It used to be that the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings games were the most anticipated of the season. The rivalry itself was the most-played rivalry in the history of the NHL, and it got even more heated in recent years with the resurgence of the Blackhawks and the continued success of the Red Wings. Now, however, the Red Wings are in the Atlantic Division. The Blackhawks are stuck in the Central Division with no natural rivals or are they?
The media only had to look a couple hundred miles to the southwest and in Missouri to find the Hawks’ newest natural rivals: The St. Louis Blues. This one makes sense, given the geographic proximity between the two cities, the existence of a similar rivalry in two different sports and the pre-existing bad blood between the Hawks and Blues. Just watch video of the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” to get an idea of how heated this rivalry can get. Heck, just the article image of Hawks winger Brandon Bollig and Blues player Roman Polak tells a story.
The other sentimental favorite for new rivalry has to be the Hawks and Vancouver Canucks. The problem is, with no playoff match-ups since 2011, the rivalry has cooled down somewhat. Still, judging by the reaction Hawks and Canucks fans can have against either team, there still seems to be some bad blood between the two fanbases. A rivalry doesn’t have to start on the ice; it can start in the stands, too.
There’s also the Hawks’ other Central Division foes, like the Nashville Predators — who they already have a history with — the Colorado Avalanche — who delivered the Hawks’ worst loss of the season — the Dallas Stars — the two teams played each other three times in a month this year — Winnipeg Jets — Jonathan Toews‘ hometown — and the Minnesota Wild — a rivalry that can look back to the old Hawks-Minnesota North Stars rivalry.
A very tempting rivalry also lies in California. Well, two, actually. The Anaheim Ducks have had the Hawks’ number much of the past two seasons and could be a potential Western Conference Final match-up. Another enticing rivalry looks to be the Los Angeles Kings, who the Hawks faced in the Western Conference Final last season and if all goes well it could happen again.
But for the sake of a natural rivalry with hate, familiarity, location and history, that rival has to be the Blues. This rivalry has clear hate on both sides — Adam Oates once saw him and Brett Hull hung in effigy at old Chicago Stadium and the Blues have tried to keep Blackhawks fans from invading enemy territory — familiarity due to being division rivals, and location because of the proximity between Chicago and St. Louis. And as an extra there’s the pre-existing hate between the two cities. The Blues may not be the Red Wings, but don’t be surprised if some disparaging chants directed at the Blues rains down from the 300 level at the United Center.