Last week, as the NHL prepped to present its latest realignment proposal to the league’s Board of Governors, I was all caught up in what the Chicago Blackhawks were going to lose.
No more regular-season schedules full of games with the Detroit Red Wings. No more six games’ worth of hockey – usually great hockey – between the two. Well, I missed the point. Make that a few points. Because what the Blackhawks gain out of realignment far outweighs what they lost.
Thanks to realignment, which the BOG approved today by an overwhelming vote, the Blackhawks will play their fellow Original Six teams twice a season. That’s a home-and-home matchup with Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York Rangers and Detroit. Home and home. Every year.
[MORE: NHL realignment plan gets approved]
It’s about time.
For too many seasons the Blackhawks only saw four of the Original Six once a campaign, either at the United Center or at the respective team’s arena, but never at both per season. With the lockout this season, they didn’t see any of the Eastern Conference Original Six members. It’s been a shame, considering how much history in each franchise that fans have been denied – or have seen very little of – these past few seasons.
Just getting home and homes with all the Eastern Conference teams is a boon. The Blackhawks have, too infrequently, visited or hosted the Sidney Crosbys, Alex Ovechkins and Danny Brieres. The best should be playing the best regularly. Now they are.
Keep this in mind, too, Blackhawks fans: visiting each Eastern Conference arena once a season also means earlier start times. These 7 p.m. (or earlier) Eastern-Time starts aren’t just writers-on-deadline friendly. And considering how much national television teams in the East get, be prepared for more early-afternoon games on the weekends.
Chicago’s travel wasn’t that bad to start, so it doesn’t change that much now.
It’s a pretty good deal for the Blackhawks. One longtime rivalry is lessened. But the Original Six rivalries are reborn.