Our Name Is Our Name: A Plea To Gary Bettman and William J. Daly III
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it. — G.K. Chesterton in The Thing
When the NHL’s re-alignment was announced, the league — rather famously and, for III Communication, fortuitously — did not announce names, assigning them Roman numerals.
We so loved the appellation “Conference III,” with all its vaguely punk-rock ethos and post-apocalyptic tone, we embraced it as the name of the future roughest and tumbliest grouping in the league.
In the meantime, other DIY names have emerged. Among eastern teams: Flortheast, but also Patrick Plus, PatriCCk, the Jagr Division. Pacific seems obvious for the farthest western group, but Jesse Spector took to calling it The Other One.
But he fact is, Gary and Bill, we know you are going to re-name the divisions.
We hope you’ll hang Conference III on us anyway.
If the league goes with geographical nomenclature, we’ll likely be saddled with the meaningless (and incorrect) Midwest or Central, though Nashville and Colorado aren’t in the Midwest and the Avs play in Mountain Time. Plus, either of those names perpetuate the insidious myth that the Blue Jackets are part of this great collection.
Going to names which honor hockey greats is problematic, as well. Who is the unifying figure among these seven teams? The Hulls, perhaps? Mike Modano? Conference III legend Bobby Orr? Appropriately for our specific oeuvre, the player who most embodies Conference III (or at least wore the largest number of Conference III jerseys) is Andrew Brunette, and it seems unlikely the NHL would name one of its four divisions after him even though it would be awesome — and punk rock — if it did.
Look, we know what we are. We are the eaters of leftovers. The raccoons.
Our mere composition was clearly an afterthought. The seven left after the other 23 were arranged. Even the goofy Flortheast proves design, much as the noble and bizarre platypus can be used as proof of the existence of a Creator.
We are the teams that have a hard time settling down. One team moved from Canada. Another moved to Canada. Two others have almost moved north of the border. Dallas came from Minnesota, after the latter merged with the Cleveland Barons, who themselves moved from California. And then Minnesota got another team of its own. Chicago, of course, has been Chicago all along: The Player With Railroads for six hobos.
So call us the Hobo Division, then. But that, too, seems unlikely.
But Conference III fits. In hockey, the third line is often composed of beloved and plucky — if skill-deficient — hard workers. The “glue guys,” in the parlance. They eat minutes — just as Conference III gobbles up the less-desirable TV time — while still being far more useful than the face-punchers and gormless rookies on the fourth line. They bridge the gap between the shiny superstars and the truly worthless, much as Conference III is the bridge that connects this disparate league.
In a few weeks — at the draft or in the new free-agency dead period — you’ll roll out the new names and surely the artwork is already drawn-up for the big reveal. And we know you have other things on your mind — the Cup, the Coyotes and what their move will do to re-alignment (please don’t take Colorado, we’ve come to love them).
But if you can spare a moment or three, spare a thought for us. And preserve our name. It’s already more popular than y’all (but, then, so is gout). Throw the fans in the big swath of Middle America and Manitoba a bone. Don’t move this fence.
Our name is our name.