The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing. For most "normal" fans, this is a time for exciting and friendly rivalries to begin, where one can taunt their friends in an opposing jersey without fear of getting punched in the face.
For diehards, they know what the truth is: There will be blood.
I would like to start this by saying I respect any NHL team, and will continue to watch the playoffs, even if my team is eliminated. But, there are some allegiances that are unwavering.
In the Midwest region, and in hockey, in general, the rivalry between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks is one of the grittiest in the league.
At the college I attend, you are either from St. Louis or Chicago. Which city you are from during hockey season could dictate if you get a significant other or not. Obviously, during baseball season, there is no competition. (Go, Cards!)
But during hockey, the fear is palpable. The Blackhawks are good. I’m talking, five-time-Stanley-Cup-winning good.
During the regular season, when the teams play one another, there is constant chirping between fans at the bar, the ultimate insult of being called a "bandwagon fan," drinks and money lost on game outcomes and friendships ruined.
Okay, maybe "friendships ruined" is a little bit dramatic. But, the rivalry is very real.
As the Blues and Hawks continue on their playoff streak, potentially playing each other in the second round, it has me thinking about the benefits this rivalry provides.
While it is hard to put your hometown pride aside during important games, taking a step back and realizing all of the wonderful things a little healthy competition can fuel is very rewarding as a fan.
Every hero needs a villain
Having an identifiable competitor that surpasses all of the rest can motivate the team to give their best performance.
Obviously, every team wants to win, but there is always that one team that pushes you to play your very best game. It encourages a more physical game, high-charged with energy and a boost in their performance.
It would be too difficult to have this sense of rivalry with every single team in the league, and having one to channel all of your energy toward beating can be electric for both the team and the fans.
It’s almost a little bit fun to find out if someone is from your opposing team, and then you are able to flex your knowledge about your hometown team, and can create memorable conversations and interactions with people.
For example, I currently have a bet going on with a Blackhawks fan that involves an, um, ass tat. While many have put their hands over their faces and told me it was a mistake to make the bet, I choose to think of it as a funny story to tell.
It will be a memorable one I will be able to tell when I’m 80. It just wouldn’t be as fun if it was with a team I was not passionate about hating.
It fuels your desire to prove negative Nancy’s wrong
I’m going to be honest here: The St. Louis Blues are the heartbreak team.
We consistently have made it to the playoffs, with a stacked team full of talent, and have not been able to seal the deal. We’re used to disappointment.
However, having this rivalry, which is so intense, can make you more passionate about your team, and the added fan base is encouraging and rewarding.
It fills you with a greater satisfaction when you are able to prove the opposing fans wrong when you win. It makes you want to study potential draft picks, trades and do your stats research on the past and present players.
The rivalry makes you want to go out and buy more clothing, cheer a bit louder and prove to them you are the best fan you can be.
It can bring out the best in the players
The desire to be vying for the manager’s attention on the team is something that never goes away during a career. Each player wants to be recognized for their talent, wants to be seen in the best light and is striving for recognition by the people who matter the most.
Rivalries can initiate players to be thinking of things they want to do differently, the best ways they can stick out and can even cause healthy competition within the team to be the star of the game and series.
While it also can be a double-edged sword if they are not playing in unison, it typically can cause them to focus harder and bring out the best of them.
It can lead to economic success
It is no secret that people would rather spent more money on seeing a rivalry game than an ordinary post-season matchup. In this case, with such extreme rivalry, it can boost the team's economics with their ticket sales and merchandise.
Most of the Blues/Hawks games come close, if not sell out, each time they play one another. The different sports networks also enhance this rivalry and frame it in a way that seems almost frantic, and plays up on the traditional rivalry that has been there for so long.
We see it in baseball, football and, in hockey, it's no exception. The week leading up to the game is often filled with exciting clips of wins and losses, hits and injuries, and makes people want to go out and purchase a ticket more than they might have wanted to before.
The teams everyone hates, such as the Yankees, are still some of the most profitable. Everyone wants to see an exciting game.
While rivalries can turn ugly in some situations, it can also be said they provide a healthy dose of competition and excitement to any game, making a win even sweeter and rewarding.
May the best team win.