I grew up the son of a Bruins fan and understood the Boston/Montreal rivalry, but as a kid I began to appreciate the Canadiens on a family summer trip to Nova Scotia. Their logo, history, players, I loved it all. I got gruff from friends when I returned home wearing a Montreal shirt.
The Canadiens-Bruins rivalry goes back a long ways. So of course kids are told to hate one or the other. Same goes for the Blackhawks and Blues, Penguins and Capital, or the Sharks and Kings. Teams hating one another on the ice are how organic rivalries begin in the stands. They are not crafted by execs on Madison Avenue.
At some point next season, Vegas will play divisional games on NBC Sport’s Wednesday Night Rivalries. It’ll get a big laugh on social media. The NHL will try and manufacture a rival for the Golden Knights, so they can fit in with everyone else. But the problem is that it’ll be fake. The Pacific heavyweights already have natural rivals, and they aren’t worried about the new kids on the block who they expect to be the whipping boy for at least a few years. Possibly over time, if the Golden Knights beat them enough, Anaheim, LA and San Jose will feel differently, but in the short term, a California/Nevada rivalry is pie in the sky. Geographically, Western Canada doesn’t make sense, and even if it did, the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers are too fed up with themselves to spend any time hating us.
So that leaves the Arizona Coyotes. Which is the obvious choice. Next season the Coyotes should be closest in talent with Vegas. The Knights will lack some of the young, developed talent, but veteran play should be close to equal between the two clubs. With that in mind, games against Arizona could be tight. In close divisional games, players tend to get angry. At times, season series can turn into a penalty-plagued, postseason environments. Cross-checks, elbows, fights, the whole nine. Once the players hate one another it changes everything for the fans. Rivalries need to be organic and all the pieces are there for it to happen with Arizona.
So hope for brawl lines, instigating minors and fighting majors when the Coyotes and Golden Knights match up. That’s what’s going to create the rivalry. Not some mildly-well produced Wednesday Night TV commercials. We as fans need to see the hatred, and feel the connection to our players. Only then, can will we truly hate another team.
Great, now Vegas will be forced to sign John Scott.