How NBC is selling Minnesota Wild vs. Boston Bruins ‘Rivalry Night’

Oct 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) reacts to being defeated by the Minnesota Wild 4-3 at TD Banknorth Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) reacts to being defeated by the Minnesota Wild 4-3 at TD Banknorth Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

The “Wednesday Rivalry Night” franchise for NBC Sports Network tapped into something every hockey fan loves about the NHL: The storied blood feuds between franchises, and games where animosity is assumed and intensity is expected.

It’s not an exact science. The Detroit Red Wings faced the Buffalo Sabres on “Rivalry Night” in 2013, right after the Wings realigned from the West for the first time in decades. The Wings also faced the Washington Capitals on “Rivalry Night” this year, rekindling the intense emotional war we all witnessed when the Wings swept the Capitals in the … the … some Stanley Cup Final in the late 1990s.

On Wednesday night, the gimmick’s concept will be stretched like taffy as the Minnesota Wild take on the Boston Bruins. As Stanley Cup Of Chowder cheekily noted, these teams don’t really have a rivalry outside of “NBC said we do.”

This is, of course, shortchanging the storied history between the teams, including:

- Having had players like Brian Rolston, Shane Hnidy, Chuck Kobasew and Randy Robitaille spend time with both teams.

-  The fact that Manny Fernandez won a Jennings with Boston after being traded by the Wild to the Bruins in 2007.

- The continued employment of Matt Cooke by the Wild.

See … it’s practically Oilers/Flames in its history and intensity!

None of this is NBC’s fault, exactly. The NHL scheduled three games for Wednesday night. Ottawa and the Devils don’t have a rivalry. Dallas and Vancouver don’t have one either, unless you count the notion that the Stars’ former AHL coach is thriving with the Canucks. Minnesota and Boston afforded NBCSN the chance to have two big markets face each other; what else could they do?

So how is NBC attempting to market a “Rivalry Night” between two teams that are anything but?

Here’s the official press release on the game:



STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 15, 2014 – NBCSN’s coverage of the 2014-15 NHL regular season continues with an interconference matchup on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild host Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage begins with NHL Live at 7 p.m. ET, highlighted by a sit-down interview with Pierre McGuire and Zach Parise.

This week’s matchup on Wednesday Night Rivalry is the second meeting of the season between the Bruins and Wild. On October 28, Parise led Minnesota’s third-period comeback in Boston, scoring the first of the Wild’s three third-period goals in a 4-3 win.

Minnesota has dominated Boston since the Wild entered the league in 2000, holding a 12-2-1 advantage in the all-time series. Parise has notched nine points (3g/6a) in his last seven games, including the game-tying goal and a shootout marker in Minnesota’s 4-3 shootout win on Saturday night. The Bruins enter this week’s action following a 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Boston faces Nashville tomorrow night, while Minnesota will be in Chicago to face the Blackhawks.

Emmy Award-winning play-by-play commentatorMike ‘Doc’ Emrick, analyst Eddie Olczyk,and Emmy Award-winning ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analystPierre McGuirewill have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

So they’re not exactly trying to push this thing as an actual rivalry either, something further evidenced by this Vine published by NBC Sports:

Honestly, what hockey rivalry isn’t born from one player throwing a candy cane that knocks another player’s head off on a spring, only to have the second player use his magic super breath to transform the first player’s body into that of a gingerbread man?

On second thought, we’re totally watching Rivalry Night tonight.