It’s Rivalry Week at SB Nation, but unlike some of the classic NHL rivalries like Flyers/Penguins, Oilers/Flames and Habs/pretty-much-everyone, the Minnesota Wild arguably don’t have a tried-and-true opponent, fan base or general region of the country to despise with every ounce of their hockey-loving soul. And considering the Minnesota Gopher fans still say “Na-na-na-na-na-HEY-SIOUX-SUCK” during Rock and Roll Part II, even when they don’t play North Dakota (and despite that they’re not called the Sioux anymore), we know the State of Hockey has it in them.
So, who should be the Wild’s primary rival? Who should we love to hate more than any of them all? To decide, we ranked each potential rivalry partner by a series of criteria based on the most heated rivalry in Minnesota sports: The Vikings and the Packers.
Vikings fans hate Packer fans, and vice versa. The players don’t much like each other — and it’s the height of treason to go play for the other team later in their career. And best of all, the two teams are frequently competitive, making their matchups must-see TV.
So, we took what makes the Vikes/Pack so great and created 10 key indicators to grade each possible dance partner to determine the Wild’s undesirable number one:
Wild Rivalry Grading System
Fanimosity – The fan bases mutually hate each other. At the arena, in bars, on the street — if you’re wearing the other team’s jersey, you might get an insult, a curse word or a beer thrown at you.
Conquering Horde – The only thing worse than a rival fan is a rival fan in your bar, in your arena, or in your home. The better the opposing fans travel, the better the rivalry.
Player Hater Degree – Rivalries between fans are great, but things are toned down if the players are gentlemanly or respectful to each other. If there’s some grit on the gridiron (or the ice) to fuel the arguments in the stands, even better.
Organizational Disfunction – A rivalry goes to another level if the fans even harbor bitterness against the coach, owner, front office or equipment manager.
Original Sins – The longer players and fans have been at loggerheads, the better.
Cup Check – “Come find me when your team wins a championship.” Often times, the last word in rivalry arguments. The more clout, the better.
Puck Stops Here – Rivalries are even better when the teams trade wins, titles, or are generally competitive when they play each other, and their games are must-watch.
Deep Divisions – Divisional hatred is best, but a good conference battle can be fun too. The more times they meet per season, the more chance for…
One Shiner Moment – Teams share one or more classic fights, brouhahas or donnybrooks.
Neighborly Disagreement – If the teams share a border or are geographically close, there’s more chance for fan interaction, disagreement, or… hand catching.
The Grading Scale
Each category will be graded from Total Apathy (0 points) to the Fire of A Thousand Suns (5 points).
The second-round matchup with the Canucks in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs sparked the team’s first true rivalry, born after Todd Bertuzzi had some choice words for Wild fans waiting in line for tickets after Game 4, letting them know not to bother, because the series (then 3-1 in Vancouver’s favor) would be over after Game 5. And we all know how that ended.
Fanimosity – Wild fans hated the players more than the Vancouver faithful. Bertuzzi, Matt Cooke, Alex Burrows — all jerks. As for the Canucks… well, Rick Rypien once tried to fight a Wild fan… 2 points.
Conquering Horde – While Canucks fans don’t travel poorly, I wouldn’t say they’re seen at the X any more or less frequently than any other NHL team. 1 point.
Player Hater Degree – Mattias Ohlund once slashed Mikko Koivu, breaking his wrist and causing him to miss two months of the 2008-09 season. Upon his return to Vancouver, Koivu scored the eventual game-winner, and the origin story of #AngryMikko was born.
Organizational Disfunction – Matt Cooke regrettably crossed borders and benches to come play for the Wild for a hot minute, but I’m sure instead of being bitter, Vancouver was happy to see him gone. No, nothing much brewing between the organizations. 0 points.
Original Sins – When a team has only been around for nearly 20 years, a rivalry going back 16 seasons is pretty good, even if it has cooled since then. 4 points.
Cup Check – The Canucks have been to three Cup finals, one since the Wild have been in existence. If Vancouver fans cared enough, they could shout about that over their Molson Light. 2 points.
Puck Stops Here – The fact that the Wild beat the Canucks after being down 3-1 is pretty good, and the pending and upcoming play-in series will only add fuel to that fire. But after the Wild won their only division title in 2007-08, Vancouver got really good and the Wild were not competitive in the division. Things got better for the Wild in the newly born Central Division, but by that time, the Canucks were in the Pacific and the rivalry had faded. 3 points.
Deep Divisions – The Northwest Division is long gone, but these two teams were pretty decent divisional rivals. 3 points.
One Shiner Moment – HockeyFights.com has the Vancouver Canucks as the most fought opponent since 2014. The more recent fisticuffs have been pretty good, including this one between Moose and Zack MacEwen:
Neighborly Disagreement – 1,802 miles, 27 hours, 6 states or 5 provinces (depending on where you cross the border). By far the farthest contender away. 0 points.
Total: 23 points.
Fanimosity –There’s definitely something brewing between the passionate fans of the two franchises. Maybe not at the level of some of the other teams, but it’s there. Especially if you’re a visiting fan. 3 points.
Conquering Horde – Tickets are so hard to get at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg (capacity 15,294) that Jets fans flood the X every time they play. When the navy and white jerseys almost outnumber the green and red, there are bound to be some throwdowns. 5 points.
Player Hater Degree – Dustin Byfuglien’s retirement puts somewhat of a damper on the aggressiveness, but as long as players are still throwing around hits like this, there’s potential for a good rivalry:
Organizational Disfunction – Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the fact that Jets fans shout “TRUE NORTH” during the Canadian national anthem (I’m also not a huge fan of American fans yelling “Home of the TEAM NAME” at the end of the Star-Spangled Banner, so there’s that). But interrupting the anthem to shout the name of the ownership group that runs the team? Yeah, that’s gonna be a no from me.
Nitpicky, for sure. But I’m not the only one who thinks so. 1 point.
Original Sins – The Wild only date back to 2000, and the Jets were the Atlanta Thrashers prior to 2011. This rivalry is one of the newest on the list. 1 point.
Cup Check – Both teams have made one conference final, neither has won a cup. Jets fans could hold the first-round victory in 2018 against us, so there’s that. 2 points.
Puck Stops Here – The Wild and the Jets have traded places in the standings, going from near the bottom of the division to 2nd in the Central over the last two seasons, while the Wild have definitely taken a step back during that same time period. The rivalry does have the one playoff matchup to look back upon, but a 4-1 rout by the Jets doesn’t stir the same emotions as a seven-game slugfest. 2 points.
Deep Divisions – Though they started their franchise renaissance in the Southeast as the former Thrashers, realignment brought them to the Central in 2013, where the old Minnesota/Winnipeg rivalry of yesteryear could spark anew. 4 points.
One Shiner Moment – Bench brawls are the best brawls.
The Wild and Jets also faced off with fists twice in the 2018 playoffs, including this one with Daniel Winnik vs. Brandon Tanev…
Neighborly Disagreement – In a non-COVID world, assuming wait times at the border crossing are minimal, one could wake up at 10 AM, hop in the car, and make it to the arena of their choice by puck drop. 467 miles and seven-and-a-half hours. Plus, it’s the only border battle the Wild have. 4 points.
Total: 29 points.
Three words. NORM. GREEN. SUCKS.
Fanimosity – Old school Minnesota fans hate the fact that the North Stars left the way they did, but do we really hold that against Fort Worth hockey fans? It’s not like they brag about stealing our former team. 0 points.
Conquering Horde – There are a ton of North Stars jerseys at the X, but I doubt they’re all Dallas Stars throwbacks. 1 point.
Player Hater Degree – The Stars are a talented, young team built from the ground up. Fans don’t really have any reason to hate them, and I’m sure the players see the Stars as just another division game on the schedule. 0 points.
Organizational Disfunction – NORM. GREEN. STILL. SUCKS. If they’d only give Minnesota the rights to wear the North Stars sweater as a throwback, I’m sure a lot of that animosity would be forgiven. But until then, there’s only one division owner that has his name on hundreds of t-shirts cursing his existence. 5 points.
Original Sins – Minnesota has held a bitterness towards the Dallas Stars before there was a Wild franchise, before there was an expansion franchise awarded, heck — even before there was a “State of Hockey.” 5 points.
Cup Check – This one hurts, not because the Stars have won cups while the Wild looked on, but because the Stars won a cup just a handful of years after they left Minnesota. That cup could have been ours. 4 points.
Puck Stops Here – Outside of a classic first meeting between the Wild and the Stars in 2001, the rivals weren’t even part of the same division until 2013, and even then, both teams have been just kind of okay since the Central came to be. Sure, the Stars did hang a division banner in 2014 and dumped the Wild in the first round 4-2 the same year, but the on-ice competitiveness is not the calling card of this rivalry. 2 points.
Deep Divisions – Division rivals since 2013. 3 points.
One Shiner Moment – Corey Perry joining the Stars has created some good fight potential, but that might just be due to the fact that it’s Corey Perry.
Neighborly Disagreement – 940 miles, 14 hours. But for some fans who still wear the green, white and gold… it feels a whole lot closer. 1 point.
Total: 23 points
If the NHL or the media that cover the league has anything to say about team rivalries, the Chicago Blackhawks are the Wild’s primary rival. Need a matchup for Wednesday Night Rivalry, and the Penguins aren’t playing the Flyers? Blackhawks/Wild. Need an opponent for the Wild’s Stadium Series game (even though they’ve already played in like half of the outdoor games)? Blackhawks/Wild. Yep, the NHL really wants Blackhawks/Wild to be a thing. But is it?
Fanimosity – David might thoroughly hate Goliath, but Goliath didn’t have any reason to even acknowledge David until he brought out his slingshot. Until the Wild are able to get past the Blackhawks in the playoffs, any fan-related hatred is going to be in one direction only. 2 points.
Conquering Horde – Blackhawks fans are numerous, passionate, and known for traveling well. 4 points.
Player Hater Degree – Google the phrase “Wild Blackhawks Rivalry” and you’ll find a bunch of articles from bloggers, coaches and players that use the phrase “mutual respect.” While a certain amount of stick-tapping and hand-shaking happens in a lot of great rivalries, the most fervent ones are based on pure animosity. 2 points.
Organizational Disfunction – Again, mutual respect. Nothing to see here. 0 points.
Original Sins – Minnesota/Chicago rivalries go back pretty far in multiple sports. While the current iteration doesn’t match the original North Stars/Blackhawks, Twins/White Sox or Vikings/Bears, hockey hate can run deep. 4 points.
Cup Check – I did have a Blackhawks friend who ended multiple conversations with “so how have the Wild done in the playoffs again?” and “Let’s count the cups.” If there’s one team who’s fans can shut down any argument with hardware, it’s Chicago. 5 points.
Puck Stops Here – In terms of the regular season, the Blackhawks and Wild are pretty well matched, at 46-45-1 in favor of Minnesota. In terms of the playoffs, let’s… let’s just not. 5 points.
Deep Divisions – Add up Minnesota and Chicago’s rivalry history from our two franchises, and the bad blood goes back a long way. 5 points.
One Shiner Moment – According to HockeyFights.com, the Blackhawks rank only ninth on the Team Rivals list, with only 26 bouts since the site started tracking in 2014. This one’s a doozy, tho:
Neighborly Disagreement – The Blackhawks are the closest rival geographically. Only two states away, just a 5-hour drive and 398 miles. And no international border crossing. 5 points.
Total: 34 points.
Fanimosity – The fans really dislike each other. There’s a mutual rivalry between Mile High Hockey and Hockey Wilderness commenters. Russo and Dater can even be considered “frenemies” at times. 5 points.
Conquering Horde – You’ll frequently find opposing fans at both the Xcel Energy Center and the Pepsi Center. Both teams travel well in each direction. 4 points.
Player Hater Degree – There’s fighting. There’s cheap shots. There’s misconducts. There’s trash talk.
There’s some of this:
To be fair, there’s also this:
Yeah. There’s some bad blood.
Organizational Disfunction – Roy and Yeo often traded barbs in the media (and in some cases, even AT the media). From top to bottom, the two teams have definite animosity. 5 points.
Original Sins – The Colorado/Minnesota Rivalry dates back to the 2003 playoffs, and Minnesota hockey doesn’t have much offense with Colorado prior to that. 3 points.
Cup Check – The Avalanche have two cups to their name, but none since 2000. The Wild do have bragging rights when it comes to playoff matchups, having offed the Avs twice in spectacular fashion, while Colorado has ended the Wild season once. 4 points.
Puck Stops Here – Over their history, the Wild are 63-60-3 against the Avs in the regular season, and 10-10 in the playoffs. Can’t ask for two more equally balanced franchises. 5 points.
Deep Divisions – Only one team has been a constant division rival since the Wild’s inception. Northwest or Central, the Avalanche have always been there. 5 points.
One Shiner Moment – The Wild and Avs have a lot to choose from. You could go with the 142 penalty minute affair in the 2008 playoffs, or you could go with the 2015 postseason, where in the span of a few minutes, Cody McLeod takes a late-game run at Mikael Granlund, triggering a fight between him and Charlie Coyle, as well as Gabriel Landeskog landing a bench-to-bench punch on Mikko Koivu:
Neighborly Disagreement – 915 miles, 13 and a half hours, and four states. Just closer geographically than Dallas. 2 points.
Total: 44 points
Colorado Avalanche: 43
Chicago Blackhawks: 34
Winnipeg Jets: 29
Dallas Stars: 23
Vancouver Canucks: 23
Others Receiving Votes
St. Louis Blues: They’ve traded playoff series wins, they’ve had some chippy games, and they’ll face off in a Winter Classic once the COVID-19 crisis is over. Not on the list now, but this rivalry could be up and coming.
Nashville Predators: Have the Preds fans gotten over Ryan Suter yet?.
Calgary Flames: Seasons of Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff still give Wild fans nightmares. And the Matt Dumba “answering the bell” saga of 2019 didn’t help matters.
Anaheim Ducks: The aforementioned Corey Perry, the Boogard/Fedoruk fight, and the 2007 game four Brad May/Kim Johnsson incident made for some good rivalry making, but not being a division rival meant the rivalry couldn’t sustain.
Columbus Blue Jackets: They are our expansion cousins? That’s about it.
The National Hockey League: From missed calls and weird suspensions when another player lifts your stick into his own face, to the current Kirill Kaprizov drama — one could make the case that the most ire Wild fans feel is for the NHL itself.