Building New Rivalries: Wild & Avalanche

Doug Pensinger

Are the Colorado Avalanche the Minnesota Wild's biggest rival? Maybe not yet, but it has potential.

When divisional realignment was approved last year, the NHL also decided to change the structure of the playoffs. Instead of seeding teams 1-8, the first and second round match-ups generally stay within the division. One of the great things about the new format is that it is bound to stir up some blood. There is instant familiarity between the teams, which can only breed hate. We've seen this in the first round with the storied rivalry of St. Louis and Chicago, but we've also seen flashes of it in the Colorado/Minnesota series.

Last year, people complained about the Chicago/Minnesota series because it was too "soft." And it was. The Blackhawks and Wild came from different divisions. They really didn't know each other and just played boring hockey.  Honestly, the biggest controversy last year was after Game 2 when Mike Yeo claimed Chicago was cheating on faceoffs.

This year is night and day. Cheap shots, injuries, bad penalties, controversial calls, high drama overtime games, you name it. Regardless of how the series ends, the bad blood between the teams will likely carry on. Both teams are built on young players who will most likely play against each other for years to come.

Not all hockey rivalries have to come from decades of bad blood. It's impossible for an expansion team like the Wild to have a storied history like Montreal and Toronto, or Detroit and Chicago, but it can always build new rivalries for the era to come. All it takes is consistent competitiveness and time.

From 1982 to 1991, the North Stars met the Blackhawks in the playoffs six different times. Naturally, the games were heated. Just search YouTube and you'll find more than a few team brawls. That's what consistent competition can get you.

The Wild don't have any natural enemies. The Winnipeg Jets have potential due to the close proximity, but the match-up is still too new. Vancouver was supposedly an enemy for years, but the two teams were hardly ever competitive in the same year, and the rivalry has cooled since realignment. Some people hate the Dallas Stars because they stole the North Stars, but time has passed and the players on the ice don't care one bit about Norm Green.

In ten years, this could all change. Give these teams a few years to meet in the playoffs year after year and rivalries will naturally develop. With so many young players with great potential, Colorado and Minnesota will most likely meet in the playoffs again. And possibly again. And probably again. Is Colorado our greatest rival? Maybe. The teams certainly don't like each other, but there is room to grow, and I hope it does. We might look back on the 2014 and say this was the series that started it all.

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