Okay, anyone who knows me will see that headline and think one of two things: 1. I'm trolling or 2. I have hit my head one too many times.
Let's set the record straight: I am a Carolina Hurricanes fan. Now, I could be a troll, still bitter over the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals but c'mon. There is, however, a very damning piece of evidence that points to some nefarious scheme, a fact that might not hold the same impact it once did but still raises questions:
I'm also a fan of the Colorado Avalanche.
There it is. Hear me out, I'll clear it up and move on to the meat of this post. Having family in Colorado, I spent a lot of time out there, even living there for half a year when I was 18. When the Nordiques moved to Denver, I started following them. After all, I didn't have a home team at that point. Then the 1995-96 season opened with the newly-christened Avalanche taking on the Detroit Red Wings.
At the time, I didn't have strong feelings either way about the team wearing the winged wheel. I knew their history and I had been firmly in their corner during the 1995 Finals. My relative antipathy continued until the start of the 1996 Western Conference Finals. Brother, when I tell you that things changed, they changed fast.
I hated the Red Wings. I wanted to see them lose and, when they did, I rejoiced. When Colorado won The Cup, I lost my mind.
Then came the 1997 Western Conference Finals. I lost my mind again but in a much less desirable way. I was furious, bent beyond recognition by a game that I had no direct hand in. Honestly, it was ridiculous, but I was 16 and dumb. I didn't know any better, a fact that was brought to a head just 6 days after Detroit captured its first Stanley Cup in 42 years.
I was watching Sportscenter when I heard the news about the limo accident. My misplaced anger at seeing the cursed logo completely evaporated when I heard about what had happened. This sport that I love receded to its rightful place as a game.
When the 1997-98 season started, my view on the Red Wings had changed. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that I was a fan but I did want them to succeed. I couldn't imagine where the minds might wander with the tumultuous offseason they had experienced. I still wanted them to lose whenever they played the Hurricanes or Avalanche (hey, I'm only human) but that was the extent of it.
When they repeated as champs, I was free of the unease I had felt just a year before. When Vladimir Konstantinov was brought out to celebrate with his team, I cried. Hell, I'm tearing up now just thinking about it. It was beautiful and it showed me (again) that life is so much bigger than the game of hockey.
It also brought something else to the forefront of my mind: yes, I had hated the Red Wings but I also respected them.
Steve Yzerman, one of the greatest captains in the history of the game, had dealt with so much in his career before the 1997 win. A guy labeled as a good player who couldn't win had led his team to back-to-back Stanley Cups. I can barely imagine the vindication he would have felt if he weren't such a humble guy.
They had talent, leadership, and, in Scotty Bowman, a coach who made damn sure that the team was focused and came to work. They were a hell of a team, no two ways about it.
That said, I didn't want to write this to dwell on the past, though I did want to give all of you a little background on what led me to this post. Hopefully, I've won you over to the fact that I am indeed not a troll.
Now that we're up to speed, I'll add a few more details. At this point, I've been a hockey fan for decades. Couple that with my status as a contributor at Cardiac Cane and I do my best to stay up to speed on the goings-on of not just "my teams" but the league as a whole. Part of that is watching condensed games on YouTube. I was watching the recent rematch between the Red Wings and Winnipeg Jets when the announcer commented that Detroit had lost 12 consecutive games.
It was a shock. Don't misunderstand, I realize the team is in flux and changes are happening, but my mind always seems to harken back to those gone by. Seriously, how the hell is it possible that the mid-late 90s were so far back?!
As it turned out, the Wings beat the Jets in that game and won their next game against the Canadiens. The consecutive wins were good to see, making me realize again how invested I am in a team that's not "my" team. It still doesn't feel like the playoffs to me without the Red Wings being there. Then again, I've just gotten used to the idea of the playoffs with the Hurricanes back in.
Despite the lows of the first half of this season, all is not lost for the future. Yzerman is back in Hockeytown after a strong stint with Tampa Bay. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi are great pieces for Detroit and I have no doubt that Yzerman will take a smart, methodical approach to rebuilding his team.
At the end of the day, I'm just some schmuck who writes books. I'm also a hockey fan who has seen his team suck on a nuclear level. I know things are rough right now but they won't stay that way and, when things get back on track, I look forward to seeing the Red Wings get back into form.
Except for when they play the Hurricanes or Avalanche, of course.
Oh yeah, my birthday is Saturday, so if the Wings can wail on the Panthers, that would be superb.