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For most of the Hockey world, next year’s realignment is something in the background while the dramas of the Regular season unfold. We’ve really only paid a lot of attention to it when playing “Final” games against former rivals now bound for pastures new.

Not so for a pair of writers in Nashville, however: for the last month or so the brand new site “III Communication” has been evangelising the forthcoming, as yet unnamed, Conference that the Preds, along with the Hawks, Blues, Avs, Jets, Wild and Stars will be playing in next year. They’re really excited about it and you will be too. Using a innovative mixture of humour, insight and general knowledge, III Communication has previewed and reviewed everything that occurs to the seven teams, handed out awards (for Threero of the week) and extracted pure gold (well, sort of) from Sports Yapper so we don’t have to.

JRLind and TMurda are the shadowy geniuses behind the site and they were kind enough to answer a few questions for me last week.

 

Can you briefly introduce yourselves and outline, for the uninitiated, what exactly Conference III means and just how great it’s going to be.

We are J.R. and TMurda. By day, J.R. is a real life professional writer for three somehow-still-respected publications in Nashville and TMurda is a member in fine standing of the Tennessee Bar. By night (and sometimes by afternoon if work is boring), we are the foremost cheerleaders for Conference III — the Central Time Zone (and Colorado) division of the realigned NHL. Conference III is going to have the best hockey in the NHL because its teams represent the best cities in the United States and Manitoba (and also St. Louis). This is Real America — even Winnipeg! — where Real People with Real Jobs eat Real Food that probably has extra gluten.
The Pacific Division is, in the words of TMurda and Swingers like winning the Cup against the computer with the offside turned off. One of the other divisions is Canada and Florida and Detroit. It doesn’t even make sense. And the fourth division is all the Rust Belt cities that people abandoned for a reason.See, we grew up in the homeland of the Southeastern Conference. And outsiders think SEC people cheer for the conference first. And that’s not true. SEC people HATE the other SEC schools, but you can only hate that which you respect. That’s sort of the vibe we hope Conference III has.
Your site, III Communication, has quickly become an indispensable read for Hockey fans. What inspired you to create it and what are your ultimate goals
We noticed a lot of hockey blogs are written by people who take themselves really capital-s Seriously. There’s not enough whimsy! The hockey blogosphere needs more whimsy. And wrestling metaphors. And references to obscure early Middle Ages history. But mostly whimsy. Sports are supposed fun and if you aren’t having fun, you need to evaluate why you care about sports in the first place. This hasn’t been the best year for the Predators — but that doesn’t faze us (NB: TMurda is a Cubs fan and J.R. is a Royals fan and that’s probably why we don’t get hung up on results too badly).
Also, these bloggers seem to be getting more and more down with the #fancystats like Corsi and Fenwick and PDO and other things with names that don’t have anything to do with what they represent (like the Utah Jazz). We get the numbers, we like the numbers, we understand the numbers. But if old hacky newspaper beat writers are fair game to be mocked, so are you numbers people.We hate hackery and we hate anything that takes itself too seriously.
Ultimately, we’d like to have a whole mess of likeminded writers in all seven Conference III cities and if people wanna pitch something, they should definitely email us at conferencethree@gmail.com.
Also, we want the NHL to make the early afternoon game every week a Conference III game and call it Brunchrence III. And we don’t want them to call us the Mid-West Division (even if they do, we aren’t changing our name).
The backbone of Conference III is made up of teams from the soon-to-be defunct Central (Toughest Division In Hockey) so those teams are familiar with each other. What should the newcomers expect when Conference III comes to full flowering next year? Who will be the new Columbus?
Put simply: Conference III will be like Battle of the Network Stars meets The Running Man. 
As for the new Columbus, the easy answer is to say Winnipeg. As friend of the show Anthrax Jones said, Winnipeg is like people who wear “ASK ME ABOUT MY GRANDCHILDREN” buttons. As TMurda said, Winnipeg is like the kid who got invited to your party not because your mom and his mom are friends, but because his mom and your mom work together. Anyway, we are trying to give our Manitoban mates a chance because if Conference III is going to ultimately conquer the world (it is), then we need agents inside Canada.
On the subject of Columbus and fellow Fraidey Cats Detroit: do you think their flight Eastwards was motivated more by abject fear than geographic concerns? (I assume Bettman tipped Detroit off in advance and they said “Not without our Lidstrom”)
Columbus is like that kid in school who bounces around from one group to another until eventually some group is like “OK, fine, you can hang out with us.” Detroit is like Judge Smails from Caddyshack — sort of stodgy and insistence on his own outsized, out-of-date importance. What’s the first thing a Detroit fan says after a loss? We all know the answer: “HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON?” Give me a break.
Anyway. We don’t blame those teams. In fact, we sort of begrudgingly consider Detroit as part of our Creation Myth. It was their tears from decades of whining which made fertile the ground that birthed Conference III
The other Conferences are all, clearly, inferior. Why is it that so much greatness is contained in one package?
We aren’t sure, but we’re pretty sure Conference III covers the most land area. If greatness is like goldfish, then it grows to fit the space it has. ERGO: Conference III is the greatest.
It stretches from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. From the Great Smoky Mountains (sort of) to the Great Big Middle Part of Canada. You know who played in St. Louis? Wayne Gretzky. The Great One. Think about it. And if Winnipeg doesn’t screw it up, three division titles will be held by Conference III teams.
Seriously, though, it’s clear Conference III is the one the NHL put the least amount of thought into. We are the misfits. But misfits, as literally hundreds of war movies and westerns have told us, band together to become unbeatable.
As our time in the Central together grows short, what are your abiding memories of the Blackhawks & Predators rivalry? How do you see non-NBC manufactured rivalries shaping up in Conference III? Can anyone be bothered to hate Winnipeg?
Interesting, the first game we saw together was March 12, 1999 –  a 5-3 Predators win over the Blackhawks. That the Predators not only won but scored FIVE goals in a game in their inaugural season is almost unbelievable. Game 3 of the 2010 Playoffs had the best TV Timeout Ovation ever. In Game 6 of that series (the last game), we got vomited on by a drunk 15 year old (we’ve moved seats since then).
There are seven teams, so obviously squaring off is going to leave an odd-man-out. Nashville and Dallas seem to have hooked up, which makes sense, because we’ve both been in that 6-10 part of the West for so long. Nashville takes it so seriously that the team doesn’t do “The Star Spangled Banner” when the Stars come to town — we sing “God Bless America” instead to keep people from having to say “stars.” I guess Chicago and St. Louis will be rivals. So that leaves Winnipeg, Minnesota and Colorado. The latter two are old Northwest rivals and Winny and Minny a) rhyme and 2) are sort of close to each other. I’m not going to force people to decide who their rival is, but I could make a case for any combination.
You seem to be ahead of the curve in fully embracing Sports Yapper to divine the mood of Conference III Nation. What made you choose Yapper as your way of tapping the pulse?
The weekend we started III Communication, some Chicago folks had been posting screen shots of the more, ahem, insightful things being said on the Yapper. We didn’t want to do the same kind of recaps people always do – for one, it takes a lot of work and second, there’s no way we could watch every game. So IIIiteracy, our Yapp-based recap was born. It’s more
manageable than Twitter because each page is dedicated to one team, which is actually good. Problem is teams that don’t Yapp. We’ve used the same Yapp about the Stars “looking good out there” for about three recaps. Chicago, St Louis and Colorado are the best.

Your International Previews have opened a window on the World beyond the Rinks of Ontario (much to Don Cherry’s chagrin). Is there a message you’d like to send to potential Conference III fans outside of the American continent?

 

Most of the time, the countries we pick for the Worldwide International Game Previews of the World are countries from which we’ve had hits. So there are Conference III fans overseas. We see you, Aruba! You too, the Philippines!
See, we’re inclusive. After all, we are from Nashville. We’ve been told for 15 years we don’t deserve to watch hockey. The world not only deserves Conference III; it needs it.
If need be, we’ll get everyone together and slice up the world like the Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna. Hitchcock can be Metternich.
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There you have it:  If III Communication isn’t on your radar now, fix that. And follow all the links, for the love of Hossa. You will be rewarded.
You’ll find it at https://conferenceiii.wordpress.com/  and if you do that Twitter thing, follow @JRLind: you won’t regret it, I promise you.
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