Detroit Red Wings: Appreciating Sustained Success


Although I’m the editor for Detroit Red Wings’ Fansided blog, my love of Detroit sports doesn’t stop here. I can’t rank my favorite teams definitively, using the 1-A, 1-B, and 1-C tags to describe my affinity for my Detroit team. That ranking goes like this:

1A- Detroit Tigers; 1B – Detroit Red Wings; 1C – Detroit Lions

This isn’t to say I love one more than the other. If there’s anything I’ve learned from parenting, it’s that you love each kid equally, but that you love them for different reasons. That’s the Tigers, Red Wings, and Lions for me. (Forget the NBA, I had a very fleeting love affair with professional basketball that fizzled like a finite high school romance). Much like children, it’s based on “birth order” of my sports memories. Baseball was first, then hockey, and finally football.

More from Octopus Thrower

The Tigers are my first definitive sports memory. My Alan Trammell t-shirt jersey was a staple of my childhood. I even had the same jacket that Sparky Anderson wore, pretending to be the Tigers’ legendary skipper whenever I wore it.

The Red Wings were right behind, with my uncle teaching me at the age of 5 that Steve Yzerman would be the greatest Red Wing I would probably ever see. I treasured my Little Caesars Red Wings glasses (this is really dating me) that I begged my dad to buy when I spotted Yzerman and Gerard Gallant on it. I mourned its untimely passing when it shattered in the kitchen sink years later–coincidentally the season they last missed the playoffs.

The Lions hooked me, even while living in football crazed Chicago, with Barry Sanders. In the 28 years out here, Sanders’ jersey is the only one I ever saw other Chicago fans wear–and gloat about.

Yet success has been sketchy for the Tigers and the Lions. With the Tigers beginning to show signs of demise following a 9-3 loss to Baltimore, it reminded me that the Wings are truly the only team of my lifetime that have never fallen off the cliff.

That’s not to say the Red Wings haven’t frustrated me. 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2009 come to mind. Before that, 1994-1996 stood out as years that mirrored the Tigers’ 2011-2013 stretch: Will this collection of talent never put it together? We all know how that ended, with Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. Even in the last six seasons, where the Red Wings didn’t have enough to win another Cup, they’ve prolonged their successes. We’ve never spoken of “selling” at the trade deadline. We’ve wondered as a fan base about the ceilings of players, and wailed with teeth gnashing at the decision making of the front office. But never once, in the last quarter century, have we ever uttered the words: “God, I wish the Red Wings weren’t so bad.”

Contrast that with the other two teams. The Lions were so putrid in the past 15 years that they lost EVERY FREAKING GAME in 2008–in a league built on parity. Former General Manger and team President Matt Millen still incites rage within me that I cannot describe. If he’s on ESPN, I mute the television.

But never once, in the last quarter century, have we ever uttered the words: “God, I wish the Red Wings weren’t so bad.”

And playoff successes–if the Lions even make it? Well, one playoff win in 57 years is the Lions way. We’ve been waiting a long time, and after last season’s debacle against Dallas where it felt like football gods are sadists, I’m just not going to hold my breath.

The Tigers? After an excruciating 17 years (1988-2005) without sniffing the playoffs, and then an eleven year stretch without a winning season (1994-2005), the Tigs finally put it together in 2006 and gave us a playoff run for the ages. I had faint memories of 1987, and little to none of ’84, so 2006 was the first real time I saw playoff baseball with my team. While they disappointed in the World Series, and then let the Twins rip my heart out in 2009, they made the playoffs from 2011-2014. But they never scaled the mountain. In fact, they again found horrible ways to tease a fan base desperate for a World Series Title. I just recently escaped the fetal position after the 2013 ALCS collapse.

This summer has been one of baseball sadness, and the realization that the Tigers will not be participating in October baseball.

More from Red Wings News

Worse, we’re probably looking at a rebuilding phase that will see the interest in baseball diminish in the Motor City for awhile (I remember when FSD wouldn’t even cover all 162 Tigers games–not looking forward to that again). But in the midst of these sobering thoughts, I look at the Red Wings and marvel at what they’ve accomplished. 24 consecutive playoff runs. 4 Stanley Cup Championships in 18 years. 6 Conference Championships in 20 years. And 10 for 10 in Salary Cap playoff hockey.

The Red Wings call to pause at their accomplishments. While our other beloved Detroit teams find ways to consistently disappoint, the Red Wings continue to buck the trend. Yes, the championship “drought” extends to 2008. But without missing a beat, the Red Wings have still played in the post season while “rebuilding on the fly.” That strategy seems a few years from full fruition–where the glory days return once more. Since 1991, the Detroit Red Wings are the one team you can set your watch by to give us the hope of winning a championship.

It’s sustained success that we should all appreciate.

Next: Datsyuk or Zetterberg? Who Defines Detroit hockey?

More from Octopus Thrower