Opinion: NHL Needs to Capitalize on Mystique of Original Six Matchups

Three nationally televised games between Original Six foes would make for a great Saturday

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The Chicago Blackhawks this week will get to play not one but two games against Original Six foes, as the New York Rangers come to the United Center on Wednesday night, and the Montreal Canadiens will welcome the Blackhawks to the Bell Centre on Saturday night.

Matchups later this month against the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings also loom, but there is something that bugs me about the way the NHL schedules these games. Yes, it is great that the league has finally decided to go back to having every team play two games a season against every other club in the league, but despite the designation of Wednesday’s Rangers/Hawks game as a “Wednesday Night Rivalry” game by NBCSN, it feels like there’s something more that the league could do.

With that in mind, I have this proposal for the league. Once per season, I would like to see a Saturday slate of games that includes three games featuring all six Original Six teams. For the first edition, I would propose that fans get the cream of the crop in terms of rivalries between these clubs, with the Blackhawks taking on the Red Wings and the Canadiens battling the Bruins. That would leave the Toronto Maple Leafs to take on the Rangers.

In addition to just having those three teams play, all three games should be nationally televised in both the US and Canada. You could start off the day by having the Canadiens/Bruins and Hawks/Wings games on NBC in the US, with Sportsnet picking up both games in the Great White North. Then, the nightcap of Rangers/Maple Leafs could be the Hockey Night in Canada game of the week, with NBCSN airing the game in the US.

With all of that national TV exposure, it would make sense to spice up the occasion with a couple of subtle additions. The first one I would propose would be that the teams would wear uniform designs from the 1940’s. The Blackhawks’ barber pole jerseys are a work of art, and the subtle differences seen in the Bruins, Canadiens, and Wings’ jerseys of that era would be very appealing. Finally, seeing the Leafs wear white 1940’s jerseys on home ice against a Rangers jersey that is a nice departure from their tried-and-true uniforms they’ve worn for well over half a century would be a cool sight.

To wrap up this Saturday of hockey nerd bliss, the NHL could partner up with HBO to produce a documentary about the origins of the league, focusing on the evolution of the Original Six teams. Going back in time and hearing about some of the founders of the game would be a great story to tell, and with the wild success that HBO has had with 24/7 the past few years in the weeks leading up to the Winter Classic, it’s pretty obvious that the network can present hockey in a fresh and exciting way.

The modern NHL is doing really well in terms of both television ratings and attendance figures, but there is something appealing about exploring the history of the sport. These nationally televised games would be a feast both for the newer fan who wants to learn more about the game, and for the hardcore fan who appreciates a good throwback jersey. If the NHL was smart, they would take their Hockey Day in America model and utilize it to educate people about the history of their game, and would capitalize on the grandeur that surrounds these types of Original Six matchups.

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