those have in common? They’ve all been recent playoff matchups.

Two years ago, the most intense rivalry was probably Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, thanks to the Pens and Flyers meeting twice in a row in the postseason, not to mention hailing from the same state. (A third consecutive meeting looked all but assured in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, until the Habs upset the Pens.)

Of course, rivalries like Montreal-Boston go back a tad longer than a few seasons, as does Montreal-Toronto and Calgary-Edmonton. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a Habs-Leafs postseason series since 1979 and the last Battle of Alberta was 1991.

There’s a reason the NHL tried to realign the league into four regional conferences with the first two rounds of the playoffs being waged within the conference. It’s a simple formula. The more teams see each other in best-of-seven series, the more animosity.

Anyway, living in Vancouver, I get my fill of hate. What about you? Do you wish your team had a more intense rivalry with another team?

  1. xxshookonexx - Jan 17, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    Absolutely. No more force-fed rivalries like the Caps and Penguins just cause the two best players (at the time) are on them (yes, i know they had a history prior to ovechkin and crosby, but that was mainly the pens beating the caps in the playoffs).

    • hockeyfan1701 - Jan 17, 2012 at 3:48 PM

      That is what NBC\NHL wanted. They wanted 87 and 8 to meet every year in the conference finals for huge media hype type series.

      • bigbear42 - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:22 PM

        I wouldnt say Caps-Pens is completely force fed, but it is a much bigger deal for Caps fans than it is for Pens fans since they have a natural in division/state rival in the flyers.

    • abrienza428 - Jan 17, 2012 at 3:53 PM

      You have to understand why they did force-feed that matchup, though. That was an amazing playoff series in 2009 and a perfect storm of what the NHL wanted to promote. It’s also in the record books as being the playoff series with the most pucks shot off the glass by one player, that being Alex Semin.

  2. stratomaticfan - Jan 17, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    The re-alignment made sense. You develop bad blood through hard fought playoff series…keeping 1st round matchups within your division/conference/whatever they want to call it…means a greater likelihood of playing the same teams in the playoffs….means more hatred….means fans get more riled up and interested when other teams appear on their schedule.

  3. cowboys282 - Jan 17, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    As a Bruins season ticket holder I was left with disappointment after the Canucks game knowing it will be a long time I get to see them play the Bruins again.

    Not to mention all 3 Montreal home games are finished and it’s only January 17th.

    Its a simple numbers game. In the NFL 37.5% of the schedule is Division games. Teams draft and build to compete against their division.

    In the NHL 29.2% of games are played against teams division. That is to few. The NHL needs to concentrate more on division play.

    I think realignment would have made this better but of course that got shelved. I don’t need 4 games a year against the Hurricanes and Islanders. I want to see more of the Bruins natural rivalries.

  4. csndrew - Jan 17, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    You want rivalries? Have a league with 15 U.S. teams in one conference and 15 Canadian teams in the other conference. If nothing else, it’s a step in the right direction.

  5. pastabelly - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Re-allignment was a step backwards as there would be more out of conference games than there are now. Under the current structure, at least you really care about 1/2 of the teams in the league as opposed to the 1/4 under re-allignment. What kind of major sports league does not have a Boston-NY rivalry? I realize Boston has Montreal. But killing off any remnants of Bruins-Rangers by having them play in different conferences is probably not a great idea.

  6. bigbear42 - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    I think one of the problems is with this amount of teams in the league most “rivalries” begin with incidents that have people getting either suspended, hurt, or both. Teams just dont play each other often enough to develop and maintain a genuine dislike for each other.

    • 0ffsides - Jan 17, 2012 at 8:44 PM

      The Wings/Avs rivalry of the late 90’s happened just this way. The original six rivalries the same way, a genuine disdain for the other team. Yes the league needs more rivalries but they cannot be self manufactured i.e. Pens/Caps.

  7. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    The fact players don’t stay on the same teams for very long anymore also contributes to the lack of rivalries.

    • atomicpenguin76 - Jan 17, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      This is the first thing that came to mind when I read this, too.

  8. finfan88shark - Jan 17, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    I think the NHL has plenty of rivalries, it is just that NBC chooses not show any team West of Chicago on a consistent basis. Cal-Edmonton-Vancouver is a rivalry as is SJ-LA-ANA, and LA-ANA. Yet you would never know that by watching NBC and the old versus network.

    • pastabelly - Jan 17, 2012 at 6:16 PM

      One of the problems with the re-allignment is that the Bruins, Sabres, and the Florida teams got put in a Canadian conference. NBC would not pay attention to that conference as they aren’t crazy about showing games when they are only in the market of one of the teams. The Bruins-Canucks game wasn’t even worthy of NBC. Realignment just wasn’t well thought out.

  9. sonofsamiam - Jan 17, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Sandbagged? If you did your homework, you’d have known Thornton is on that program every week. He was in studio waiting for a later segment when Gallagher came on ripping him. So they mic’d him up to defend himself.

  10. shaqattaqer - Jan 17, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    Show Canucks – Blackhawks games!!

  11. jagrbomb18 - Jan 17, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    You’re telling me flyers bruins isn’t a rivalry today?

    Bruins win WC
    Flyers come back from 0-3 the same year
    Bruins sweep the next year in route to cup
    I hate Boston

    Flyers Rangers has always been a rivalry
    Flyers win in shoot out to make/eliminate NY from playoffs
    Rangers win WC

    Flyers Pens…duh

    Flyers Habs…was a rivalry when players like Richards and kovalev were around …who did I miss

  12. tommytd - Jan 17, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    Check the ratings when original six teams play each other on weekends and you can probably answer your own question.

  13. Jeff - Jan 17, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    Yes. I think with parity comes rivalries. The Hawks, Wings game Saturday had a playoff feel.
    The Rangers, Flyers is a good rivalry, as is the Caps, Pens rivalry.

  14. asublimeday - Jan 17, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    Seriously no mention of hawks-wings??

  15. tcclark - Jan 17, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    The Flyers have a “rivalry” with just about everyone they play, so no. My team doesn’t nned more rivalries.

    You have the classics
    Flyers v. Rangers
    Flyers v. Penguins
    Flyers v. Devils
    Flyers v. Bruins

    You have old rivalries that might make a comeback
    Flyers v. Islanders
    Flyers v. Capitals (its a great game to watch every time)

    You have the playoff match-ups that always seem (or seemed) to happen
    Flyers v. Buffalo (God I hate Buffalo)
    Flyers v. Toronto
    Flyers v. Montreal

    You have the rivalries that happened because of Martin Havlat
    Flyers v. Senators

    You have the “they beat us in the cup finals” rivalries
    Flyers v. Wings
    Flyers v. Blackhawks

    I feel like I’m forgetting one… or two… or 18. We have enough rivalries even if some of them aren’t as current

    • thefalloficarus84 - Jan 18, 2012 at 6:41 PM

      THANK YOU!! As a philly fan, I come to this message board already assuming everyone here hates me. We have more than enough rivalries to go around, maybe the rest of you would like to take a few off our hands lol

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