Friday, October 12, 2007


If video killed the radio star, then free agency killed team rivalries. In this day and age of professional sports with free agency and heavy amounts of player movement each and every year, are there any real rivalries left? I’m not talking about fans hating fans of other teams and the like, rather the rivalries that take place between the teams and the players themselves. Since I’m a hockey guy I will focus on the NHL and it’s situation therefore bypassing all of the overdone and played out media bullshit surrounding the Red Sox and Yankees of MLB. With that said, are there any true rivalries left in the NHL? Yeah I know that you have the Habs and Leafs and Leafs and Sens and Rangers and Islanders and I suppose you can add the Ducks and Kings and the Wings and Avs and Flames and Oilers to start forming a list, but once again that seems to be mostly fan driven more so than amongst the players themselves. Yes, certain teams have a history against one another for one reason or another that has happened in the past, but most of the players involved have since moved on and the players on those teams today just don’t carry the same grudge. I’m sure that incidents will happen and the players will retaliate and such and there will be a brief moment where we’ll hear the wait until next time routine, but nothing that can sustain and form a true rivalry. The NHL has attempted to force feed the fans divisional rivalries with their skewed schedule (thank God that’s changing), but even the fans don’t buy into that failed experiment. When I really take a look into the game today there seems to be a total lack of rivalry between the players on the ice. Back in the 70’s you had real rivalries between teams that down right hated each other, any time the Bruins and Flyers met or the Rangers and Flyers faced off you could feel the distain the moment you walked into the building. Then again, the players back then stayed on their teams for much longer periods of time and developed that hatred over time. Today, it is even hard for the fans to keep the hate going when one year they are cursing the ground a player walks on and the next year they embrace the same player when he joins their team. Player movement has absolutely watered down the entire notion of team rivalries in the game today. Sure there are battles that still take place especially later in the season when teams are fighting each other for playoff spots, but even then after the game players are friends with each other having played with one another not too long ago. The true distain is gone. You can hear it in the voices of the players themselves during the post-game interviews where they constantly churn out the standard pre-rehearsed lines to the media. The messages are always the same even though the faces change. I guess what I’m driving at here is let’s just stop talking about rivalries altogether because I’m afraid true rivalries are dead. The hype just doesn’t work anymore. Yes Islanders fans you can still chant “Rangers suck”, yes Leafs fans you can still hate anyone wearing a Habs jersey and so on, but let’s call it like it really is, fan rivalry not team rivalry.

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