Before we sink into the depths of what will surely be a painful night for either Joe or myself (or an unreal day for me/a solid night for Joe. I mean, seriously, is this even exciting for Red Wings fans anymore? Just kidding ... kind of.), let's keep this draft mojo going.
Its easy to forget that prior to being the absolute dominant team in the NHL for the last 12 years, the Detroit Red Wings went through 42 years between Cup championships. 42 years marked by some absolutely putrid teams, repeated choke jobs, and thousands of broken hearts. I've mentioned a few times that I got my start as a hockey fan after the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. I came up stairs from playing with Legos in the basement for a quick bathroom break. On my way back down to the basement to resume playing with my Legos, I walked by the TV, and saw bunch of guys running around with this giant silver trophy. I stopped and asked my dad about it, who was pretty bummed to see the Wings come up short again, and he explained to me about the Stanley Cup and all that jazz, and I sat down and watched. That was the start of my addiction.
Since then, I've seen almost nothing but success from the Red Wings. A record setting 1995-96 season. 4 Stanley Cups. A 2002 team with at least 7 HoF'ers on it. A bunch of President's Trophies. I've never even seen the Wings miss the playoffs. They were part of a sports citythat is one of the greatest in the nation, despite the Lions. No lovable losers. Just win, and do it over and over. When all your team does is win, and that's all that is ever expected from them, you stop paying as much attention. You stop caring quite as much. "Oh yeah, they won, but they were supposed to!", etc. etc. The last couple years after the 2002 Cup win, after so much success, and a couple of tough playoff losses, it got to the point where it was just so expected that you stopped paying as much attention.
When I moved away from Michigan, I didn't take a whole lot of things with me. I was 20 years old, I really didn't have that much. I hated where I was, and wanted nothing more than to get away from it, and try to find somewhere or something better. I wanted to burn the state down as I left, I was so angry that I and a whole generation of young adults had inherited such an absolutely stupid and completely untenable economic situation. (I know, everyone has it rough right now, but if you're not from MI, you don't know the half of it. MI has been this bad for a few years now, and as everyone else feels the recession, MI is really feeling it worse). I hated the place I was from, and I just wanted to get away from it.
Living on your own, in a strange new area, really makes you grow up quick. And having never lived anywhere but MI, you learn a lot, awful fast. And one of the things I've realized in the intervening time is an appreciation for where I'm from. I didn't take much of Michigan with me when I moved, but I've learned to appreciate the things that really mean "home" to me. One of the richest musical histories in the nation is one of those things. When you live around the home of Motown, Eminem, Bob Seger, and a million other musical greats, you take it for granted. Not so much anymore. Not many states have a history as rich as the state that created the domestic auto industry. And while there are certainly a variety of problems with that industry, at the same time, that history deserves some respect too. Remember whose production lines were converted for tanks in WWII?
But one of the biggest things that I can be proud of about where I'm from is the sporting history of Detroit. The Lions are a big joke now, and will be until Ford dies, but they used to be one of the most respected teams in football. The Tigers and Wings are two of the most successful franchises in their sports. The Pistons have 3 world championships, have been a consistently competitive team, and hell, they gave us the Jordan Rules. For me, being primarily a dislocated Wings fan (who can't afford NHL Center Ice) and general hockey nut, the Wings success since I've moved has been one of the things I could point to the best, and say "That's my team. That's where I'm from." Just hearing Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond when I see highlights of the Wings on NHL On The Fly makes me smile. Seriously, I'm not sure if anything feels like "home" the way hearing those two on a Wings game does.
If I never left MI, I don't know that I would be as proud of the Red Wings. With constant exposure, your sensitivity gets kind of dulled. With constant success, winning becomes commonplace, it loses some of the specialness. But since I've left MI, I've gotten more and more emotionally invested in the Red Wings. Being able to point to that team, that makes me proud. That's where I'm from. That game is what I love. And those guys do it better than anyone else. That team is what got me into one of the biggest obsessions of my life, and that team is part of who I am.
(So yes, I will be excited if they win tonight, James)