The Detroit Red Wings organization is an amazing sports franchise. There's a very good reason why Dallas Stars fans are so ecstatic to have Jim Nill as the new general manager, with the hope that he brings the same level of accountability and success he was a part of in Detroit to a franchise that has stumbled the past half-decade.
There's also a very good reason why the Red Wings are almost universally hated outside of Detroit -- well, outside of the Red Wings fans that reside outside Detroit, that is.*
*I have a confession to make. I enjoy watching this particular Red Wings team this season and find myself rooting for them against the Ducks. I feel so unclean.
The Red Wings have been immensely successful the past 22 years, making the playoffs in every season and winning four Stanley Cups. That level of success, along with the visibility that comes along with it, breeds a certain level of contempt -- and perhaps envy -- from fans of other NHL teams. Detroit has been a marked franchise for quite some time and there were a good many NHL fans from around the league that would have rejoiced should the Stars have actually won that final home game and set the Red Wings packing for the first time in over two decades.
This interaction, between the rest of the NHL and Red Wings fans, has created this sort of "us vs. them" mentality that works for that fanbase. It's a case of "you're just jealous we're so good" combined with a sense of no one really wants the Red Wings to succeed aside from those that proudly don the winged wheel and red jerseys. This has also led to a mentality that the league is "out to get" the Red Wings and that the NHL would gladly have another franchise succeed rather than Detroit continue with their winning ways.
But let's get something straight here. There are no conspiracies meant to hold this franchise back. No big plots in New York and Toronto to screw the Red Wings out of future success. It's almost comical now to refer to the Tin Foil Hat Society that resides amongst Detroit fans, but they certain exist.
Bill Simonson, Michigan radio host and M-Live columnist, is apparently a card-holding member of the conspiracy theory support group.
This is going to be all over the hockey media by the end of today, but it's worth breaking down bit by bit.
In his column this morning, "NHL misses the mark with suspension of Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader," Simonson takes the league to task for what he felt was an unfair suspension of Justin Abdelkader for his hit on "Tori Lydman" of Anaheim. Judging by what else has happened in other series in the playoffs thus far, as well as what has gone unpunished in very recent memory -- he sort of has a point.
The problem is that he takes that point and goes where no other Homer has gone before. Let's break down the best bits, shall we?
The quacks from Southern California are getting some help here from the league office. My conspiracy side says the league would love a team such as the Ducks, from the second-largest media market in America, to have a deep run in the playoffs.
You hear a lot about the "market" in Los Angeles and how incredible it is for teams and the league. There's certainly no mystery why so many sports teams are in the area, although the Los Angeles Rams would certainly be an interesting study of a market gone absurdly wrong.
The Anaheim Ducks have a loyal fanbase. They're boisterous and loud. But let's not pretend that the Ducks are suddenly going to create the national following that the biggest teams in the NHL have -- and I doubt the league is that deluded as well. They might be.
The NHL's mindless cronies loved watching the Los Angeles Kings win it last year. The Red Wings - like most teams from Detroit - get no national media love or attention from the NHL. Bettman is hooked on the big markets.
This is the quote that is getting the most attention, as it should. If anyone has been a fan of the NHL for...say...a year, then they'd realize the Red Wings are the most marketed team in the Western Conference. By far.
Detroit is the team the NHL uses to market the Western Conference, all on its own. The Detroit Red Wings joined with the Chicago Blackhawks to play in the second Winter Classic -- there's a good reason why the NHL chose those two franchises to help grow the Classic into what it has become.
Hell, the NHL is so supportive of Detroit that the league bent over backward to move the Red Wings back into the Eastern Conference -- despite the heavy protests of those in the West, who understand how important that franchise is to bringing visibility and ratings to other teams that perhaps don't get the same amount of attention.
The rest of the column is filled with more gold than I care to mine this morning, so feel free to check it out. I'm sure Simonson is pleased that such a horribly written article will garner as much attention and traffic as it will today, but I wonder if expected the amount of ridicule he's going to be facing. What's sad is that there are some things he says I might actually agree with.
Fans are allowed to be homers and to write what they want from a personal perspective. Even local sports media is allowed a bit of one-sided rhetoric when they cover their team -- but this certainly takes the cake. I'll leave you with this final quote:
"...ask yourself, what does the NHL do to draw you in? They have no clue how to market the sport in America. Name five stars in the league not in Detroit?"
I dare you to name five star players that ARE in Detroit.