By Kelly Haugh
The NHL is planning a divisional realignment for the 2012-2013 season, and the option that’s getting the most press would doom the Penguins’ rivalries and split the state in half. Under this plan, the NHL would be divided into four divisions and the Pens would be forced to move to the Northeast Division with Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston and either Columbus or Detroit. In other words, mostly teams that mean nothing to us.
The Pens and Flyers are, of course, vehemently opposed to this, and their fans are rightfuly angry. Instead of meeting our cross-state rivals six times a season, we’d only get to butt heads two times a year.
It’s impossible to know what the NHL was thinking when it came up with this option, but I doubt common sense came into the picture. What could possibly be gained by splitting up not just one but two of the sport’s premier rivalries, the Pens vs. Flyers and Sid and Geno vs. Ovechkin? Besides being a boon for fans, these are the games the NHL often spotlights on their national broadcasts, because that’s what garners the most viewers. If it goes through with this plan, the NHL won’t just be screwing over the Pens, their rivals and fans, they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot.
And what do they really gain by throwing us in a division half full of Canadian teams? Yes, Canada is a big market of hockey fanaatics, and they especially love when their national golden boy, Sidney Crosby, comes to town. One has to wonder if that’s part of the reason for the proposed division shift and the NHL is hoping to manufacture some new rivalries around their biggest draw. The splitting of Ovechkin and the dynamic duo of Crosby and Malkin could certainly be seen as an attempt to get more bang for their buck for their hottest stars, though that decision would most likely blow up in the NHL’s face.
You don’t mess with inate rivalries as fierce as the Penguins and Flyers or as perfectly engineered as us vs. Washington without ticking off a lot of fans, which is never a good business practice. Nothing can match the level of intensity of those games. No other team can compare to the history and sheer epicness of the keystone state rivalry.
For once, Penguins and Flyers fans are on the same side. If the NHL decides to stupidly sever the Pens from their division rivals, the fans and the teams themselves just may revolt. The NHL better be ready for a fight because we take our hockey seriously in Pennsylvania, and we’ve got the unbeatable Mario Magic on our side.