Reporting Jeff Riger
By: Jeff Riger
Saturday night was a great night. Not only did the Wings end a five game losing skid by blanking the Preds 4-0 at the Joe, but a rumor also broke that Detroit will be headed to the Eastern conference in the league’s latest attempt for realignment. Plus, I also went to several bars that evening, which added to it being a great night.
In case you missed it, if approved, the Wings will leave the likes of Columbus, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago for better travel, higher marquee games, better start times and a chance to play three other “Original 6” teams six times each a season or more. In the new plan, Detroit and Columbus move to the East while Winnipeg heads out West. Below is how the conferences and divisions would shape up…
Eastern Conference 1-
Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals
Eastern Conference 2-
Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadians, DETROIT RED WINGS, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers
Western Conference 3-
Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg jets and an open spot for a team to be named later
Western Conference 4-
Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and an open spot for a team to be named later
How great of an idea is this?
Forever the Wings and their fans have wanted back in the Eastern Conference and for a multitude of reasons they would never be granted that wish. In fact, I’m shocked that we are even talking about this. It’s no secret that hockey has been using the Wings for years now and it has worked. How many Saturday nights in Phoenix, Dallas, Colorado or Nashville has that Winged Wheel helped sell tickets to? For that reason alone, I figured Detroit would forever be banished to the West. No matter how many times we heard about Mr. I demanding the Eastern Conference or Ken Holland telling us that the league has promised him normal start times, nobody believed it and maybe there is no reason to believe now however I really want to.
Can you imagine what a 7 o’clock playoff start time would feel like?
Can you imagine getting to play Toronto, Montreal and Boston on a regular basis?
Can you imagine being guaranteed multiple games a season with the Penguins, Capitals and Rangers? Under this new plan all of the above can come true. And, this is just what is great for the fans: let’s not forget how it would help the team. Henrik Zetterberg once told me that the Wings would never be able to win a Stanley Cup if they had to play three series that started in the Pacific Time Zone. The travel has been brutal and that too can all be a thing of the past.
Of course this new plan is not good for some teams, but it’s time for Wings fans to be selfish and not give a damn about the other organizations. After the lockout I kept hearing how the league would have to win fans back, well at least here in Detroit this is a start. There was never a good enough reason that the Wings could go full seasons without facing some of the fans favorites because they had to play 100 games with the Blue Jackets instead. Maybe this new plan will finally allow us to see every team play a home and home with every other team in the league like the NBA does. But for now, this new plan will work.
I thought everybody would be elated about the rumor, like me, however I was wrong. As soon as I tweeted out a picture of what the Wings new division would look like I received a ton of negative comments. Fans say they will miss the Blackhawks, which I understand, but I would give up Chicago for Toronto, Boston, Montreal and more games with New York, Washington and Pittsburgh in a heartbeat. People also claimed they didn’t want to give up that fantastic rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche. Really? That hatred has been dead for over a decade. But the thing that got me the most confused were the numerous hockey fanatics that voiced their concern about the Eastern Conference and how the teams there are better, scarier, and thus Wings fans want to stay in the West where the teams are weaker and safer.
Seriously, a lot of people feel that way! It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
Since when is the fan base of a team that has gone to 21 consecutive postseasons and have won 4 cups during that time afraid of anything? If I’m not mistaken, the Western Conference has been the better of the two over the last 20 years and the Wings have grown to be one of the most dominant and respected teams of that era.
So why be afraid? That’s just weak!
So what, Boston won a cup two years ago and Philly went to the Finals 3 years ago. Does that make the Eastern Conference that scary?
If you are one of the people that will miss the Blackhawks, Sharks, Ducks, Preds or anybody else in the West than I kind of understand why you wouldn’t want the Wings to move. Not really, but sort of. However if you are like many of these scared fans that don’t want the team to switch conferences because you fear that the East is too tough, or physical or good then please shut up! You my friends are an embarrassment to Hockey Town.
Embrace the change! It will be good for the game as they can expand with new teams and it will be great for Detroit.