Heat Index: The Comprehensive Guide to All 21 Conference III Rivalries
Here we are.
After staring awkwardly at each other for a few months, laughing with and at one another, back-slapping and guffawing, being mirthful and merry, the season is now in our sights.
It’s time to hate.
There are 21 rivalries in Conference III — some old, some new, some borrowed, some involving the Jets (not many).
Which have the most heat in this historic first season? Our crack team of researchers using the scientific method (“scientific method”=thinking about it for a few minutes) have ranked all 21.
1) The old Central Division is over-represented at the top and Winnipeg and Colorado, especially, are over-represented at the bottom. This will be hard to swallow for Jets fans, but we just don’t care about you yet.
2) Historical factors related to the old North Stars and old Jets were considered when necessary.
3) Teams are given in the order I thought of them when I wrote the list. By all means, consider word order a slight against your team.
4) Feel free to disagree and call me stupid. I don’t care, because you are wrong.
Starting at the bottom…
21. Dallas-Winnipeg: Every time the Flames play in Nashville, I see these three guys — old enough for this to be legitimate and not ironic — get out of a car with Georgia tags, pull on Flames jerseys and head for the game. At least one of them is wearing an old Atlanta Flames jersey. That’s incredible dedication to a franchise that lurched your city more than three decades ago (and they aren’t alone). And I’d see these guys even when Atlanta still had the Thrashers.
Even with a new team, they stayed devoted to the old one.
The only reason I can imagine that a Stars fan would care about the Jets would be if a Minnesotan stayed dedicated to the Stars, even after Norm Green bolted with the team and they got the Wild. That’d be one weird dude, but…those Flames guys.
20. Chicago-Colorado: Back when the Southeastern Conference only had 10 teams, the teams’ openers were set like this: the alphabetically first team would play the alphabetically last, the second team would play the next to last team and so on. In essence, this was Bear Bryant’s way to guarantee that Alabama would open with Vanderbilt, but it also meant Tennessee and Auburn always played each other. The teams were rarely good at the same time and both hated ‘Bama so much they couldn’t gin up too much vitriol for each other. Chicago and Colorado last played in the playoffs in 1997 and they both have storied rivalries with the Red Wings. They are the Auburn to each other’s Tennessee.
19. Nashville-Winnipeg: Alex Radulov made his return to Nashville against Winnipeg, which isn’t even the reason that game is memorable.
OK, but who is hating who here? Atlanta fans are hating Winnipeg, right? Nashville is just the closest place they could express their disgust. It has nothing to do with Nashville (and really, little to do with Winnipeg — it’s actually more about Atlanta Spirit Group). Other than the usual provincial “Make It Eight” stuff that’s always heard when Canadian teams visit, there’s not much to get Nashville fired up about Winnipeg, the Matt Halischuk of teams.
18. Colorado-St. Louis: Is this enough to stoke the flames?
17. Colorado-Winnipeg: So maybe the Avs and Blues have better juice because of the Tarasenko thing, but our beloved buddy Anthrax Jones likes to goose Manitobans, calling them mole people and what not. This one actually could sneak up the list. The other five teams are a little more compact with each other. These two are on the fringe — will they end up hating each other by default? This also has potential for an Auburn-Tennessee thing happening, with Minnesota as the shared rival. But does anyone in Colorado care about the 1977 Avco Cup final?
16. Colorado-Dallas: It would have made more sense if Colorado was in the old Pacific Division than in the Northwest. It would have made more sense for Colorado to be in the old Pacific Division than it did for Dallas. But then Dallas would have had to be in the Northwest. Or in the Central, but then who out of the old Central would have gone to the old Northwest? Chicago? St. Louis? You see how important Conference III is now?
15. Chicago-Dallas: Did you know Dallas and Chicago have never met in the playoffs? Doesn’t that seem weird? Another case of teams not being good at the same time. Two cities with big egos, though. Could jump off…eventually.
14. Winnipeg-St. Louis: This one seems incredibly stupid to have this high, but Mike DeKalb from Hockey Transplant pointed me to this:
13. Chicago-Winnipeg: A lot of ties here — Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp are from Winnipeg; Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Michael Frolik all played in Chicago. Seems like something could jump off, but will Chicago notice with everyone gunning for them?
12. Colorado-Nashville: Seth Jones has said he wants to make Colorado regret passing on him and he and Nathan MacKinnon battled in the Memorial Cup. This one’s No. 12 with a heatseeker bullet — Jones vs. MacKinnon could be a great rivalry. These teams need to meet in the playoffs for it to really take off. In the meantime…
11. St. Louis-Minnesota: The Battle of The Big Muddy! I named it! Award the winner the Marquette and Joliet Cup:
10. Chicago-Nashville: This one probably doesn’t mean much to Chicago fans, except they still get that cheap Southwest flight and now they can’t fully take advantage of the cheapish Nashville tickets. The Preds and Hawks played in the first game TMurda and I saw together, so that’s neat. And there is vestigial Central Division hatred, but it seems like it’s mostly directed north with little coming south from the City of Big Shoulders. The teams have met in the playoffs — the Hawks inspired the best TV Timeout Ovation Ever in Game 3 —and skip to 9 minutes or so for the horror show:
Fun fact: In Game 6, a drunk 15-year-old vomited on us!
9. St. Louis-Dallas: Bringing Dallas back in the fold is the smartest part of the realignment plan. Did you know the Stars (mostly as the North Stars) and Blues have met in the playoffs a dozen times, but not once since 2001, when St. Louis swept Dallas in the Conference Semifinals. Stars-Blues just evokes memories of good to pretty good teams of the 1990s.
Also this guy:
And this guy:
8. Nashville-St. Louis: In the early days of the Predators, this one was pretty nasty and has stayed pretty rowdy. Proximity and all that. It helps that Ken Hitchcock and Barry Trotz have this crazy relationship where their version of talking trash consists of setting unreasonable expectations for the other. It’s very bizarre.
7. Minnesota-Winnipeg: If Winnipeg has to have a rival — and we guess they do — then it has to be Minnesota by sheer virtue of St. Paul being only 467 miles from Winnipeg, instead of 10,000 miles like the rest of the world. Thraxy has taken to calling it Minnipeg-Winnesota. Also works: Minnetoba and Manisota. You get the idea. These are two places that are hockey-mad in a general cultural way, as opposed to the nichey way of a lot of the rest of Conference III. Another way to put that is these places have unreasonable expectations about their teams’ fortunes and about how the rest of us should feel about them. The Humblebrag Cup, we’ll call it.
6. Nashville-Minnesota: Barry Trotz called this one. And then there’s this:
Former Preds owner Craig Leipold owns the Wild. And Nashville ended up signing fan favorite Matt Cullen. Lots to work with here. The NHL, in its hilarious wisdom, made Minnesota Nashville’s home opener this year.
5. Chicago-Minnesota: I don’t know if you heard it 1,403 times during the first rounds of the playoffs or just 1,402, but the Blackhawks and North Stars used to tee it off a lot. Add in the most recent playoff matchup and the proximity to the history, plus two teams that are good (or one team that is great and one that is pretty OK), this one could get spicy. Here’s a cool compilation of old Hawks-North Stars stuff.
4. Minnesota-Dallas: This, from SI in 1993 pretty much sums this up —
There was nothing left to do but scream. The pictures of Minnesota North Star hockey players and the mementos of Minnesota North Star hockey past had been taken away for safekeeping. The furniture from the Minnesota North Star offices was on a United moving van, heading south. The team was on the ice, and a sellout crowd of 15,414 was in the Met Center, but already the process of dismantling the franchise had begun, and there was no way of stopping the inevitable and nothing to do. Except scream.
“Norm sucks,” a group of fans at one part of the arena would begin chanting during a lull in the action as the North Stars worked toward a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues last Saturday night.
“Norm Green sucks,” another group would begin during another lull.
Again and again and yet again the phrase would be repeated. Not pretty words, to be sure, not pretty at all, but direct from the hopeless heart and dipped with the appropriate amounts of vengeance. Norm sucks. The phrase would whirl around the building, picking up steam, only to die when the action began, and then start again at the next pause. During the intermissions, young men would shout the words again in the hallways. The words were printed on buttons, sold by volunteers to benefit Cerebral Palsy. They were printed on shirts, printed on signs. Norm sucks. Norm sucks. Norm…sucks.
“Norm Green is a money-hungry, egotistical, country-club-seeking lizard,” a young woman from St. Paul, Wendi Rodewald, said, sitting there in her official North Star game jersey topped by her unofficial NORM SUCKS button. “Wait a minute. Did I say ‘greedy’? He’s a greedy, money-hungry, egotistical, country-club-seeking lizard. And he looks like Satan.”
A love affair—an extreme love affair—was ending with extreme passion. This was the last regular-season Saturday night game in Minnesota North Star history, the next-to-last regular-season home game to be played. A string of bittersweet ceremonies was held before the opening face-off, opportunities to cheer and cry at the same time, and then it was time to return to base-level rage. Had there ever been a sports moment as bizarre as this? The team was moving, is moving, will be moving to Dallas, its offices scheduled to open at 9 a.m. on Monday in Dallas, yet the North Stars were still in the chase for the final Norris Division playoff spot, and the fans were still in their seats.
3. Colorado-Minnesota: This is another one Thraxy has been pushing and that’s good enough for us, but the Avs and Wild getting a Top 3 spot is best explained through the politics of freshman year of high school.
First, there’s the kids who went to the big middle school. They all know each other, everything’s been figured out — the rivalries, the intrigues, the love affairs. That’s Chicago, St. Louis and Nashville.
Dallas is the kid who went to the fancy private school for middle school, but everybody knows them; they were around on the weekends and stuff, they just went to the expensive school Monday through Friday. Their immediate history is a little different because of circumstances outside their control, but they still fit in.
Winnipeg is the kid whose parents moved around so much they eventually decided to home school them. They are weird and nobody knows what to do with them.
Then there’s Colorado and Minnesota — they went to The Other Middle School (every town has one of these and you are thinking about what your town’s is right now). Kids from The Other Middle School always, always hate all the other kids from The Other Middle School.
Ergo, the Wild and Avs at No. 3.
2. Dallas-Nashville: It’s going to take some time to convince the world of the glory of The Chambers Pot.
Also, it’s the game that pretty much inspired this blog:
And this is the first post from this blog, after all.
1. St. Louis-Chicago: Come on. Chicago and St. Louis is a rivalry beyond hockey, beyond sport. The first two great cities of the American Midwest. The two clear favorites in Conference III. The Blues will never get over that they owe the Hawks for their existence.
These two teams have been in the same division continuously since 1970 — insane in an era of turnover in the NHL.
There’s Ed Belfour’s coffeemaker and there’s St. Patrick’s Day 1991:
And that was in a battle for the Presidents’ Trophy for goodness’ sake.
The obvious No. 1.
Tomorrow: Our season-opening essay and some programming notes.