As you know by now, the city of Atlanta lost a hockey team for a second time when the Thrashers were sold to a group based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The team will be moved there next season.
I won't get into the details and feelings of this move, that's not the Chicago part. I will say that Atlanta isn't a very good sports town (the Braves don't sell out playoff games), and combined with just about the most incompetent ownership and management you can find off of Wall Street and the government, the Thrashers were always doomed.
But this will have a domino effect on the Hawks. There is not enough time before next season's schedule is released for realignment to be considered. So though they are west of Chicago, St. Louis, and Minnesota, and north of everybody save the Canadian teams, Winnipeg will play in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division next year. Let it be said that the NHL never lets logic get in the way.
But it will only remain this way next year. Then, Winnipeg will almost certainly be moved to the Northwest Division with fellow Canadian teams Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Here's where things get interesting. The Hawks division, the Central, is going to lose a team as Atlanta is replaced in the Eastern Conference. Both Detroit and Columbus have long bellowed to be moved to the East, with the time zone they're in and the easier travel, and the more marketing opportuniities with the frequency that Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, the Rangers, and the Capitals making more regular trips those destinations. Many around Nashville have wondered whether being moved to the Southeast division would benefit the Predators, as a rivalry with Carolina seems to be a natural and the easier travel for them as well.
What we can pretty much guess is that Minnesota would move from the Northwest to the Central to replace whichever team switches Conferences. This would be fine on both sides, as Minnesota and Chicago share a pretty passionate rivalry in football and baseball, and North Stars-Hawks games came as close to prison riots as you can get.
If it is Detroit that moves, the initial elation of not having to deal with those fans three times a year (at least) will be replaced by the emptiness of not having a blood-rival any more. Sure, the Canucks have passed the Wings in a lot of Hawks fans' minds as Public Enemy #1, but that won't be as timeless as the Wings-Hawks rivalry. Once Vancouver and Chicago stop meeting in the playoffs every year, the emotions will fade. They never do for the Winged Wheel. And that's part of what makes hockey special, the bloodlust it can create. As much as I hate them, I don't want to see them go.
Or have to go through playing them in a Stanley Cup Final. I wouldn't live.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .