Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hockey Orphan: IAMJoe on the Detroit Red Wings

So you’re sitting on your couch. You’re probably in your underwear. It’s sticky, because somewhere along the line last night, you spilled your beer. On the table in front of you, beer cans surround a bag from Taco Bell. It was a harsh night, coming to grips with the fact that your team won’t be making the playoffs this year. You love the NHL playoffs, but its just not the same without having a team to root for. You stumble to the computer, and find yourself at Cycle Like The Sedins, where your NHL playoffs are about to change. You’re about to join the ranks of Red Wings fans across the world.

So why would you root for the Wings? Well, let’s count the reasons:

A History Unmatched By Any Other American Franchise

The Detroit Red Wings have been around since 1926 as a franchise, and in their current incarnation since 1933. In that time, they have 11 Stanley Cups. The Jack Adams trophy (coach of the year) is named after Jack Adams, former Red Wings coach and general manager, and the Norris trophy (defenseman of the year) is named after James Norris, long-time owner of the Red Wings. 39 people are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, having played or staffed with the Red Wings, 35 of which served multiple years with the organization. Of course, that’s not counting at least 4 more sure-fire HoF’ers in Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, and Lidstrom, or the benefactors of the Adopt-A-Star program, like Hasek, Chelios, Hull, and Robitaille.

With a history like that, the Red Wings set a pretty high standard. They don't retire someone's number even though they only spent two seasons there (Nice Bourque banner, Denver!). They don't retire someone's number just because they didn't have any other banners up there. They don't have to do gimmicks, like retiring a number for the fans. They set the bar really, really high, and then they ask every player that enters the organization to try to meet that standard. Even the other American Original Six franchises (the Rangers, Bruins and Blackhawks), hard as they try, can’t even come close to holding a candle to the history of the Detroit Red Wings. As for the Canadian franchises, well, they're dirty anyways, and have rarely been relevant for the last couple decades.

Friends Are Everywhere

No NHL team is more popular on the road than the Red Wings. No matter where you go, you'll find some friends to share a drink and harass opposing fans with. From the thousands of Michigan expatriates (including myself), to the casual fans who get hooked by what amounts to an all-star team, there are Red Wings fans everywhere you go. No matter where you go, you can be sure you'll find fellow Red Wings fans, and together, you can have a couple drinks, and bust the balls of any fans who get in your way. Clad in red and white, surrounded by an aura of self-righteousness, we're even easy to identify. That reminds me...

A Sense of Entitlement

Being the most successful franchise in the NHL for bordering on 15 years now, you'd think the Wings wouldn't have much to complain about. But you have to remember, nobody likes a dynasty, and no matter what, everyone is out to get the Red Wings. They're an eastern timezone team playing in the Western Conference. They get suspended for not showing up to the All-Star game. They even made a salary cap to try and hamstring the Red Wings and allow the rest of the league to catch up... and they still won another Cup. No matter what obstacles the NHL throws at them, the Big Red Machine just keeps plowing through them. I'd say thats pretty admirable, that no matter how the deck is stacked against them, they keep winning. As a freshly minted Red Wings fan, you get to complain about how the league wants to screw you over, and as fans of other teams call you a crybaby, you can just point out to them that you beat them before, and that you're still beating them, no matter what they throw in the way. They're just sore losers anyway.

Classic Cool

A lot of teams out there think its cool to have "alternate" jerseys. But really, only about 4 teams have anything even remotely cool for an alternate jersey (Good on you, St. Louis). Instead of having to go and buy the latest alternate jersey, or the newest redesign, you can rest safe knowing that when you buy a Red Wings jersey today, not only will it be cooler and better looking than nearly any other team's jersey, but that the team will still be wearing the same jersey 20 years from now. Home Improvement and Ferris Bueller both featured prominent Red Wings jerseys, and you can still watch either one and the jersey itself doesn't look dated at all. When you've had nearly the same exact jersey, with minor changes, for the last 75+ years, you're kickin' it old school.

Fighting For Equality

The Red Wings have been fighting to end racism for years now. They were one of the first organizations to aggressively scout overseas in Europe, and that allowed them to draft several Russian and European stars that no one else wanted to take a chance on. They became the first team to play an entire line of Russians. Lidstrom became the European born and trained captain to win a Cup. By embracing these players, even though they looked different, talked funny, and had funny names with lots of extra vowels, the Red Wings helped break down the walls of racism in the NHL. Quite frankly, if you're a fan of people who talk funny, you're already a Red Wings fan. If you're a fan of guys whose names you couldn't spell to save your life, you're already a Red Wings fan. If your name is James O'Brienov or Earl Sleekski or even James Miiirtle, you're already a Red Wings fan.

Welcome to Red Wings fan-dom. Your life just got a whole lot better. Now go take a shower, clean up the beer cans, and put on some pants.


Joe said...

:-/ Not my best work, but I told James I'd get it done, so there it is.

I totally blew it on not including the octopus though. I actually threw an octopus at a Wings playoff game once when I was like 13. Wings/Kings, first round, somewhere around like 2000, after Martin Lapointe scored his third of the night.

jamestobrien said...

It was still some really good stuff, though, Joe. Sorry if you were a little down on it but I really appreciate your help with Hockey Orphan. No sad side ways mouths, Joe!