The NHL is known to be a little over the top when they promote games they believe will be of high intensity. With the league passing its centennial year, almost every team has discovered an on-ice hatred for the other 30 clubs in the league (disregard the Vegas Golden Knights). The word rivalry, in such a sport like hockey, shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s a word that used to have meaning; a word that when mentioned, brought up memories good and bad. It reminded those of blood-thirst fights on the ice, clutch game-winning goals, heartbreak, and bragging rights.
Now, in today’s NHL, it’s used as a marketing technique to rival opposing powers. What was once a term to discuss some of the biggest and most intense match-ups, is now a tool to put some of the league’s most elite players going after one another in a game which has no significance to their history. With that said, here are some examples.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Philadelphia Flyers
It’s no mistake these two had a history, meeting in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, which was one of the best of the salary-cap era. The young and rising Blackhawks group lead by Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews, with a young Dustin Byfuglien on the backend, looked impeccable. While for the Flyers, they had leadership from Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell, and a veteran Chris Pronger.
The series was seemingly endless before Kane’s overtime goal in game six, but after that game, there was no rivalry.
Both teams have rebuilt in many different ways. From that series, Claude Giroux is the only remaining Flyer from that 2010 team. Yet, still today, we see a promotion on NBC for a star-studded Wednesday Night Rivalry matchup that endlessly talks about the fierce rivalry between the two teams. There’s no more lust behind the two teams. During the year, it’s just another game, nothing more, nothing less, despite their history.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Buffalo Sabres
Now this so-called “rivalry” is just ridiculous. I’m going to keep this short because there is no way these two teams have a rivalry in any conceivable fashion. The teams have zero playoff history together. Yeah sure, when they play together things can get a little heated, but that goes with every potential matchup and does not consider it a rivalry. The fact that NBC had these teams play twice in the past two years on a Wednesday Night Rivalry game is beyond atrocious.
Montreal Canadiens vs Los Angeles Kings
Since the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, where Patrick Roy aided the Canadiens to beat Wayne Gretzky and the Kings in five games to raise the Stanley Cup, there have been no meaningful games between these two teams. Being of opposite conferences, it’s nice to see an original six team play against an odd California based franchise.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia factor of a great series or the rich histories behind the teams, but one thing is for sure; they’re not rivals. Making a playoff matchup from 25 years ago a rivalry in today’s game is overkill. Half of the fans on each fanbase weren’t even probably born before that infamous series, which was the last Stanley Cup the country of Canada has ever seen. Will it be the last, not sure. If they meet again in the Stanley Cup Final soon, sure, maybe consider it a rivalry. But for now, it’s not even close.