As a fan of a team involved in a lapsed rivalry, sometimes it's easy to forget why you ever hated your rival in the first place. Years pass, the names of the backs of the sweaters change, new rivals emerge. Some rivals, however, will always have a place in your black little heart; their words forever spoken with a forked tongue, their misdeeds numerous and appropriately grievous. I present to you, along with their spiffy new OFFICIAL SPONSOR, AMWAY, tonight's opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.
How did we get here? Oh sure, everybody points to Kris Draper's facial reconstruction as the catalyst for the Avs/Wings bloody war of the late 90s. It dovetails nicely with the lazy "CLAUDE LEMIEUX IZ A CHEAPSHOT ARTIST!!!11!!1!!1!!!" narrative, doesn't it? That's why we don't remember the actual genesis of the bad blood: Slava Kozlov going all WWF turnbuckle with Adam Foote's head during game 3 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals.
Shocking video proof! This actually happened. Doesn't jive well with the official "Hockeytown" version of the story, does it? So, as any honorable man would do, Claude Lemieux went out and evened the score with a nice little how-do-you-do to Kozlov, perhaps to remind Kozlov that you don't do that to a teammate of CLAUDE FUCKING LEMIEUX. Oh, and then the Draper thing. Draper was ugly anyway.
March 26, 1997. Yeah, we remember that too. We remember all the mousy Detroit players playing with their tails tucked between their legs (plenty of extra space there that other men don't have, you'll note) during the matchups played in Denver prior to March 26th. Somehow, the mild-mannered, well-behaved Red Wings magically turned into...cheapshot artists? No, of course not. When the Red Wings do it, it's REVENGE, right? And revenge is what they got, as Darren "8-ball" McCarty suckerpunched Claude Lemieux from behind, Mike Vernon gashed Patrick Roy with a buckle from his goalie equipment, and Detroit scored a 6-5 overtime win on a McCarty goal. Wait, did you say McCarty scored the goal? What was he still doing in the game after being involved in a fight that featured him suckerpunching his opponent? What was he still doing in the game, indeed.
What's with the tinfoil hats?
Jokes circulate hockey blogs regarding Detroit fans and their built-in persecution complex. The commissioner is out to get them, TV analysts are out to get them, referees are out to get them, fans of other teams don't respect them.
What's outstanding is the fact that the Red Wings get more sloppy lubbins than any team in the NHL from the referees. For years, Detroit's patented "pick" plays have been allowed, regardless of the fact that "pick" plays are what 29 other teams get penalized for under the term "interference". It's a trend that began under legendary Detroit sourpuss "Cheapshot Scott" Bowman, who held sway over referees like no other coach in NHL history. Somewhat inexplicably, it's continued under the reign of Kermit The Frog soundalike Mike Babcock. In addition to these "pick" plays, can we think of anything else Detroit routinely gets away with that no other team in the league does? Hmm, let's think really hard here...
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to skate with a goalie growing out of my asshole?"
Why yes, it's our longtime friend, the least-talented player in the NHL, ratfaced little Tommy Holmstrom. The next time you see the Red Wings, make sure you pay attention to number 96. He's easy to find: he skates directly to the opposing goal and stands there like he's frozen in carbonite, just waiting for a puck to bounce off of him and past the impeded goaltender. Detroit fans, naturally, don't see it this way. Detroit fans see it as "Homer" doing his job. Just for shits n' gigs, ask a Detroit fan their opinion of Ryan Smyth or Corey Perry. Then, bottle that opinion and label it "Hypocrisy Concentrate". Listening to a Detroit fan bitching about the 5 or 6 times a year "Homer" DOES get nailed for goaltender interference is the same as listening to the rich kid bitching about having his Mercedes taken away for the weekend.
Speaking of rampant Detroit hypocrisy...
KRONWALLED! That's right, "Macho Man" Niklas Kronwall and his "legal" flying elbows/charges. Of course, Kronwall isn't unique. He's just following in the footsteps of another Detroit thug, Vladimir Karma-ntinov.
"Hockeytown! Mr Hockey played here, so this must be HOCKEYTOWN! Let's paint it in the middle of our ice so everybody knows this is a Town of Hockey! Paint it REAL BIG, in REAL BIG BLACK LETTERS, even paint it OVER TOP OF OUR LOGO! Make it REALLY REALLY NOTICEABLE to viewers at home, and maybe nobody will notice that 60% of the visible seats in the building are empty!"
I could keep going very easily. I could fill up 90 inches of valuable interwebs detailing my disdain for everything about this franchise, the organization, the players. But I won't. Don't need to. If you're an Avs fan and you're reading this, you probably have 50 things of your own that you loathe about this whining pack of hypocritical dogs. Every now and then, though, it's nice to reaffirm to ourselves that the disgust we developed over a simmering 6-8 years was not without merit.
And dare I say, fun? We'll see you on the other side of your impending rebuild, you bitches.