The first time I ever walked into the Joe Louis Arena I was nineteen. My reaction, however, mirrored that of a five year old seeing Disney World for the first time.
“This is so cool. I can’t believe I’m finally here,” I squealed.
I’ll never forget it. I wandered the concourse, my eyes trying to take in the thousands of fans with their favorite player’s jersey, the items for sale, and giant faces of players muraled on the walls. Then I stepped up to those red curtains; the link between the outside world and the place the Detroit Red Wings called home. I drew back the curtain and felt my breath catch in my throat.
There it was. The white, shiny ice sparkled just yards below where I was standing. Seats stretched out as far as I could see; below, above, and to either side of me. I could see the Fox Sports Detroit crew working on pre-game material on the Red Wings bench. The Red Wings’ bench. There it was. The very spot where my beloved players sat between shifts, waiting for their turn back on the ice.
I remember it all. The smell only a hockey rink can provide; my favorite smell in the world. The crisp chill in the air before game time. The quietness the game when nothing big is happening. Throwing me off at first, I had to keep remembering that there were no announcers in real time.
It was my first game and I will always cherish the memories. Now, four years later, I can’t even begin to count the number of games I’ve been to but there are so many that stick out in my mind.
The one where I met Brian Rafalski and Steve Yzerman. An honor meeting Yzerman having never seen him play during his career. Another one where I met fourteen players in the Olympia Club. A game later that same week where I got my picture with Valterri Filppula, Brad Stuart, Jimmy Howard. The ticket from that game has the scribbles of Howard and Pavel Datsyuk’s signature and now hangs, framed in my bedroom. The game, just last season, where the team finally lost a game I was at. I stayed in my seat, sulking until the ushers told us we had to leave. Countless playoff games that came with white pom poms and towels, one of which has Juri Fisher’s autograph.
I’ve had several people try to tell me that since my game-going started a few years ago, I am a fair weathered fan. They couldn’t be more wrong. The Wings have always been my team…always. I’ve been watching ever since I was little, jealous every time that my parents got to go to a game, leaving me at home with a babysitter. I remember my ninth birthday party; Red Wings themed. The gross red frosting all over the cake made tolerable only because it was in the shape of a winged wheel.
I’ve been with the Red Wings through some great and some equally bad times.
Present time is a great time. The Red Wings were on a quest to beat the NHL consecutive home win streak tied at 20 games by the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers in the 50’s and 70’s. Sunday, February 12, they tied that record. But any Wings’ fan knows those boys wont settle for just tying a record. On February 14, against the Dallas Stars, a team that gives us quite the run, the Wings made history. Beating the Stars 3-1 gave them the new NHL record of 21 consecutive home wins. The win was made all that much better since I was there to witness it. To witness NHL history made by my absolute favorite team.
Friday, the Wings took on the Nashville Predators, another team who gives us a run for our money. Glancing at the game quickly while at work, I was becoming worried that we could go to overtime. But I must have forgotten about Pavel Datsyuk. The man who comes out of no where with his crazy skills and unbelievable goals. Scoring with just five seconds left, he secured the Wings’ twenty-second consecutive win, another new NHL record.
Sunday, the Wings took on the Sharks in an early game, beating them 3-2 with goals from Zetterberg, Miller, and Helm. A win that not only gave us our twenty-third win and yet another NHL record but a win made that much more special since it was against the Sharks. The very team who has beat us in the past five regular season games and brought the end to our playoff run the past two seasons.
The Wings are now 26-2-1 at home this season. Forty one wins, 17 losses, and 82 points puts them at the top of the NHL.
Stanley Cup at the end of the season or not, this is definitely a season to remember and be proud of. And for those of you who insist that the Detroit Dynasty is long gone, you couldn’t be more wrong. After all, this is Hockeytown.