Feb 23 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) during warmup prior to game against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Realignment: Blackhawks Rivalry or Maple Leafs Rivalry?

Jan 7, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs center Matthew Lombardi (15) loses the puck as he drives to the net on Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve all done this dance before when it’s come to realignment discussions. Detroit Red Wings fans have wanted to move to the Eastern Conference for decades now. Get rid of those pesky West Coast and Western Canada, late-night road trips, and have the majority of the games played in our own darn time zone. Is that so much to ask?

The answer is yes.

When the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg to become the Jets, fans hoped that it would be a simple swap – Winnipeg move to the West, Detroit move to the East.

The thought outraged Columbus Blue Jackets fans and Nashville Predators fans. Why don’t they get a say? Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone, too, and has just as many Western road trips as Detroit. Nashville is closer to the Florida teams and mid-Eastern teams than Detroit and Columbus.

The last proposal for realignment was shot down by the NHLPA because, well, the NHL didn’t really supply any information on how travel would work and the PA felt that the NHL made it up with the owners’ profits in mind and not the players and teams.

The latest proposal is a little varied from the last one, and a little more appealing. The “Central Division” would consist of Detroit, Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.

From what I have seen, many Red Wings fans are pleased with this new alignment. Others, however, have voiced their disappointment. The biggest problem: Losing the division rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks. In recent years, that rivalry has grown and become something both loved and reviled (not as much as the old Colorado Avalanche rivalry, but along that same line of hatred). “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis haunts our dreams.

The realignment plan would make us lose one Original Six rivalry. But it would give us another to replace it (three actually, but I’m only focusing on one): The Maple Leafs.

Canadian hockey fans are crazy, sometimes overtly annoying, but when they’re in your arena and they’re being good sports, they are awesome. Your shared passion for the sport just seems to make everything better and while your teams may hate each others’ guts, you can bond about how much you hate Sunbelt teams. Or the shootout. Or, you know, anything else.

If you have never been to a game at the Joe against the Maple Leafs, you’re missing out. I try to go to those anytime they come around. The atmosphere in the building is electrifying, even during the warmups. And the fact that the attendance is nearly divided evenly between sides always astounds me (though it really shouldn’t). I mean, I have a video up of the alternating “Let’s Go Red Wings!” “Go Leafs Go!” chant at a game. It was awesome. (This was the same game where two separate fights broke out between fans in the stands.)

Going to a game against Chicago at the Joe still has electricity, of course. But it’s different. It’s not as intense. It’s still an Original Six rivalry, but because we see them so often, it’s not as prevalent. It’s almost… disillusioning.

Don’t get me wrong – if we end up in a division with Toronto, the lack of Original Six magic will probably happen with them, too. But a change of scenery might be nice. And let’s not forget – if we have a consistent, solid rivalry with Toronto, the hilarious tweets and articles from Down Goes Brown will make everything even more awesome.

(On a negative note, we would have to deal with Canadiens fans, who are legitimately crazy, especially if they’re at the Joe and winning the game.)

If we want to get really crazy with realignment plans, say this one gets denied by the NHLPA, too. What if they made a division that was all Original Six teams, plus one or two of the second expansion teams to fill up the quota? How magnificent would that be to bring back that bit of NHL history? It will never happen in a million years, but we can dream, can’t we?

So what say all of you: Chicago or Toronto rivalry? Which would you rather have?

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