This is my weekly column on many different things hockey, and there will never be a shortage of content to talk or rant on about. Mainly, I'll discuss the current happenings in the NHL, and I'll also cover history, the record books, favorite players and rookies. There is a never ending stream of information in my head, which seems to be the only thing going on up there come playoff time. There are many things about the NHL I wish Gary Bettman would have never switched, like division names to directions on a map instead of historical figures, just for starters.
As I type this article, my favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings, are on the verge of ending one of the greatest streaks ever in North American major sports. For the past 24 consecutive years, the Red Wings have made the playoffs, sometimes with little success and sometimes with parades down Woodward Ave. in the middle of June. This streak is tied for the fouth best ever of its kind in league history with the Montreal Canadiens teams from 1970-71 through 1993-94. Still ahead of the Red Wings in this list are the 1979-80 through 2003-04 St. Louis Blues' 25-year streak, the 1969-70 through 1996-97 Chicago Blackhawks at 28 years and the 1967-68 through 1995-96 Boston Bruins at 29 years. All of these streaks are beyond impressive and also exemplifies just how great organizations are run, through the draft, free agency, and excellent coaching to get the players to buy into a system that's a proven winner.
Now, the Red Wings are the current 9th seed in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Philadelphia Flyers. Detroit has won four Stanley Cups during this streak, while the Blues and Blackhawks never won any Cups during their long streaks. The Red Wings trail the Flyers by two points and Philly has a game in hand. While the Flyers have been playing excellent hockey of late, the Red Wings have struggled. With only a handful of games remaining, I'm beginning to lose faith in my team and the joy of my annual spring Playoff Beard, which NBC wants to stop because they seem to not understand hockey historical traditions. On paper, this isn't even close, but we all know the only games played on paper are Tic-Tac-Toe and not hockey. The winner of this last place battle gets the honor of heading to the nation's capital to play the Presidents Cup winning Washington Capitols, who the Flyers beat last night in a shoot-out 2-1.
For those of you who have never been to a home playoff game, the volume is automatically double that of the regular season and seemingly gets louder as each round progresses. I've been to over 50 Red Wing home games and even snuck in a few road trips to Chicago Stadium, and I cannot explain the volume unless you have been there for a playoff game. One playoff home game is worth about $2.5 million dollars for the home team, and in the pre-salary cap days, this meant a lot when the free agent deadline in the next season came around or for the UFA deadline on July 1st. The mighty Red Wings have brought in some of the all-time great NHL players in these deadline moves or the signings of Unrestricted Free Agents. The Brendan Shanahan trade brought tears to my eyes because I knew he was the missing piece we needed to hoist the Cup. Luc Robitille, Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Dominek Hasek, Curtis Joesph, Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov were all trade acquisitions that have helped us attain greatness during this Stanley Cup filled streak. The list of players that have been drafted is just as impressive as the free agent signings with Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Vlad Konstaninov, Keith Primeau and Chris Osgood. More recent homegrown studs such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrick Zetterberg and Nicklas Kronwall have kept the streak going still, while super rookie Dylan Larkin is just getting his feet wet and would probably enjoy keeping this streak going as long as possible. Not to mention all the superb grinders and 3rd defensive pairings who often go unmentioned but mean just as much as the man wearing the "C" on front of his chest above the Winged Wheel logo. We've had the greatest coach in NHL history turn an offensive machine into a tight back checking defensive juggernaut with Scotty Bowman, and Mike Babcock was no slouch either, winning the last of the four Stanley Cups brought back to the Motor City.
It's time for Coach Blashill to have these boys look in the mirror, the wall of fame, and the 19,076 seats in Joe Louis Arena and realize this streak is more than just a number and t hat it's something we Red Wing fans wear as a badge of honor each game of each season. No matter who wins the Cup, we Red Wings fans can hold this success over the head of all the teams we hate! Mr. Ilitch, Jimmy Develano, Jim Nill, Haken Andersson and Ken Holland have turned the Detroit Red Wings organization into an institution and regardless of how this season ends, the Detroit Red Wings will always remain an institution.