OPINION: Thoughts on the Titan/Islanders QMJHL Rivalry Week series

rivalryweek

BryanWillett

Author’s Note: This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend both games of the Titan vs. Islanders Rivalry Week series. Below are my thoughts and opinions on the weekend. They do not reflect those of the websites this essay appears on, the QMJHL, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, the Charlottetown Islanders nor anyone other than myself. Enjoy.

In the absence of long-standing storylines, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and Charlottetown Islanders managed to create them all their own during the first edition of “Rivalry Week,” the latest concept put out by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Going into this past weekend, the only storyline of relevance was that of two former teammates now at opposite ends of the ice and some bitter feelings over the trade that sees Mason McDonald now proudly wearing the colours of the Islanders while Jacob Brennan has shifted from one shade of red to another as one of just 11 players to survive the change in branding and coaching staff.

Ahead of Friday’s game, Brennan and McDonald faced each other four times with each man winning two games each. The fifth battle took place on Friday with the Islanders taking a 4-1 victory at the EastLink Center in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and McDonald back-stopping his way to his third victory against his former teammate.

During the Friday night game, tempers flared with a trio of fights that saw Bronson Beaton take on Ryan MacKinnon, affiliate player Bobby Zinkan going toe-to-toe with Oliver Cooper and Andrew Ryan battling Julien Avon. The final brawl included a number of additional participants that riled up both benches and the Charlottetown fans.

Come Sunday afternoon, McDonald was left on the bench and Brennan was once again in net for the Titan. With one storyline put on the back-burner, the storyline of bad blood between the two teams created from Friday’s game was all that was driving the rivalry storyline.

In comparison to the first game, Sunday’s game which was won by the Titan 4-3 was much tamer. It provided a more offensive flair than a physical one, and it provided fans a nail-biter finish that was lacking on Friday.

In the end, both teams came away with a victory, giving no winner to the first “Rivalry Week” event between the Titan and Islanders. One has to wonder if attaching a tag to two games in a season series where both teams play each other eight-to-nine times a year gives any more significance.

The only thing “Rivalry Week” was able to do really was ensure that future games between these two teams will have a slightly bigger buzz among the various forms of old and new media. How much? Probably not more than your average fare, to be honest. Will it do much to help attendance? The tag-line didn’t seem to do the job. Both teams had their regular amount of fans on both days in attendance.

In my opinion, this concept doesn’t add the desired significance. These are simply regular season games with a tag-line. Perhaps if there was a third game added to “Rivalry Week” for the series that ended in a draw – wait, that’s how a post-season series goes.

Let me be blunt. The Rivalry Cup held annually between the Moncton Wildcats and the Saint John Sea Dogs is the perfect example of a QMJHL rivalry done correctly. Each game in the season series means something and there’s a prize to win at the end of the season with tie-breakers in place to ensure there is a winner. It’s a traditional rivalry format seen in many soccer leagues that has perfectly blended into the hockey world.

Perhaps instead of putting a tag-line onto two marginally important regular season games with four points up for grabs, the stakes should be upped. Even if it’s a trophy to be shared between the teams from year-to-year, or a funny consequence that puts a layer of shame on the loser.

While both games between the Titan and the Islanders provided entertainment in various areas, I have to give the first edition of “Rivalry Week” between these two teams a failing grade. Until either the brain-trust of the QMJHL or even the two teams can come up with something bigger to go with this concept beyond what we had this past weekend, it’s best to just let these two normal regular season games be exactly what they are: regular season games.

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