Wild vs Vegas Could Spark First NHL Rivalry for Both Teams

Photo: Brad Rempel - USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild have been in the NHL for over 20 years and they’re yet to develop a real rivalry that others across the league would consider legitimate. In the State of Hockey, fans might see Colorado, Chicago or St. Louis as Wild rivals but those are one-sided conversations. You’ll be hard-pressed to find fans, players and coaches in those organizations who consider Minnesota as a top rival.

The Vegas Golden Knights entered the NHL just two seasons ago and, between the Sharks and Kings, have already made their fair share of enemies out West. But the Knights and their fanbase would tell you that the hatred isn’t necessarily returned from their end. It’s difficult to foster hatred when all you do is win.

The Knights have made the playoffs both years they’ve been in the league and they even played for a Stanley Cup in their historic debut season. But Vegas hasn’t had the regular season fights or intense playoff series’ that create the type of palpable hate you need for an NHL rivalry. Or have they?

NHL rivals by means of global pandemic

2021 changed life in the NHL more than other pro leagues and could even usher in some new rivalries. Because Canada locked the rest of the world out during the pandemic, the league had to configure new divisions (Canadian, West, Central, East). They also decided that regular season games would consist of only divisional rivalries.

When the new divisional lines were drawn, the Wild were yanked into the West, pinning them against Vegas eight times in the last few months. Now, those two squads will launch into a 7-game playoff series that starts Sunday afternoon.

Sportsbooks all have the Minnesota Wild as +200 underdogs, entering the series. On top of that, many league experts have even picked the Golden Knights to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup when all the dust settles. But the Wild have a Russian assassin who makes anything possible. And Vegas definitely knows the threat Kirill Kaprizov represents, as you can see from the video above.

Any games already played between the Wild and Knights (or dirty hits on Kaprizov) this season, aren’t enough to form the league’s next great rivalry. But a nasty six or seven game back-and-forth series on top of what has already unfolded, very well could.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan