By Wild Road Tripper
Hey, Minnesota! You have a team that's in first place this morning. One small problem, however:
They don't wear purple, and they sure as hell aren't
Your Minnesota Wild are in first place in the NHL's Western Conference today. They are one point (as of Sunday morning, Dec. 4) out of first place in the entire National Hockey League. And this is with a talent level which most NHL pundits say are all smoke and mirrors.
Yet, watch NHL-produced programming. Watch 'NHL: On The Fly', the nightly show produced and shown on the NHL Network. Watch 'Hockey Night in Canada'. Watch any NHL-produced program. What do you see?
Sidney Crosby. Sidney Crosby, and Ovechkin. Ovie, and Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky, and Scott Hartnell. All Pens, all the time. All Rangers. Caps ad nauseum. And the NBC Sports Channel (soon-to-be-formerly-called Versus) may as well be 'the national channel of your Philadelphia Flyers.'
Yes, the VERSUS schedule has featured the Wild, but only to feature the stars of the opposing team (Tampa Bay, Chicago, San Jose, Washington) or just to fill a time slot (Colorado in January and March, Anaheim in February, LA in February). Not one game against any Western Conference opponent that would actually feature the Wild's up-and-coming stars, as opposed to the likes of Sid The Kid, Vinny 'I got shut out in Minnesota' Lecavalier, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Joe Thornton, Ovie, et. al.
Even when the league's TV outlets do get around to showing the Wild, it's only as supposed 'cannon fodder' for teams such as Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Chicago, San Jose, and Washington, or to fill a late time slot (such as two games in Colorado, and two home games in February against the two Southern California teams) with something that would be palatable to (very few) US hockey fans.
Not even on the NHL's radio outlets do they get any respect. The Wild frequently get trashed on HNIC radio on SIRIUS and get dissed daily on XM's 'NHL Home Ice' channel. They are routinely dismissed as 'the team that still plays the Trap', years after Jacques Lemaire left the organization, after which they move on to such exciting subjects, as what STK had for breakfast, or the latest (false) Bobby Ryan trade-to-Toronto rumor. When they do run out of real NHL news, they may get to the Wild, only after their latest regurgitation of James Reimer's save percentage, Patrick Kaleta's face-off stats, and after a rambling, 15-to-20-minute phone interview with the latest Ranger to get lost en route to their Rye, NY practice complex. Just don't say a word about Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding, though. That team is playing way-y-y-y over their heads. Never utter a word about Matt Cullen's season, or the kiddie-corps defense in Minnesota. But, we'll be back, right after this Andrei Markov update, live from his surgical suite...
Wild fans will know when this team has been 'accepted' by the NHL media. Just keep winning, guys. Just keep winning, and angering the likes of the uber-Wild-haters, such as E. J. Hradek of NHL Network, and the Denver Post's Adrian Dater. Just keep winning, guys. Because, they all hate you. They hate the fact that the Wild are winning. They hate the fact that statistics don't lie, and that the Wild are at the top of the Western Conference. Sorry, but the Sedins are no longer the be-all-end-all in the Northwest Division.
Maybe, someday, even Gary Bettman will actually like the Wild. (Nah. I doubt that will ever happen.)