Detroit has some incredible sports traditions. Some of them are many decades old and are recognized by both Detroit natives and folks around the country alike: The Thanksgiving day home game for the Lions, Tigers opening day, and the Octopi launched onto the ice at Red Wing playoff games, which has been a symbol of the Red Wings march to the Cup since the 1950’s, when the 8 legs of the octopus signified the 8 wins needed to win the Stanley Cup.
But there is a relatively new Detroit sports tradition that has developed over the last 15 years: the Red Wings playoff series against west coast teams. The NHL realigned in 1993, abandoning the classic Campbell and Wales conferences in lieu of the Western Conference and the Eastern conference. Detroit became the geographically Eastern-most team in the Western Conference. Playoff games hosted by teams on the west coast start at 10:30pm EST to keep them prime time in the west.
So if we Detroiters want to watch these games, we do this knowing full well that we will feel like Hell warmed over the next day if we have to get up early to go to work or school. But that’s okay, we do it anyways. It’s a bonding thing for one. Tonight for example, the Wings battle the Ducks in Anaheim in game 3 of their second round match-up. I’ve been watching the game and chatting with Bob, who has a case of Red Bull on ice, and Chad Bush, one of the all-time loyal Detroiters, who was 3 cans of Jolt deep the last time I talked to him. Like me, Bob and Chad have lost weeks of sleep through the years watching these West coast battles. Since 1994, the Wings have played over 20 playoff series against teams from cities 2 or 3 time zones to Detroit’s west, including L.A., San Jose, Winnipeg, Anaheim, Edmonton, Colorado, and Calgary among others.
But staying up late with the Wings makes us feel like we’re sacrificing with them with the common goal of winning the Cup. Sure, we’re not sacrificing blood and sweat. But we’re making our own sacrifices: Bags under our eyes in the morning, disheveled appearances due to skipped showers and rushed morning preparation, and crappy performances on presentations, on exams, and in the sack. But we do it with pride, we don’t ask questions, and we don’t complain. Sure, we look and feel like Ed Norton’s character from “Fight Club” for days on end, but it’s worth every yawn and head droop, and we love every body check, every stick save, every Stanley Cup. After all, Detroit is, and always will be, Hockeytown.