What Does the new NHL Alignment Mean for the Winter Classic?

It is official the NHL has realigned itself once again. This time there are no divisions; but four conferences that include the two teams located in Florida being part of a conference called the “Northeast” – still early maybe the NHL will do something amazing and go back to names like Norris or Smythe… either way for better or worse we are all in it together (until they decide to make another change anyway).

You can read some of THW’s pieces on the new alignment here:

The Deed is Done: Thoughts on NHL Realignment by Jim Neveau.

Stephen Stoneman took the time and examined the Chicago Blackhawk’s New Conference.

Now before the Board of Governors’ met there was some discussion about the Detroit Red Wings and their hosting the Winter Classic for next season; so what changes does the new look for the NHL bring to this?

Nothing huge maybe. Or maybe not.

There is a great deal more in creating or reestablishing old rivalries between teams. One of the most heated sports rivalries took place between the Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche; however, these two teams were not selected to be in a conference together.

How great would a Red Wings vs. Avalanche Winter Classic be though?

The NHL may be looking at University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium – aka The Big House for the outdoor game in order to compete for the World Record for highest attendance at a hockey game (currently held by the Univ. of Michigan last year when they hosted Michigan State University in The Big Chill at the Big House game last December).

With everyone trying to make a profit in the down economy right now (especially in the Detroit area) everyone was trying to sell items and get in on the event; even Arby’s was selling glasses with the logo for the game.

Are the Avalanche and the Red Wings the teams they were in the 90’s? Not even close on either account. Do the fans still hate one another? Pretty much. Could the outdoor game spark something? Surely could especially after red hot Valtteri Filppula got his leg cut by a skate in a game versus Colorado over the weekend.

What about the alumni game?

A Colorado vs. Detroit alumni game could be something they make movies about, or at least a tv special.

Bring back Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux. Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon (or Chris Osgood). See Igor Larionov lace up the skates again – could Sergei Fedorov make the trip from Russia? See some of the great captains in recent hockey history return to the ice with Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman. See old school hockey with Gordie Howe mesh with that of recently retired Adam Foote; and hope that Peter Forsberg doesn’t retire at intermission…

What about the new alignment? What about pushing a new inner conference rivalry? It could happen – those at NBC and in the NHL marketing departments would love a fire that feeds upon itself like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals Winter Classic.

Chicago Blackhawks – doubtful. The Red Wings already played a Winter Classic in Chicago and though the Blackhawks and their fans may want a rematch I don’t see it being next season.

Columbus Blue Jackets– doubtful. NBC wants this marque game to bring in ratings and new fans, especially now that this year’s game has been moved to primetime since it went to well last season; and Columbus just does not have that draw.

Dallas Stars – maybe. The Red Wings and the Stars have some storylines from the past – not to mention the drama with Mike Modano that went down. Now under new ownership the Stars may just make a push to try and bring in that southern crowd.

Minnesota Wild – possible. Talk about the NHL parity that was a huge part of what Bettman wanted for the league. The Wild have become a team to beat this season as they have been sitting at or near the top of not just their division and conference so far this season but toping the league.

Nashville Predators – maybe. The Predators have stumbled a little bit this season; and though they have goalie Pekka Rinne locked up they do not exactly have captain Shea Weber locked up – though I am sure they could easily get Carrie Underwood to sing the anthem; and not screw it up.

Darren Helm

Red Wings Darren Helm is part of the ‘new guard’ in Detroit could the NHL realignment help respark the riverly between the Red Wings and Blues? (Icon SMI)

St. Louis Blues– possible. Heated in times that feel so long ago the hate for the Blues has been smothered to near extinction. A young team that just gained back a budding star player in David Perron after missing 97 games with a concussion it could become young vs. old – that is if the Red Wings keep on a certain two Swedes after this season.

Winnipeg Jets – doubtful. So far no Canadian team has been selected for the Winter Classic due to NBC not having coverage in Canada. The best match up for finally bringing those teams of the great white north into the NBC primetime event is probably going to involve the Montreal Canadiens. Easily the Habs and Red Wings being the most Stanley Cup winning teams for Canada and the US is a storyline NBC could milk – so could the hate between the Habs and the Bruins. Sorry Winnipeg you are just not reestablished enough.

Maybe the Winter Classic brings back the Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins for yet another push to make these teams and their fans hate one another; and seeing as how a team from Pennsylvania has been in all but one of the Winter Classics it is not as far-fetched as it may sound.
Will the new alignment play part in the 2013 NHL Winter Classic? It may – it may not, but there are new storylines that will develop so why not put one on the national stage?

Monica McAlister
An avid hockey lover that grew up in Michigan and lived in the Washington D.C. area while going school for Sports Management. Volunteer with the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA); and follows as much SM-liiga and Elitserien as possible along with the vast array of North American leagues.

2 Comments

  1. Andrew Johnson says:

    I’d really like to see a Red Wings-Sharks Classic, but my hopes for that happening aren’t very high. Any original 6 match up would be nice too. 1 thing I didn’t think about before reading this was playing the Avalanche. I really like the sound of that even though the old rivalry is has faded away, I can’t help but have a feeling that there’s still a bit of distaste there on both sides, and the games are always hard-fought.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your perspective on this, and you brought up a lot of good questions.

  2. What will this mean for the prices at the stadiums? Check out the current prices now.

    http://www.saveonbrew.com/blog-article/saveonbrew-2011-nhl-beer-price-review

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