It's starting to sink in: Another lockout has been set in motion. As we trudge along our boring, hockey-less lives, we must not forget one of the best aspects of being a sports fan: Rivalries.
Rivalries, however, can take one of two forms: Good or bad. A good rivalry is one in which both teams and their fans have a mutual respect for one another. It's one in which every game is exciting and in which you can't wait for the next one. A bad rivalry is one in which there is genuine hate flowing out of every pore. Division rivalries are usually in the latter category. Think Montreal-Boston, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, Spy vs. Spy, Alien vs. Predator... you get the idea.
Those bad rivalries are what I'll be concentrating on. Which teams do we hate the most? It is a well-known fact that Minnesotans and Wild fans have a lot of pent-up hate inside them. Being a reader/writer/member of Hockey Wilderness is one of the main causes of this. Time to let that anger out!
I've compiled a list of 5 teams and a few ''dishonorable'' mentions. The reasons behind my choices are based on these criteria:
- Team to team hate.
- Fan to fan hate.
- Fan to team hate.
- History (Events, former players, etc.).
- A little bit of my personal opinion.
- A little bit of what I think is the average Wild fan's opinion
So this list isn't necessarily my top (or should I say bottom) 5, it's just what I believe to be what the list would look like if we took a poll.
It's important in these dire lockout times to not let the steam out of our teapots of hate. With that in mind, read on and get mad at these teams.
5. Colorado Avalanche
Adrian Dater. I could just leave it at that and it would be enough, but I'll keep going.
The Avalanche have the distinction of having a legendary goalie of theirs retire after the most important goal in Wild history. However, they also have the distinction of having brought the Wild to a grinding halt in the first round of the playoffs in their only Division-winning year. They're the biggest playoff rivals to the Wild (the Anaheim Ducks being a close second. I'll elaborate on that later). Nowadays though? The rivalry seems to have cooled off. Sure, Bryan is probably still Public Enemy #1 over at Mile High Hockey, but really, not much else going on between the fans of these Northwest Division rivals. That's why I put it lower on the list. Sure, they're Division rivals, but that's pretty much just words. Most of the animosity between these teams and their fans has cooled off in recent years.
4. St. Louis Blues
Despite not being a Divisional thing, there's been a sense of rivalry for a while between these two teams and it has made for some increasingly interesting and tight games. A defining moment in this rivalry? The Clayton Stoner - David Backes bout at the very end of a 3-1 Wild win in which Stoner bloodied Backes after a scrum a the final buzzer. A scrum that was expected, might I add. The Blues are one of the big reasons Wild fans want the realignment to happen now. Blues-Wild, as surprising as that may sound to most other NHL fans, makes for a fun game to watch, every time. The Blues are very good under Ken Hitchcock, they have players that are fun to hate, such as the aforementioned David Backes, Ryan Reeves and Scott Nichol.
The reason I put the Blues in 4th is because it's not quite a full-fledged rivalry just yet. The hate is mostly between the teams themselves, there's very little fan-to-fan banter and the games often come in pairs, so they come and go kind of fast. Once/if the realignment happens, expect the Blues to be among the front-runners for our most hated team.
3. Winnipeg Jets
They may be #3 on this list, but they're the #1 reason the realignment needs to happen. Right from the get-go, Wild fans didn't like the Winnipeg Jets very much. It was mostly the fans making a bad first impression with their over-zealousness, going to the Xcel Center and being disruptive to Wild fans and the way some conducted themselves before getting their team. Sure, it's not the entire fanbase's fault, but it only takes a few rotten grapes to make the rest of the fruit salad less appealing (weird analogy, I know.)
As for the on-ice hate? Oh, it was very present. Strangely enough, Jets-Wild looked like a 20-year rivalry from the very beginning, despite the Wild and the ex-Thrashers having basically zero history with one another. One event in particular cranked what was already a bitter relationship into full-blown hate: Zach Bogosian boarding Pierre-Marc Bouchard, bloodying his face and giving him a concussion. That hit got him a one-minute penalty because that's all that was left of the game. Bouchard, meanwhile, played one or two games after that and missed the rest of the season.
As if that wasn't enough, that game also turned out to be the turning point of the entire season for the Wild. Before that fateful December 13th match-up, the Wild were soaring sky-high at 20-7-3, rocking a 7-game win streak, 12 wins in their last 14 games. That game sent them into a 1-8-3 tailspin and the Wild tumbled and tumbled until they ended with the 7th overall pick at the Entry Draft.
Many Wild fans got into heated arguments with Jets fans about Bogosian's hit and the game in general and it got bad, fast. I even received a ''stern'' e-mail (that I guess I deleted) from a Jets fan saying he read my recap of the game and that I should pursue another profession because I'm a bad writer. To be fair, I did say that I hated the Jets and their fans, so that definitely makes me a bad writer. Oh well, I guess I'll have to find another ''profession'', since I can't be a blogger anymore. Did you know the most important profession in the world is blogging? Yeah, it's right before gaming and watching television. Surgeons? Lawyers? Bunch of slackers. Get a real career! Like blogging! Yeah...
Long story short: We don't like the Jets. Pretty sure the Wild have a bone to pick with them too. While there was no love lost between Wild fans and Jets fans, both agreed that this will be a great rivalry once the realignment comes. The Jets could very well shoot up to #1 on this list, as they make more sense as a natural rival than teams like Colorado and Calgary.
2. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have been what can only be described as a clown car for a-holes: Todd Bertuzzi, Matt Cooke, Mattias Ohlund, Alexandre Burrows, Darcy Hordichuk, Maxim Lapierre,
Now in all honesty, I wasn't around as a Wild fan until 2004 (narrowly missing the 2003 run) but an incident occured during that memorable run. Todd Bertuzzi became perhaps the single most hated player by the Wild's fanbase by publicly telling Wild fans that they didn't need to buy tickets for game 6 of their Conference Semifinal match-up because the Wild were going to be eliminated by then. Mix that with his dirty play and his untimely goals and you've got a villain. A rivalry was born.
Another memorable moment came when Mattias Ohlund broke Mikko Koivu's leg with a two-handed swing of his hockey stick after Koivu had thrown a borderline hit. Koivu was at the top of his game and the game and was quickly growing into the player he is today. One has to wonder if Koivu's development suffered a bit after that injury.
The fights, the Sedin twins, Roberto Luongo, the goons, the diving, so many reasons to hate the Vancouver Canucks. Heck, almost everyone hates the Vancouver Canucks! It's easy to see how we came to hate them so much when we have to deal with their crap 6 times (even 8 in past years) a season.
Not only are they easy to hate: they're easy to make fun of too! ''The Sedins are brain-eating zombie sisters!'', ''Roberto Luongo's hair could be the main source of oil on the planet!'', ''Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows and Maxim Lapierre are Olympic Gold medalists in synchronized diving!'', ''Burrows prefers human fingers to garlic, chicken and lady fingers!''. See? Easy.
Now, the reason I couldn't give them the title of ''most hated team by the Wild and it's fans''? The fan aspect. I don't know if I've ever really gotten into an argument with Canucks fans. In fact, we get along surprisingly well with them. They're probably the ones we get along with the best among our Division rivals. Sure, there's the regular trash talk, but rarely any vitriol.
I'd say they're our most hated team in terms of players and history, but like I said, I'm looking for the total package, so #2 it is.
Before we go to number 1 (a team the majority of the Wilderness should easily guess), let's look at a few dishonorable mentions; teams I felt didn't quite warrant a top 5 spot, but are still hated a fair amount by the Wild and their fans.
There will always be some bitterness surrounding the Stars because of Norm Green. Dallas ''stole'' the North Stars away from Minnesotan hockey fans and had the nerve to win a Stanley Cup a few years later. Personally, I've always disliked the Stars, but not for the same reason. As a kid, I was a big Dominik Hasek fan, hence I watched a lot of Buffalo Sabres hockey. Seeing Brett Hull scored that cup-clinching non-goal made me very sad (because I was too young to know how to be pissed).
Another thing we don't like about the Stars is that they seem to be nearly unbeatable to the Wild, especially on their home turf. The Wild have gone 1-2-1 against the Stars in each of the last 4 seasons (quite uncanny). They have also won no more than one game against the Stars in each of the last 8 seasons. All-time, the Wild are a pitiful 12-22-8 against the former North Stars. Yeah, we don't like them much. The thing is, on the ice, there's rarely much animosity between the two teams and fan-to-fan banter is practically non-existant, which is why I chose not to include them in the top 5.
3 pretty simple reasons why we hate the Ducks:
1) They've ruined two of the three playoff runs the Wild have participated in, including the 2003 run in which passing the Ducks would have meant a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2) Their top line of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf is ridiculously good against the Wild.
3) They've had their share of players that get under our skin. Perry, Chris Pronger, George Parros, Jean-François Jacques, Chris Kunitz, etc.
Again though, I couldn't place them higher because of the lack of fan interaction. There's just no natural rivalry here. It could have been any team beating the Wild in the playoffs, it happened to be the Ducks.
I can't wait for Jarome Iginla to either retire or get traded. No other man has produced as many points against the Wild as Jarome Iginla since their inception. Playing at the Saddledome used to be a nightmare for the Wild but lately, they've exorcised their demons and have started having a little bit of success in that part of Alberta. They used to be one of our most hated teams, but with Jay Feaster running wild and their prospect pool about as dry as the Wild's used to be, it's just not the same anymore. We just don't fear or loathe them anymore. In fact, I think most of us kind of pity them, because we were in that situation not that long ago. It sucks. We would only wish that on our worst enemies, which brings us to number 1:
1. Edmonton Oilers
There it is: The perfect mix of players and fans to despise.
Darcy Hordichuk makes a second entry in our who's who of players we've hated these past years and with him, guys like Andy Sutton, Theo Peckham, Ryan Jones, Zack Stortini and many more. A collection of goons that may be second only to the Canucks, to be honest. Last season, the Darcy Hordichuk - Brad Staubitz debacle was a good example of this heated rivalry. Hordichuk basically said he had been waiting 10 years to fight Staubitz, even if he hadn't been playing against for that long and he just ran away whenever Staubitz was looking for a fight. Staubitz was no prize either however, virtually costing the Wild that game thanks to some downright stupid penalties because he couldn't keep his temper in check. Hordichuk got to him. That's his job. We hate him for it.
All Oilers-Wild games get pretty rough-and-tumble. The real meat of this rivalry, however, comes from the recent interactions between the Wilderness and Copper and Blue, mostly regarding stats and its usage for and against both teams. The exchanges were downright deplorable in some cases and both fanbases are guilty of it. I have personally been verbally attacked by Oilers fans just for stating what should be obvious: Hockey is played on the ice, not on the stat sheets. The hate is palpable enough that we sincerly want the Oilers to fail just because of their fans. Some wishing for players of the other team to get injured, some hoping the Oilers move to another city. (which is a thing now, if you haven't heard.) Having lost a team themselves, Wild fans really have to hate a team to wish the same fate on them, right? Right.
No team even comes close when it comes to pure hate for Wild fans, or at least the Wilderness. The only thing better than seeing the Oilers draft three 1st overall picks in a row would be to see those draft picks flounder and make the Oilers remain in the cellar. Actually, scratch that, the only thing better than seeing them at the bottom of the league would be to see them do it in another city. That's how much we hate them. We probably wouldn't hate them quite as much if they moved, but they still have those goons we detest so much. They also still have morons in the front office, which means the Oilers/Whalers/Nordiques should keep us entertained for a while. This isn't like the Flames' situation where we kind of feel sorry for them; we're glad the Oilers suck.
That's about it. I look forward to seeing the comment section. Bring it on.