For the first time since February 28, 1993, a team from Minnesota heads north to play the Winnipeg Jets. No, the 'N' of the North Stars will not be on the Minnesota sweater. No, that classy Winnipeg Jets logo and jersey won't be found on the home team tonight either. What you do have, are reborn teams (Wild in 2000, and the Jets in 2011) who will take to the ice, and will relight a rivalry that's been in place since 1979.
Right now, the teams aren't even conference foes (Wild in the NW division of the West, and Winnipeg in the SE division of the East). But starting next season, the two will be part of the "new Norris" division along with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit Nashville, and St. Louis. As I have mentioned before, the Wild badly needed this move due in large part to the fact their road games hardly come in their own time zone (Tonight is MN's first road game in the Central time zone).
But ultimately tonight, I want to see this rivalry take off (Probably too unrealistic to expect, but a guy can hope right?!). I've heard all about the old rivalries from the old Norris division, but never gotten to see it happen in front of me (The best in playing with all the Western Canadian teams...yuck!). What you should expect from the Jets (13-12-4) is a gritty type of game that could agitate another gritty, hard working team, the Wild. If the Jets can keep in the game early on (Yes, Minnesota has been getting off to extremely hot starts on this 7 game winning streak), they can put up a really good fight.
Oh...and by the way, following the Jets, the league's best team has a date with its closest competitor for that honor, the Blackhawks, another old and upcoming Norris division foe. And believe me, the State of Hockey has not forgotten the old rivalries the Wild's predecessor carried with one of the NHL's most storied teams. The Blackhawks still receive the same vicious boos from Minnesota today compared to 20 years ago.
I have been trying to not get ahead of myself for this game (Hopefully the Wild do a better job than I have). But, this win or lose in WPG tonight, the Blackhawks game tomorrow will be a statement game for the Wild. It will be against one of the premier teams in the league. It will be seen by a national audience (The Versus 'A' team with Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire will be in the house), and it will be played in front of our fans in our building (Tickets still remain!!!). This is a game that we can not afford to put on a bad show for.
The Wild have played ridiculously above and beyond what anyone expected of them this year. But should this ride come to an abrupt halt or slow down significantly, fine. They will return next year with a better team and in a new division, with rivalries that get kicked off starting tonight, in Winnipeg.