Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Does anyone care that the Red Wings season is starting?

Tomorrow night the Detroit Red Wings drop the puck on a new season, and the general reaction around town is either "So what? when do the playoffs start? or "Really? I had no idea."

The start of the NHL season has taken a back seat to the NFL, NCAA football, the MLB playoffs, the chase for the Nextel Cup, the start of the new TV season, the release of Halo 3, The Rock's new movie, Notre Dame's valiant attempt to have a winless season, and damn near anything else you can think of. The NHL, even in a city known for it's love of hockey, is so far out of the public consciousness, saying the fans are apathetic would be an encouraging improvement.

I have a few reasons why the start of the Red Wings season has gotten little more than a yawn out of me...

The schedule, the schedule, the schedule - The NHL's unbalanced schedule absolutely screws over the Red Wings, and their fanbase. As a long time fan, one who remembers the old rivalries, I want to see the Maple Leafs, Habs, Rangers, and Bruins come to town more than once a decade! Think I'm going to get fired up when the Wings play the Blue Jackets for the 7th time? Now ask me that same question, but substitute the Toronto Maple Leafs for the BJ's. You'll get an enthusiastic yes, rather than a bored off my apathetic ass no.

Being an eastern team in the western conference - I've lost countless hours of sleep over the years, thanks to the Red Wings road trips to the west coast and western Canada. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to stay up till 1:30 in the morning to watch a regular season hockey game. I'm not even going to go into the playoff bullshit, and the unfair competitive advantage the time zone issues give the Red Wings opposition.

No fighting - I've waxed romantic in the past over the days when Bob Probert and Joe Kocur laid down the law, and protected the Red Wings' stars. I long for the days of the "Gordie Howe hat trick." The NHL has devolved from a league full of honorable players that dealt out their own justice, to one full of cheap shot artists, and of brutal, sometimes near lethal, stick work.

Versus and NBC - Versus is a Mickey Mouse network, so it's a quite fitting broadcast partner for a Mickey Mouse league, and NBC treats the NHL worse than a parent treats a red headed step kid. I know the Red Wings will have several games broadcast on those networks, but due to the total lack of promotion, I have absolutely no idea when they'll appear.

The Red Wings as an organization - There isn't a team in Detroit that has taken more from their fans, yet given back so little. Their ticket prices are ludicrous, even though the Michigan economy is the worst in the nation, and the Wings payroll is $25-30 million less than it once was. They expect prompt payment for playoff packages, but will take their good old time in offering refunds. They gave their season ticket holders the laughable "Joe bucks" rather than cut prices after the lockout. The Wings make little effort to connect with their fanbase, as their PR department would rather come up with some lame ass playoff catch phrase than offer the fans any kind of promotions. They play in an arena that has all the amenities of Saddam Hussein's spiderhole. Yet the Red Wings wonder why they are having trouble selling tickets.

The regular season means zip - This is the biggest reason why fans are reacting to the NHL with a collective yawn. The Red Wings will play 82 games that mean absolutely jack shit. There is literally no drama to their upcoming season. Considering the lame duck ownership in Nashville, and the incompetent ownership in the rest of the NHL Central, the Red Wings are a near lock for a division title, and a high playoff seed. If you are a casual fan, a disillusioned fan, or even an avid fan, there's no compelling reason to watch the vast majority of the Red Wings games. None.

In other words, wake me up in the 2nd week of April when the real season starts, and the games finally mean something.


  1. You're not alone. The Hockeytown craze was a product of the Wings rising to a championship level in the mid 90s for the first time in 40 years. It continued for 10 years or so because the rest of our teams sucked. With the rise of the Pistons and Tigers, the Wings took a back seat. If the Lions keep winning nobody will notice the Wings until the playoffs start.

  2. Someone told me that the NHL will finally be doing away with the ridiculous unbalanced schedule next year. Maybe I'll finally get to see the Wings in DC again.

  3. Chief.

    Freep had an interview with the Brain Trust of the Team yesterday. Supposedly, there's another expansion coming in a couple years, and when it does, we'll be put back into the Eastern Conference where we'll belong.

    Ilitch and Co. presented that as being a Done Deal.