Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why the NHL fanbases HATE the Red Wings

With groups like "Red Wings Suck" on facebook and "Wings suck" becoming a trending topic on Twitter just hours after eliminating the Phoenix Coyotes I decided to delve into a very touchy subject. I posed the question "Why do you hate the Wings?" to fan bases across the NHL. I also wanted to get the Wings fans' side of things asking them "Why do you think the Wings are so hated?" The responses were vast, surprising, and very eclectic.

Fan bases in Canada and New York tagged the Wings for being "Too European". With answers like "Hockey is Canada's sport" to "If they want to play here they should have to become American citizens" it's hard to believe that the Europeans on any team get embraced. The impression you'd get from talking with some fans is that the Red Wings entire team just jumped off a boat from Europe but that's entirely not the case. North Americans hold the majority with 16 while the Europeans have 12 on the roster. The fact that people are so Anti-European is something that I like to call the Don Cherry effect. Don Cherry is an amazing Canadian and a very entertaining commentator but he doesn't like Europeans and makes no bones about it.

Those from Minnesota, Canada, and Pittsburgh all cited that Detroit "stole" the title of Hockeytown. "They stole it." One Maple Leafs fan said, "They flat out claimed the name for themselves and never looked back." A San Jose Sharks fan explained, “Hockey isn’t the number one sport in Detroit.” He explained moments later that he had no hate for Detroit about the title but could understand Canadians doing so. I can understand where the Canadians are coming from on this issue. In general, Canadians seem to spend vast amounts of time dedicated to hockey. Canadian cities take pride in competing every year for the title of Kraft Hockeyville. For some it’s like they compete and Detroit just dubbed themselves Hockeytown without a fight. Not to take the easy way out but the only team to trademark the title has been Detroit so legally Detroit is Hockeytown.

All NHL fans seemed to get their panties in a bundle over the subject of octopi. "It's Detroit's fans way of cheating to give the Wings time to rest" was the comment from a livid Phoenix fan. Many fans had no love at all for a tradition that started long before most of them were twinkles in their parents' eyes. "It's dangerous" a Habs fan added, "What if it hit someone in the eye?" Wings fans don't throw octopi onto the ice to injure players, slow the game down, or help the Wings cheat. The thought that it could be seen as a way of helping out team cheat never crossed my mind until the Phoenix fan pointed it out. The devil’s advocate in me can see how it may seem to them that we are stalling on behalf of our own team. An octopus thrown right before an opening face off on an icing call when Detroit couldn’t change would be the perfect opportunity to buy them more time to rest. I assure you this conspiracy theory of the octopus cheating is just that a theory. The Octopus is thrown onto the ice surface for good luck and not for any malice as many fans implied.

The last reason that I was given was a general consensus that they don't like Wings fans causing them not to like the Wings. A Blackhawk fan told me that the hatred for the Wings had “nothing” to do with the team itself. The major issue was that they felt Wings fans think they’re better than other fans. "Wings fans act like Detroit owns the world" a Colorado fan had to say, "They show up and they immediately say that Detroit will win without a doubt.” The Red Wings hold another title that seems to make the masses cringe. Original Six Team. “There is an Original Six Team snobbery that it has” explained a fan, “It’s insulting when Wings fans call other franchises babies because they haven’t been around as long as Detroit.” Another issue brought to my attention was a comment that Detroiters, Canadians, and I myself have even been guilty of. “Don’t put hockey where it doesn’t belong.” I never before thought this offensive but apparently Southern and California teams take great offense to the idea that hockey doesn’t belong there. I, personally, never meant to insult the fans of those cities there just seems to be consistent problems with their ice surfaces. Ice is essential to hockey (Shocking I know) and with one of the best ice surfaces in all of hockey I guess Detroit’s great ice has made me an ice snob. Point blank, Bad ice is dangerous, can lead to injuries, and no one wants that. I was told that Wings fans have an “over confidence”, an “arrogance”, and a “we’re always the best” attitude. When your team has been as good as Detroit has in the grand scheme of things I think you can’t help but have confidence that your team is capable of accomplishing anything. Hours before the pivotal game seven in Phoenix, Barry Melrose said that he was going to pick Detroit to win because “it’s hard to bet against Detroit”. And no matter how you slice it, it is. Detroit has a grand history of performing when in the clutch. Detroit has had in the past as many Red Wings fans put it the "Yankee Effect". Most fans of other teams seem to believe that in the pre-cap era Detroit bought it’s way to championships. Several fans remarked that the championships won before 2008 were “bought and paid for” but it’s “not an issue anymore”.

I was surprised to hear from two opposing fans that they don’t hate Detroit. “I don’t hate Detroit” one said, “I respect them.” I delved into this topic not thinking that I would ever hear that as a response. In general it was described as “disbelief” when the Wings are successful in another season. “They’re good.” A Pittsburgh fan said, “They’re always good and that’s why you love to hate them. It’s a challenge for [other teams] to try and beat them.”

I also posed this question to some of my Red Wings twitter friends. Rob from EtchedInCold said "I can come up with three solid, equal ideas. Some people fall into all 3 categories. Some only fall into 1. Ignorance, jealousy, and pride." (if you want to read more on Rob's theory check out his full blog on the subject here )

Every time the Detroit Red Wings leave the locker room bound for the ice, they walk under the sign that reads, "To whom much is given, much is expected." There is no doubt that the Red Wings are aware of all the reasons that they are hated but it doesn’t seem to effect them a bit.

Thank you so much to all of the wonderful NHL and Red Wing fans that helped me with this blog.