Wednesday, May 24, 2006



One of the common bonds between most longtime serious NHL fans is nostalgia for the old non-geographic Division names. For you utes: in the pre-Bettman days, the two conferences were the Wales Conference and the Campbell Conference, and the four divisions were the Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe Divisions. The first four Battles of Alberta were Smythe Division Finals. Chris Berman used to refer to the NFC Central Division (before the NFL realigned to 8 divisions) as the NFC Norris, on account of the membership of Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit.

The change, as I understand it, was part of an effort to broaden hockey's appeal, the thought being that these weird division names might be a barrier for new fans. I thought this was wrong then, and I still do: the NHL's unique aspects are, on balance, a selling point. (The Stanley Cup is still widely regarded as the most coveted trophy in all of sports; some of its cachet would certainly be lost if it was renamed the NHL Championship Trophy.)

Anyway, all that aside: if the league were to go back to Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe, there's still the matter of two extra divisions to name. What to call them?

The most natural fit, I'd think, is to name them after legends of the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. The namesakes of the four divisions above were coaches/builders mostly associated with Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Toronto, respectively; it seems right to pay tribute to the remaining two Original Six franchises with the remaining two division names. Perhaps the Art Ross Division and the Toe Blake Division.

The nearly equally appealing alternative would be to name them after more contemporary legends; here I'd suggest the Bowman and Neilson Divisions.

However it went, this would be a great idea. The naming would be no more nonsensical than having Dallas in the Pacific Division (distance from Dallas to LA: 1,400 miles). Suggestions?


Boomer still calls it the Norris. I hear it about 32 times a year, and it always brings a smile to my face.

I agree with you Matt. Same goes for switching the Canada Cup to the World Cup - another example of the NHL braintrust trying to water down hockey's traditions by making everything associated with it more generic. I'm almost surprised the player trophies are still named for hockey's builders. Do I sound like that cranky sourpuss Tom Benjamin yet?

Also I second Grabia's observation that the Norris is still in play.

How about the Bill Hunter division?

The Canada Cup name was changed because of Eagleson's disengagement. I have no problem with that one.

I dislike Benjamin. He hates everything, especially the Oilers. I don't even know why he watches hockey. All it seems to do is make him angry.

I would imagine going back to some of those old names might create problems. Some of those old farts aren't exactly loved by some of the older players. The again, how about an "All-Bastards" route? Maybe the Ballard Division?

mudcrutch79 said...
Out of curiosity, am I the only Tom Benjamin fan in the world? He was right about 90% of the lockout stuff a long time before most people I know were.

Benjamin alternates between some really good stuff and some totally off the wall takes that I find really hard to believe are actually his opinions. I think he's more about getting people to read his blog for "interesting takes" than actually having genuine opinions.

Typically he's on the mark about the business of the game but I rarely agree with what he has to say about the game itself.

Take this for example:
While everyone likes to see a Cinderella once in a while, shouldn't fans be able to pick out a favourite and be right once in a while? If none of the supposed experts could imagine this as a Final Four before the season started, does anyone have any expertise? Is it a good thing if hockey becomes the equivalent of contact coin flipping?

Maybe the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. On many levels. It implies that he hasn't been paying attention to hockey ever.

Out of curiosity, am I the only Tom Benjamin fan in the world?

Most Oiler fans just hate his Oiler bashing, but other than that, he has some good takes.

I know you all remember Tom's Lowe Down from last fall:

My feelings about Kevin Lowe make it more difficult for me to objectively assess his decisions over the past few days. I can't get the image of a whore pretending to enjoy the sex out of my mind. I want him to fall flat on his face and that desire probably makes it impossible for me to applaud him, no matter what he decided to do.


I love Tom. I disagree with some of his hockey takes (or occasionally, I don't grasp what he's getting at), but good on him for (tirelessly) pointing out the inherent contradictions in a lot of what the NHL says and does.

I do think that a lot of what he attributes to the NHL and Bettman as malice (or some kind of evil master plan) is actually incompetence and/or indifference, but, whatever. (And I find the hate he has on for the Oilers tremendously enjoyable.)

Who's Tom Benjamin and why is this circle-jerk assessing whether they like him or not? Does this mean he's not invited to play anymore if the majority says they don't like him?


I don't like Earl Sleek. Who likes him? Anyone that's a ducks fan deserves to be roasted.

I'm kidding, of course.

As for division titles, I realize the nostalgia being waxed on the names of divisions and the builders etc but instead of paying homage to the old teams, why not also recognize some new builders?

I suggest named the former smythe division the peter pocklington division. Have we forgiven him yet? In the alternative, the Sather Division.


I'm a big fan of tom Benjamin, any time I read a blog and get a totally different take on something I'm happy, especially when it makes coherent sense.

Of course there are some things he's written I disagree with, but on the whole, I'm a fan.

Tom's a great blogger, although I think he's not having a great time watching NHL hockey anymore.

Benjamin's constant attacks on the NHL may get old, but he's always made it clear that he loves hockey, it's the NHL he's wary of. 95% of the time, I think he's got good reason to be.

I don't like Earl Sleek. Who likes him? Anyone that's a ducks fan deserves to be roasted.

You and Laraque should get along quite fabulously.

Out of curiosity, am I the only Tom Benjamin fan in the world?

Apparently not. Out of curiosity, am I the only Ducks fan in the world? Grabia need not answer.

[sound of crickets chirping]

I like Benjamin. I disagree with him about 70 per cent of the time, but I'm still there reading every day, so he's doing something right.

As for your bit about the divisions, I think they should go back to having only four.

[Crickets still chirping... James Mirtle babbling off in the distance]

Apologies for crashing the 'Oilerz are awesome' party.

Mirtle, you know we loves ya.

I guess I'm not as much of a traditionalist as most, but I'm cool with the geographical division names now.

Besides, I have a terrible feeling that if they went back to division names that the two new ones would be the "Bud Light Division" and the "Gretzky Division". Which would pain me.

On the Tom Benjamin talk (which seems oddly placed btw), personally I don't read his blog because I can't post there. I've read there a few times, disagree strongly with something he's said, and then can't comment. Aaargh.

My terrible writing skills get trapped by his spam filter.

Speaking of spam, can some computer clever person help Lowetide filter out the moron who keeps linking cellphone ads in random comments on that blog? It's annoying as all get out.

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