Thursday, June 05, 2008

Happiness is being a Wings fan

I was out at BWW with some friends last night after volleyball; Game 6 was starting soon and we were talking about it. One of my friends, a woman who's a big NFL fan but not so much into the other sports (yet), was surprised at my approach (I was fairly confident that the Wings would win, but not too worried if they didn't). Partly from our NFL discussions, she'd come to believe that I was pessimistic about all Detroit teams, and to be fair, both the Tigers and Pistons have generated some pessimism recently.

The Wings, however, are an exception. Over the last 15-20 years, they've enjoyed success they hadn't seen since the '40s and '50s, and certainly over the last 12 years, they've been the best franchise in hockey (perhaps of all time, considering that they're playing in a 30-team league and not a 6-team league).

I explained it briefly to her, but I don't think I did it justice. Look at this history, and tell me what your approach would be.


  • 2007-08: 1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, won Cup

  • 2006-07: t-1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference finals

  • 2005-06: 1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference quarters

  • 2003-04: 1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference semis

  • 2002-03: 3rd in NHL, 2nd in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference quarters

  • 2001-02: 1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, won Cup

  • 2000-01: t-2nd in NHL, 2nd in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference quarters

  • 1999-2000: 2nd in NHL, 2nd in West, 2nd in Central, lost in conference semis

  • 1998-99: t-6th in NHL, 3rd in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference semis

  • 1997-98: 3rd in NHL, 2nd in West, 2nd in Central, won Cup

  • 1996-97: 5th in NHL, 2nd in West, 2nd in Central, won Cup

  • 1995-96: 1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, lost in conference finals

  • 1994-95: 1st in NHL, 1st in West, 1st in Central, lost Cup finals


In that 12-season span, they had the best record in the league 6 times (and tied for the best one other time), best record in the conference 7 times, and they won 9 division titles. Sure, they lost in the first round 3 times, but they made it to the finals 5 times and won 4 of them.

That's not just success. That's dominance.

So no, the prospect of the Penguins winning Game 6 didn't trouble me much. I didn't like that the Wings lost Game 5, and I've seen Detroit lose tough series before (although it should be noted that they haven't lost a Game 7 since 1994 against San Jose - for that matter, they've only played two Game 7s since then: Stevie Y's double-OT goal against St. Louis in '96 and the wonderful shellacking of Patrick Roy in '02). But the Wings have played so well this season, especially late against Nashville and Dallas, that I figured the odds of them losing three straight games were pretty slim.

And if they did, who am I to complain? They'd have still won 3 Cups during my lifetime. Only seven franchises have won more than that in the history of the NHL. Even if you look at only post-expansion Cups, there are three teams who've won more than Detroit prior to this season: Montreal (10), Edmonton (5), and the New York Islanders (4). There are many, many fans who'd pay to see that kind of success from their team (like in Toronto, for example).

I remember following the Wings in the '70s and early '80s, when they really sucked. For part of that time, there were 21 NHL teams and 16 made the playoffs. For 4 straight seasons, the Wings were one of the five teams that missed. They lost in the first round the next two seasons and then missed again the next season. This was a bad, bad franchise, and so it's that much nicer to see them so good for so long.

It also takes away a lot of the pain that the Lions cause. Sure, they've sucked for decades, but that's just one sport in four, and when the other Detroit teams have been so successful, does it really matter that one of them is so bad?

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