Chicago, IL — While the boring rivalry between the NHL & NHLPA is being waged in NY and Toronto a much more interesting rivalry is heating up on Chicago’s ice. A cross town classic of a chilly sort like revenge being served cold it is not as intense yet as the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Vancouver Canucks but it is early in the AHL season and there is plenty of time for a healthy disdain and dislike to grow.
The AHL is now filled with the youth of the NHL but old rivalries will be renewed in games this season between the Rockford Ice Hogs who are the Chicago Blackhawks farm team and the Chicago Wolves who are the Vancouver Canucks farm team. There are plenty of players on both sides that played in the NHL and are fully aware of the dislike these two clubs have for each other.
This feud of the young bloods or young guns could grow more intense due to players trying to make good impressions and make their NHL rosters once the lockout has ended. While the AHL is not the NHL the organizations behind all of these teams is the same and have the same philosophies for how a team should be run.
The big arch-enemy on the Wolves this year will be RW Zach Kassian. Doesn’t sound familiar? Well If you don’t recall who he is remember the game Canuck’s Alex Burrows strategically placed his knee in Duncan Keith’s groin while he was down on the ground. It was Kassian that was trying to engage and bait Brent Seabrook so he could not assist his team-mate Keith while Burrows was trying to rearrange his privates.
Remember too that Kassian was brought into Canuck’s organization to bring muscle and size to the forward lines. The Canucks gave up a very skilled player in Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres to get Kassian for what they thought was going to be a long playoff run.
If that was not enough the IceHogs and the Wolves also just happen to be in the same division – the Midwest Division in the AHL. This should add extra spice and incentive for a little hate to go a long way. Also in the AHL unlike the NHL these teams will meet 12 times this season. That should give plenty of time for this baby to boil over by the end of the year.
The way these games are schedule will also give each player time to really get sick of the players on the other team. Their schedules have them playing a lot of contests that are close to each other. The AHL season kicked off for the Wolves playing back to back home games vs the Icehogs over the weekend in Chicago.
Was the weekend soiree as heated as your normal Blackhawks vs Canucks? Well not yet but it did have its moments. Familiar foe Kassian was wrecking havoc behind the IceHogs goal when he launched himself into IceHog Ryan Stanton and Jimmy Hayes came in to stick up for his team-mate who was in a bad position on the ice thanks to the Kassian body launch. I know everyone is looking forward to when Mr. Kassian is introduced to Mr. Brandon Bollig’s right uppercut.
What will also make this an interesting rivalry is that both teams goalies are very good if not spectacular at times. Wolves Eddie Lack and IceHog’s Carter Hutton should make worthy adversaries in net for their teams. As long as Lack and Hutton are in nets you can never count their teams out no matter what the score is.
The Rockford IceHogs have a very young team, one of the youngest in the AHL. This should give the Wolves an edge with experience but, there are plenty of IceHogs that spent some time with the Blackhawks and have a lot of NHL experience which should serve them well. The IceHogs need time for their offense to gel but once it does there is enough fire power on this team to light up most goalies.
The next confrontation between these two clubs will happen in just a couple of weeks on November 9th in Rockford. This time the Wolves will be the visitor although they had to wonder over the weekend who the visitor actually was as it seemed the crowd was either split on Saturday night or pro IceHogs on Sunday afternoon. Chants of Lets go IceHogs could readily be heard on a number of occasions.
The young IceHogs should take this opportunity to show all that they have and showcase their talents without the shadow of NHL stars being present. The IceHogs are now their team but what remains the same is a foe that plays outside the rules regardless of league and players that are rewarded for their physicality and will use any method possible to make the big club.
After the weekend contest the Wolves came out on the winning end and now have the edge in the division over the IceHogs but there are ten glorious contests between these two that still remains. Call it the battle of Illinois or the battle of I-90 or Hawks/Canucks part II, call it whatever you like but one thing it isn’t is a contest between two farm teams in a developmental league, that went out the plexi-glass the moment these two teams stepped on the ice.