21 February 2019

Spotlight on the Original Six rivalries

The ‘Original Six’ is a term for the six franchises that stabilized the National Hockey League after the Great Depression and world wars took their toll.  Those with the experience of seeing the league operate in the ‘golden’ era of the Original Six franchises revisit tales of dynasties, legendary figures and a league that policed itself with a combination of Wild West justice and backyard shinny. 

On-ice products drive the league today; to have these original markets enriched by winning tradition and competing as superior franchises only credits the NHL.  A strong New York Rangers team would keep the NHL battling for cable television offers and newspaper headlines. 

Cam Neely as an executive in Boston, has the Bruins inspired and management has outlined a team that centers upon Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Milan Lucic.  The 'meat-and-potates' brand of hockey is back in Beantown and the result is silver, bringing the Stanley Cup home in 2011.

The Detroit Red Wings are of course the gold standard for the league as a whole; the Montreal Canadiens held 100th year celebrations after hosting the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and All-Star game last season; the Toronto Maple Leafs have begun reading a much more compelling chapter in franchise history.

Rocky Wirtz revamped the Chicago Blackhawks’ platform, galvanizing the fan-base with a local cable television deal and utilizing a strong draft record since the turn of the millennium. The Chicago Blackhawks, led by a strong core including Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook have now hoisted the Stanley Cup. After honouring the most special players in 'Hawks history, such as Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, the ultimate goal has been reached once again for every fan or member of the team to revel. 

Finances of course play their part.  Forbes Magazine rates all of the Original Six franchises as being in the top half of the league financially (get current rankings HERE).   Toronto is of course the most valuable hockey market on the planet and tops the list at $470 million.  The next closest is the New York Rangers ($416 M), followed by larger drop-offs for Montreal ($339 M) and Detroit ($337 M).  Boston is positioned well in 6th ($271 M) and Chicago is the least valuable of the original franchises at 7th best ($258 M). 

All of the original franchises posted greater values, with Detroit and Chicago making up considerable ground.  Healthy management, strong branding, and continent-wide fan bases are all strong indicators that the teams are persuasive in the boardroom, as well as appealing in the rink.

Rivalry is very much alive.  On 1 January 2009, the Blackhawks hosted Detroit at Wrigley Field, while the 2010 'Outdoor Classic' was a showdown of the Philadelphia Flyers in Boston's Fenway Park to take on the Bruins on 1 January. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals did battle his past year. The NHL has gone a long way to exposing and promoting the game.

Games between the Bruins and Canadiens have a renewed ambience, especially in the wake of Montreal’s centennial celebration coupled with a feverish playoff run, Boston's legitimate sight-line of Stanley under GM Peter Chiarelli's magic, and the heightened rivalry that has erupted lately. Meeting in the first-round of the 2011 playoffs is marketing magic for both clubs. 

Tensions only heighten the experience fans take away from the games as the contests become more critical come playoff time and the league is well represented in the 'second-season' with its flagship franchises in contention. The Blackhawks and Bruins are the most recent examples of NHL Original Six magic.


Updated last on 31 July 2011 / Robin Keith Thompson

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