If you're like me (a woefully depressed Leaf fan), all season long you've been trying to come up with legitimate reasons to hate the Wings and cheer against them no matter who they're playing. During the regular season, I was trying to convince myself that they were a soft team whose success would further legitimate the anti-fighting crusade. But though the Wings don't fight much, anyone whose watches them knows they won't shy away from a fight, and can hold their own with anyone; their low fighting total is a reflection of their refusal to instigate. So I ended up having to begrudgingly concede respect to the Wings on that file.
Then I convinced myself that this was a boring team that is too systematic. They're the Deep Blue of hockey, and man cannot love a machine. But again, when you watch them, you realize that this characterization is not completely accurate. Yes, they have a system and the make few mistakes, but they are also an incredibly fast and highly skilled team that can be a real treat to watch. Watching them control the puck while making the opposing team look like misplaced pylons both infuriates and dazzles me. And on top of that, I just love watching Holmstrom battle it out with defenders in front of the net - there aren't enough fierce battles for position in today's NHL (not the 'New' NHL Gary!!!!).
But what about their fans? How can you cheer for a team that has consistently been the best yet still can barely sell out in the playoffs? Every time I'd spot an empty seat at the Joe I'd rub my hands together and bask in my superiority. Hockeytown indeed! But when you do the old stop'n'think, you realize that the whole attendance in Detroit thing has been blown out of proportion. It was a bigger deal last year when Red Wings management, in an uncharacteristically moronic move, raised the price of tickets significantly despite the fact that the city was rapidly turning into a ghost town. This year, in the playoffs at least, their attendance seems to be just fine. In fact, they've got an incredibly enthusiastic crowd who have enough dignity to stay away from nauseating gimmickry like 'whiteouts' and 'redouts'.
Okay, so they're not an altogether detestable team. They're not my dream team, but certainly likeable - more likeable, perhaps, than even Pittsburgh. And yet, I absolutely despise them. And the reason I despise them is the same reason you are hoping, if not openly then certainly deep down inside, that the Red Wings fall flat on their faces and slink out of Joe Louis Arena with their tails between their legs. And why's that? Because if the Red Wings win the cup tonight, their franchise total for cup wins will be 12. The franchise total of the Toronto Maple Leafs is 13. We Leaf fans may not have much, but being fans of the second most winning franchise in NHL history despite a horrendous drought is a feather none of us wants yanked out of our cap. You can deny it all you want, but you know it's true. In fact, I propose that instead of talking about ending the drought, Leaf fans should talk about geting to 14 and staying ahead of the dreaded Red Wings. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is. For now, go Pens go.