**Please note, this was written before Game 4. I've just been without internet access for a couple days and could not post. Attribute any inconsistencies to that, or well, you know, just to me not being perfect. ;) **
I just got done reading a bunch of comments from Sharks fans, Detroit fans, non-fans, and I'm baffled. The Sharks fans are crediting their team's different play and more heart this year. The Red Wings fans are complaining that the referees are the reason their team is in a 3-0 hole after last night's third consecutive 4-3 loss in this year's Western Semi-Finals. And the non-fans are split down the middle.
Okay, maybe I'm not so baffled after all.
Look, I'll say it right here, right now. I don't like the Red Wings. It used to be a case of my not liking them because they were the anti-Rangers. An Original 6 team that did it the right way - drafting well, adding key pieces, having a system that everyone who was there or was called up knew how to follow perfectly. They did it right. As a Rangers fan, a fan of a team that seemingly could do nothing right, I hated them. As an example of what my team so clearly was not. Successful.
That dislike didn't come about right away. In 1995 I was, of course, devastated that the Red Wings got swept by the Devils and I, as a Rangers fan, had to hear for a month just how wonderful New Jersey was. I appreciated Detroit in 1997 and 1998. Again, a team that did it right. A team that had guys that I liked. Think back to 1998 and the Cup celebration with Vladimir Konstantinov and tell me that doesn't make you remember how good it once felt to watch Detroit win. I do remember that feeling. I certainly do.
But after those two Cups and even after the one in 2002, things would go on to change for me. There came a time when it seemed like the same teams were winning the Cup every year. What, wait? You mean that did happen? Sigh. Yes, it did. And I could (and maybe will another time) go on to explain how horrible a time I thought that was and how I came to dislike Colorado and NJ for the same reason, but we'll pause on that. Frankly, it just got to be too much.
And if it wasn't already too much, it certainly became too much in these recent years where it seemed like the Red Wings became the chosen team. The team that was always there, again. And even if they weren't, they should have been. They were perfect. And I get it, I get they are good. But the whole Hockeytown mentality and the NHL seemingly loving it, and literally shoving it in everyone's faces, became a lot to handle.
So I began to root, mightily, for the Red Wings to fail every year. When the Oilers knocked them out of the first round in 2006 en route to that Stanley Cup push, I was elated. When Nashville failed to do the same to them the following year, I knew it would end badly (ie; Cup for Detroit. Another year of how great everyone is). That in fact, was the only year, that I rooted for Detroit. Why? Because they were - ironically - playing the only team I wanted to see win the Cup less. Pittsburgh. And in 2009, well. I was mad at Detroit for not taking care of business for me there either.
Before I get trampled here, let me give credit. Nick Lidstrom is one of the rare, amazing talents. We may never see another exactly like him again once he retires. Steve Yzerman was someone I always highly respected, as long as they didn't refer to him as the greatest leader in the NHL, only the greatest captain. (Mark Messier had that distinction in my mind). There is nothing I can say against Detroit. Once Chelios left the team and Hasek left the NHL, I disliked no one on it. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, those are amazingly talented guys that with the exception of Selke's and Lady Byngs, will get no recognition.
That's almost ironic really. Besides Lidstrom, who on Detroit gets real, honest to goodness, credit for being so good, from the masses. And yet, Detroit, the team, the ownership, the organization gets so lauded.
Anyway, point is. Detroit is good, has always been good. A machine, if you will. No one is denying that. I'm certainly not.
However, now in 2010 we have Detroit on the brink, the 3-0 brink of elimination to San Jose. And it feels good.
Why? Honestly. It just would feel so good to see another team represent the West this year. Chicago, San Jose, Vancouver. I'll cheer for any of those teams - happily.
Does that mean Detroit is evil? Does that mean I truly hate them? No. and No. It just means I got tired of seeing the same guys do it over and over again.
And, even worse, if the fans feel some entitlement. The team is good. We get it. TRUST us, we get it. But they, for the first time, in a long time, did not have an easy road to the playoffs, let alone the Final. They made the playoffs for 19 straight years. They are never out of anything. They are arguably one of the greatest teams - collectively over the years - of NHL history and certainly the most successful of my lifetime.
I just hope another team can be better this year. I just really, really, really! need someone new to root for.
Rather than the same two teams to root against.
**Note. Obviously Detroit didn't get swept. But to expect that would have been probably too much. I'll be curious to see how tomorrow goes. Obviously you know who I'll be rooting for there.**