Jeff Riger: Just Ridiculous!
Aerosmith and Steven Tyler have a song called “Living on the Edge” where the chorus goes something like this…”there’s something wrong with the world today, I don’t know what it is” and I think that statement is true. However if you apply that same line to the NHL then I definitely know what’s wrong, the scheduling! How is it that the NBA, (a league that plays the same amount of regular season games as the NHL) can have every team play every other team at least a home and home series while in hockey you can go 3 or 4 years without seeing one of your historic rivals? It just doesn’t make sense! We all know that the Wings will never be moved to the East for a ton of reasons, and I am ok with that. But shouldn’t there be some payback for all the late starts all the travel and for being counted on almost single handedly to sell out other teams buildings?
The reason I bring this up is because it was the talk of the Wings dressing room on Friday as the team gets ready to take on the surging Maple Leafs at the Joe on Saturday night. Speaking with players and Mike Babcock, the overall thought was clear…”we don’t play Toronto enough!” “There’s got to be a way that you can have a home and home, (with teams from the East) you saw the atmosphere that we had against Montreal a while back” said Kris Draper. “We were able to play a home and home with Boston, both games were so fun to be a part of. As hockey players those are the kind of things that you really look forward to. I think automatically there should be a home and home just for the sake of the sport because people want to see it.” Draper is absolutely dead on; in fact I would love to hear an argument against playing every team, especially those in the East in a home and home series. The NHL seems like they are missing the boat here, they have a chance to make the games mean more and they simply just don’t do it.
So what is the leagues rationale? They want new rivalries and they think that these will be born by regular season divisional games which has hardly been the case. We all know that to build a rivalry in the NHL you have to have teams meet in the playoffs or, and this is going out on a limb have them have a rich history of playing each other that dates back almost 100 years back. Does that sound familiar? Is there a case where certain teams in the NHL have played each other for almost a century and fans go berserk to see the games? Hmmmmm… Oh yes, the Original 6 and the matchups amongst those teams. So what’s the problem? How is this not an automatic? Play every team at least twice; it seriously cannot be that hard!
The funny thing is, if you talk to Detroit sports fans everywhere they will tell you that their favorite match up of all time is Wings vs. Leafs. They don’t say Tigers vs. Yankees or Michigan vs. Michigan State or even Pistons vs. Lakers, they love seeing the Maple Leafs, so why not find a way to make that happen at least twice every year?
Watch the Kris Draper, Nick Lidstrom and Mike Babcock videos below for how much they love facing the Leafs and more.