Now that we’ve covered what makes and breaks a rivalry, let’s have a look at some of the potential rivalries the Wings could develop going forward.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Lots of states can claim to have a rivalry but not many can say they went to war with each other. Michigan and Ohio haven’t liked each other since 1835, and this rivalry manifests itself best in the annual college football game between the University of Michigan and Ohio State. It would seem natural for this to carry over into hockey.
Sure, the Blue Jackets are used to being the butt of every joke but I think so long as they make the playoffs, no small feat in that division, the Blue Jackets will be well past the point of being a punch line. As the team has gotten better, so has attendance at Nationwide Arena. Visiting teams fans no longer out number the home team’s fans and when you look around the city of Columbus you can argue that it’s a legitimate hockey market (calm down Blue Jackets bloggers!)
Now I’ll admit, since I’m living in Columbus and will openly root for this market to be successful (provided the Wings aren’t in town) I may be subject to a bit of bias in such an assessment. There wasn’t much of a rivalry in the central division between these two, but as I mentioned before, there needs to be an equal amount of skill between the two teams. Even if they don’t share a division now, that never stopped the Colorado Avalanche rivalry, and common geography always helps.
There was some seeds of a rivalry being planted last year when Derek Dorsett got upset at Jordin Tootoo and went on a rant calling him ‘cheap’ and ‘irrelevant’ (the pot calling the kettle black if there ever was such a thing). However, this team still has to prove itself a bit more before involving itself in a rivalry like this.
Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs
Anything original six really. And no, I don’t want to hear how it’s not really the ‘original’ six teams of the NHL. That’s what it’s called, grow up.
An immense history like this can’t ever be ignored. It’s so prevalent that play-by-play announcers are known to mention the phrase ‘original six’ more than a lot of other things. Like ‘puck’ or ‘shot’ or ‘ice’. This is part of what makes Montreal v Boston such a delight (although the Max Pacioretty incident really helped that heat up). There’s something cool about when Detroit faces Chicago and the pregame highlight package features games in black and white. And how cool would it be to look down on other franchises and be able to say ‘yeah well your rivalry isn’t as cool as our original six rivalry.”
There’s only one real downside to historical rivalries and that’s that… they’re historic. Sure the Wings and the Leafs used to be a really gem of a match up but then Kennedy was elected and it hasn’t been quite as intense. All that time in the western conference had downsides, and the loss of those original six match ups was one of them. The Wings haven’t faced the Leafs in the playoffs since 1993, Montreal since 1978, and Boston since 1957. It’s difficult to make something like that relevant to someone born in 1987.
Sure, a few playoff matches, a big dirty hit from one side or the other, a fight or two and this is back on. But it’ll be hard to reignite a rivalry like this based on history alone.