We are doing two weeks of showcasing rivals, and instead of looking at existing division rivals, we are going to look a few seasons into the future as the Arizona Coyotes prepare to join the Central Division. We start with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Reason for the rivalry: Have you been to Gila River Arena during a Coyotes/Blackhawks game?
Arizona is a unique hockey market. There is a growing number of born and raised fans, but most people are transplants. A significant portion of the Phoenix population is from the Chicago area, and they aren’t afraid to show it. When the Coyotes host the Blackhawks the home crowd can get annoying and hostile and there is definite animosity between the two fanbases.
Reason against the rivalry: Limited playoff history.
Playoff matches are the fertilizer that grows the plant that is a hockey rivalry. Sure you can have a rivalry with a team that you have never meet in the playoffs, but it doesn’t necessarily carry the same weight.
The Coyotes have met the Blackhawks exactly once in the playoffs, during the first round of the 2011-12 playoffs.
Reason for the rivalry: What a meeting that one time was.
Sure the Coyotes have only met the Blackhawks in the postseason once, but it was a pretty significant meeting. The Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa stands out, and is one of the hits that is going to lead to bad blood. This lead to Torres fighting Chicago’s Jamal Mayers in his next game against the Blackhawks, although not much came after that. Still, there is history there that could form the building blocks of a budding rivalry.
Reason against the rivalry: Arizona isn’t high on the Blackhawks list.
Any Coyotes fan can tell you that the franchise doesn’t always get a lot of respect from the hockey establishment. Original Six teams seem to look down on the franchise for a variety of reasons, and the Chicago Blackhawks are no exception. If the Coyotes due form a rivalry with the Blackhawks it will probably be the biggest in the minds of the Coyotes fans, but the third-biggest for the Blackhawks.
X-Factors: The shared players
The Coyotes and Blackhawks have been swapping players for the past few seasons. Jordan Oesterle, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Antti Raanta have all suited up for the Blackhawks in the past, while Chicago boasts Connor Murphy and Dylan Strome are former Coyotes. This could either mean less animosity on the squad or a greater desire to show that the Chicago team gave up on them too soon.
I’m sure the Coyotes ticketing department is happy that they will be playing the Blackhawks more during the regular season. I can potentially see the Coyotes and Blackhawks forming a rivalry, and I’m sure that pleases Coyotes fans. Barring something major the rivalry is likely to be one-sided though, a non-traditional market up against one of the hallowed “Original Six.”