Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hockey realignment and Hawks making history

The National Hockey League is groping its way towards realignment, switching from six divisions to four. For Midwestern hockey fans Minnesota would now be grouped with Chicago and St. Louis (Nashville would also be in the division). However Detroit and Columbus are exiled out to two different divisions. Columbus somehow ends up in the “Atlantic” division (which doesn’t include Boston or a Florida Panthers team that plays in Miami). The biggest take away is this breaks up a natural Chicago-Detroit rivalry and splits up two Original Six teams*. If the NHL does ending up reshuffling I hope they bring named divisions (Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe) and conferences (Clarence Campbell and Prince of Wales) – which ended a couple of decades ago. As a Washington Capitals fan I like it as it gets the Caps out of a division full of teams I don’t care about.

Since we are talking hockey we should also take a moment to recognize the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks’ historic run. Nineteen games into their season they are yet to lose. Well they did lose three shoot-outs, but those are really ties (and would have been under old rules). Under current NHL rules if teams are tied after an overtime period they have five players from each team alternate uncontested shots at a goalie. I don’t like the idea of effectively changing the sport with a shoot-out, but I acknowledge it is exciting.

Incidentally nineteen games is only a record to start a season. The 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers had a 35 game no loss streak row midseason - 35 games was 44% of the season in 1979 (thanks to a lockout shortened 48 game season, the Hawks are at 40% already). They lost the Stanley Cup the in New York Islanders in six games that year.

[*From 1942 to 1967 the NHL only had six teams. The term “Original” is actually misleading as there had been other teams before WWII, but they all folded - plus only two of the Six date to the NHL’s first season in 1917-18. This is why it is bogus that Habs fans (Montreal Canadians) talk up their 24 Cups. The NHL was corrupt by modern standards during this period – Red Wings owner James Norris (see names above) owned multiple teams. Anyway the Six are the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadians. The two teams from North of the Border are the true originals. By the way this is not that unusual – the NFL has only two original teams: the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals (who came from Chicago by way of St. Louis).]

And yes - I added all this explanation because hockey is barely a mainstream sport anymore. Sad.


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