[Editor's Note: As most of you know, Art decided to hang up the blogging gloves and retire from DBD while on top. To replace him, Defending Big D pulled another accomplished blogger out of the depths of retirement -- please welcome Cole Jones to the DBD team!
Most of you may remember that Cole ran the award-winning The Other Six Seconds blog before shutting it down last year. We're extremely proud to have Cole here at DBD, where he will help us continue to build to being the best hockey site on the planet. At least, that's the plan.]
Back before there were Ice Girls, or LED screens, or a Southeast Division... before there were Dallas Stars... back when Brendan Shanahan's hands were more likely to deliver head shots than type out disciplinary measures to eliminate them, there was an NHL division known for it's ferocity, passion, and intense rivalries.
Back when men were men and hockey was hockey, there was the Norris Division, and the Stars were lucky enough to call it home. By the time the Stars got to Dallas, Gary Bettman decided to rename all the divisions geographically. A few years later, the Stars were shuffled over to the Pacific Division, and the Norris, now Central, was never quite the same.
Rivalry was the lifeblood of the Norris Division, with the Minnesota North Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues all harboring legitimate disdain for one another. Part of what made the rivalries so intense was a little thing called a divisional playoff. The top 4 teams in each division made the playoffs, with the first two rounds of the playoffs being played entirely within the division. That meant that if the Stars had any interest in going to the Conference Finals, they'd have to go through their oldest and most hated rivals first. Every year.
For those keeping score, that's pretty much exactly the plan that the NHL governors just adopted earlier this week. A few years back, the NHL tried to instill more of a sense of rivalry back into the game, by jamming an almost offensive number of divisional games to the regular season schedule. Turns out a playoff series against the Blackhawks or Red Wings did more to create bad blood than a couple dozen Stars/Coyotes games in the fall. That's why I'm so excited about the NHL's new alignment.
Gone are the days of trying to manufacture rivalries with the Kings and Coyotes, 9:00 local start times for divisional games, and fighting for the right to hang a banner adorned with the name of an ocean that most Texans have never even seen in our rafters. The name of this new conference has yet to be decided, but with the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, and St. Louis Blues all lumped in the same group, it's hard to not draw comparisons to the Norris Division of old.
Throw in the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Winnipeg Jets, and this division has the potential to create all new rivalries with these expansion clubs, while hopefully rekindling the rivalries of old.
Public enemy number one for the Minnesota North Stars was the Chicago Blackhawks. Stars fans got a glimpse of the hatred in the early years of Dallas Stars hockey, but since then, things have cooled off almost entirely. Given the resurgence of Blackhawks hockey coinciding with a rebirth of sorts of Stars hockey under Nieuwendyk and Gaglardi, this is one rivalry that I'm really looking forward to experiencing first hand.
Animosity with the Predators, Blue Jackets, and Red Wings should be nothing new for the average Stars fan, but the team I'm most excited to share a Conference with is the Minnesota Wild. While there is plenty of bad feelings between the two teams, it's been fairly one sided, and for obvious reasons. With the Wild now a decade old, maybe it's time for a story-line than doesn't involve the same plot-line as a jilted ex-lover out for revenge.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and this new format goes a long way to nurturing those feelings for a whole new generation of hockey fan in the middle of the country.
There's a lot to like about this alignment for hockey fans in the Lone Star State, or central time zone in general. Which rivalry, old or new, are you most looking forward to seeing in the next few years?