Saturday, June 27, 2009

Always "Wing"in' it

It has been a somewhat somber two weeks or so if you are Detroit Red Wings hockey team devotee. Up 3 games to 2 over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final on June 12th and coming off a 5-0 shellacking of the Pens in game 5 five days earlier, the ultimate North American sports franchise over the past two decades somehow found themselves on the losing end of consecutive 2-1 defeats including game 7 at home-something a road team had not done in a finals game 7 since 1971. A tough pill to swallow. Still, this is a franchise that does it the right way with the right management at the top and without idiotic or unlikable players and no one can argue with their success and their up tempo, artistic style of play.

One must remember or know that since NHL expansion in the late 60s from 6 to 12 teams, they went almost 20 years as one of the worst teams and for a time in the 70s they were referred to as the Dead Wings and had last won a Stanley Cup championship in 1955 way before I was around. I grew up through adolescence with them during this era. It blew. They did finally manage to get to the Western Conference finals in 1987 and won game one in Edmonton, only to be trounced in 4 straight by the mighty Oilers who were extending their dynasty.

They flirted on and off with success over the next 8 seasons and finally managed to get back to the Stanley Cup finals in 1995 (first time since the early sixties) only to routed by the abhorrently dull, defensive and pedestrian New Jersey Devils in a sweep. But they kept at it and finally broke through and won a Cup in 97’ and once again the next year in 98’ with a bunch of Russians both times and re-tooled and won another in 02’ with a quirky Czech goalie legend and then re-tooled with a bunch of Swedes and won last year. The blueprint was always the same-elegant teamwork with a solid work ethic. So as much as Wings fans rue the loss this year, they are still 4-2 in Cup finals since 95’ and have appeared in 6 of the last 14 Cup finals (there was no Cup awarded in 2005 due to the idiotic lock out which shut down the season). No one else in the league is even close to that kind of run and they have been in the playoffs every year since 1991, usually a 1 or 2 seed going into the playoffs. No other franchise in any other major sport comes close either. So if you are not a hockey fan and are looking for a team to follow, of course I recommend them as the place to start, no matter how biased I am.

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