Ah, the Original Six. It brings happy memories to many a hockey fan; the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs are all the oldest continuing teams in the NHL. The recent all-Original Six Stanley Cup Finals between the Blackhawks and Bruins created a lot of intrigue and interest even without a pre-existing rivalry between the two teams.
But for fans of the Blackhawks, this year onward has made Original Six matchups few and far between and has likely hurt one of the best rivalries in recent memory.
Due to the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, the NHL was forced to realign the league into the four-division league we see today. The Blackhawks, who had a major rival in the Red Wings, were forced to watch this long-time rivalry, which originated with the two cities’ geographic proximity, disappear. Meanwhile, the Wings play the Leafs, Canadiens and Bruins in the new Atlantic Division.
To say the Blackhawks got the short end of the stick might be simplifying it. The league’s most-played rivalry is now essentially dead, and aside from the already-hated St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks, the Hawks have few hated rivals or with much history. They are now forced to play each Original Six team twice a year.
Of course, there might be another way of looking at this. With so few chances to see their old rivals, Hawk fans should relish these matchups and make them even more special. It could even be argued the Hawks-Bruins Stanley Cup Final was made even more special because neither team played each other during the regular season.
And now the only way an all-Original Six matchup in Stanley Cup Finals can occur is if it comes through Chicago. It can be guaranteed that a few Blackhawks fans might feel a little smug about that.
The season is almost through the first three months, which means that there’s no time for complaining. There’s no use petitioning the NHL at this point, as Commissioner Gary Bettman has no intention of changing things right now. Hawks fans will have to live with the dearth of Original Six matchups for the time being and relish them whenever they come up. Perhaps this means we could hear the famous anti-Detroit chant in the Stanley Cup Finals for once.