Friday, January 9, 2009

Original Six Rivalries, are they dead or are they gaining steam again?

For the first time in what seems like decades, and for the first time since I began to really watch and understand hockey, the Original Six teams(minus the Leafs) are all very compeditive teams near or at the top of their respective conferences and divisions. The Blackhawks and the Red Wings just finished this years(and third in total, I get really annoyed that the NHL ignores the first outdoor game in Edmonton between the Oilers and the Habs. That was the first outdoor game, not the one between the Sabres and the Penguins) winter classic game at Wrigley field which ended in a 6-4 victory for the Red Wings with both teams battling for the #1 spot in the central division, the Habs and Leafs had a fight filled grudge fest with a Belarussion flavour at the end of the 6-2 Habs victory. The Boston Bruins are back and off to one of the best starts in franchise history sitting pretty in the top perch in the east and the New York Rangers are battling the Philadelphia Flyers for first in the Atlantic division and have fantastic young threesome of players to work with in Nikolai Zherdev, Marc Staal and one of the top 5 goalies in the league with Henrik Lundqvist. The Leafs, even though they are currently battling for the #1 overall pick they have managed to generate some excitement with the hiring of Brian Burke and the play of 2008 #5 overall pick Luke Schenn. All the Original six teams either have bright hope for the future, a chance to battle for the Stanley Cup or both. But the question is, after all the years of mediocrity to down right brutal performances(with the exception of Detroit) are the rivalries between the original six teams really still there?

There are of course two sides to this argument. Most of the people who say the rivalries are dead are those who have been around and watching hockey much longer then I. They remember when there where still just 6 teams and the expansion to 12 in 1967. The good old days when teams would take bounty's out on other teams star players, the days before Bettman and his boys started censoring anything remotely entertaining(Burke vs. Lowe and as much of a jerk as he is you have to admit Sean Avery was pretty entertaining). The violence in today's game is nothing compared to what the players did to each other back then which some people tend to forget and considering you played the same teams over 10 times a year things could get out of control back then, much worse then now. Legendary hockey writer Red Fischer who's been covering the Habs since the night of the Richard Riot in 1955 wrote the article that gave me the idea for my first blog topic here( when he wrote an article this morning about how he believes the legendary Habs/Leafs rivalry has died and his reasons why.

The there are those younger hockey fans such as myself who weren't around for the glorious hey day of the original six rivalries. We've lived through the pre-lockout years when it was the same 4-5 teams every year who could buy Stanley Cup teams(although Tampa Bay and Calgary actually ended the trend of the same usual teams having at least one spot in the final) with the Leafs, Red Wings and, before they traded Jumbo Joe, the Bruins were usually aroung the top of their conferences although the Wings were the only one of the 3 who ever had any playoff success, while the Habs and Chicago always seemed to be in a state of rebuilding and the Rangers were a continuous disaster of high payed underacheivers.................until now. This is the first real dose that young hockey fans have really ever had of the legendary franchises being good at the same time. Could this be a new beginning to some legendary rivalries and playoff series between Chicago and Detroit, Boston and Montreal with the Rangers possibly in there as well in the coming years with Toronto eventually building a contender? I guess only time will tell. It's my opinion anyway that the Original Six rivalries could just be getting started again.

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