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The NHL is Killing it’s Rivalries, While the MLB is Promoting Theirs

Red Sox – Yankees, Bruins – Habs, Patriots – Giants, Celtics – Lakers


We all love rivalries. We love when things get heated, tempers flair, and punches are thrown. Nothing gets a fan going more than a game when both teams clearly hate each other.


Tonight, the Bruins and Canadiens will play for the first time this season, and their first of three games in eight days. It will be Claude Julien’s first game against the team which is he is the all time coaching wins leader of. It will also be the first time the Bruins play the Canadiens in 11 months.


Let’s be honest, the Red Sox Yankees rivalry peaked in 2004 and has been essentially dormant since. The players just don’t hate each other the way they used to. Is it because it’s a different generation? Lack of Playoff series? Lack of real competition? Yes to all 3 questions, but there’s no doubt the rivalry can spark again.


The Bruins and Habs rivalry was awesome from about 2008-2012. You could guarantee a fight in every game, and that’s because the two teams legitimately hated each other. We got a sneak peak of it in a game last season, but it hasn’t been the same in a few years.


And that’s because they don’t play enough.


The MLB plays 162 games a season, while the NHL plays 82. It’s not quite double but let’s keep it easy and call it double. The Red Sox and Yankees played 19 times this season, scale that down to an 82 game schedule and that’s 9 times. This season, the Bruins and Canadiens will play just 4 times, the first tonight, when they then play 3 times in the next eight days. Meanwhile, the Bruins have played the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights twice in the first month.


This is bad, NHL.


Hockey is a sport where hatred can easily build up within a game, and carry from game to game, and season to season, but hatred can’t build up if they don’t play enough games, and rivalries will become dormant.

The NHL’s two most hated rivals play just two more times than they will play an expansion team. There is no need for there to be two games with each cross-conference team in each division. There probably isn’t even a need for 1 game. Not only is it unnecessary, but the traveling takes a toll on the players, especially in the Western Conference.


The MLB, on the other hand, is doing it right. One series with one division every year, and it rotates every three seasons. For example, in 2016 the Red Sox played a series against each team from the NL west, this season against the NL Central, and next season they will against the NL East.


Not only is the NHL missing out on rivalries, they are losing valuable head-to-head four point games that ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING. The Bruins and Golden Knight will never compete for anything ever in the regular season, while the Bruins and Leafs will likely be competing for years to come for division titles. Again, the Bruins play the Leafs just two more times than the Golden Knights. It doesn’t make any sense.


Then there’s the placing of the games. The Red Sox and Yankees will finish the 2018 season against each other, in a series that will likely decide the division title. The Bruins and Habs, on the other hand will play 3 times in the next eight days, where no doubt bad blood will be brewed, and then again on March 3rd. And that’s it. The greatest rivalry in hockey competing for a playoff spot down the stretch? They’ll have to beat other teams to get that spot because they won’t be playing each other.

The MLB goes out of their way to adjust the schedule to have their rivals play more. They alter the schedule so that the Yankees and Mets can play the “Subway Series” every season. When realignment happened in 2013, the Detroit Red Wings switched from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference, essentially ending their 80+ year rivalry with the Blackhawks. Over. Done. They now play their former biggest rival the same amount of times as *insert western conference team that the Red Wings have no competition with here*.


It’s almost like the NHL realizes this, and tried to cover for it with Wednesday Night Rivalry, a weekly rivalry game shown on NBCSN.This season, the Sabres and Blue Jackets will play/have played on “Wednesday Night Rivalry”, the Red Wings and Flyers, Red Wings and Blues, Wild and Red Wings, and Bruins and Blues. What a joke.


It’s pretty obvious. The NHL is ruining it’s rivalries, and it’s not a difficult solution. Play one game against each western conference team (even though just one game against one division would be better), and use the 15 games gained to play against divisional opponents, or maybe in Detroit’s case, some extra games against Chicago. I don’t know the financial aspects, but I would imagine the league would make more money off of 3 more Bruins vs Canadiens games rather than a game against the Coyotes, Ducks, and Flames, which like it or not, is a factor.


So enjoy this week of games while you can, because it doesn’t happen often.


It’s a shame, especially with hockey’s physical nature, but good for the MLB for doing it right.


Like they have many things.


As in not having three significant lockouts in 20 years.



  1. Pingback: Why Divisions are Bad for Sports - The Intersection

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