Monday, November 7, 2011

Death of a Rivalry?

By Andrew Gerbosi

Minnesota and North Dakota have one of the most famous rivalries in all of college hockey.  Blood has been shed, punches thrown, and neither school's fan base has an ounce of respect for the other.  The four games between the two teams every regular season always seem to have an effect on the top of the WCHA standings.  However, with the Big Ten Conference set to begin in 2013, will these rivalries still hold the same clout that they do now?  Minnesota will most likely continue playing North Dakota in the future, as will Wisconsin, but not as frequently, and with less at stake.  Sure, national rankings will still be affected by these match-ups, and there will always be the history and pride on the line but I do not know if the intensity will still be there 15-20 years down the line. Michigan and Michigan State are leaving their conference rivals behind as well, but are more rivals to each other than to the remains of the CCHA.  So what is to become of the Minnesota-North Dakota showdown in the future?

I have been trying to find a great example of a permanently divided rivalry.  One that I found is the Phillies and Pirates in baseball.  Both were in the NL East when there was no Central division in either league, and they accounted for the two highest numbers of division titles amongst those teams.  However, after the divisions were adjusted in 1993, the rivalry essentially died because the two teams were separated and played each other only two series a year.  The same occurred with the Reds and Dodgers after the realignment, as the two teams had finished 1-2 in the NL West eleven times from 1970 to 1990.

You rarely see rivalries divided except for the extreme cases (such as the MLB divisional realignment in 1994, and the pending shift in college hockey).  The schools that claim Big Ten teams as rivals will maintain some disdain for them moving forward, leaving their traditions and conference ties behind for more football-centric opponents.  Once these new conferences have time to gel, all of that will be forgotten, and new rivalries will have blossomed in their place.  So the question is, will the class of 2020 at Minnesota care more about beating Wisconsin, or that other school they used to play more often back in the 2000's?

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