In 1996, Claude Lemieux delivered a hit that sparked the epic Red Wings/Avalanche rivalry. In an instant, the amount of time it took for Lemieux to maim Kris Draper in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, he became Public Enemy #1 in Detroit, and the Avalanche became the source of bitter, seething hatred in Hockeytown. The blood lust was shocking, really. I remember the "Screw Lemieux" shirts around town when the Avalanche came calling the following season. If Claude Lemieux had been walking down a Detroit street in broad daylight in the spring of 1997, he could've been gunned down, and the crime never would've been solved, because nobody would've confessed to seeing the guy who did it. That's how much hatred there was for Lemieux. That's why Darren McCarty is a made man for life.
Lemieux paid his debt that night, March 26th, 1997. And the Red Wings ultimately won the war against the Avalanche. They won the 1997 Western Finals en route to the Cup, and delivered the final salvo in 2002, sending Patrick Roy away in the seventh game of those Western Finals. That marked the end of the Red Wings/Avalanche rivalry. Goons like Lemieux and Adam Foote faded away. After Game 7 in 2002, Roy never again faced off with the Red Wings, his career ended in overtime the next year by Minnesota in the first round.
Coincidentally, it was in that same first round in 2003 that the seeds of a new hatred were planted. Far away from the traditional hotbeds of hockey, in the land of Disney, the Red Wings were ousted in the most humilating of ways.
That foghorn still gets my blood boiling. The hatred I have for the Ducks franchise may not equal the hatred I had for the Avalanche, but it's close. It's the closest we as Red Wings fans have come to equaling the passion we felt when we hated people like Roy, and Lemieux, and Foote, and Forsberg, and Ozolinsh, and Drury, and Deadmarsh. It's hard to hate teams like St. Louis or Nashville or Columbus when you roll over them time and again. It's hard to really hate Calgary or Edmonton when they aren't repeat offenders. But when a team comes after you more than once, and they put players on the ice who excel in goon tactics and thuggery, it gets pretty easy to hate them. It gets pretty easy when you see the blood flowing.
The Ducks avoided the Red Wings' wrath a year ago. Their debt is far past due, and it's time to collect. I don't just want the Red Wings to beat them. I want them to humiliate them. I want satisfaction. I want the Ducks to pay for their sins. I want Getzlaf to break his stick in frustration because Lidstrom and Datsyuk are shadowing him every second he's on the ice, smothering him so efficiently his balls ache. I want Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Hossa to skate circles around that goonish neanderthal Pronger. I want Pronger to take cheap shots at our guys, because that means he's pissed off and frustrated. I want the Red Wings to make it very clear to the Ducks that the better team didn't win two years ago; that the Stanley Cup they hoisted in Anaheim in 2007 should've been ours.
And I want it to end in Anaheim. If it can't be a clean sweep, I want it to go six games, because I want those preening, arrogant, nose-snubbing, fairweather Anaheim fans to watch their team's season end in front of their eyes at the hands of the Red Wings. They deserve it so much. They deserve the same humbling that Columbus fans got last week. They deserve the same humbling that Colorado fans got last year in Game 4, an 8-2 LOL'er.
But most of all, I want to see the look on Chris Pronger's face. I want to see his face when he's in line shaking the hands of the players who just ended his season. I want to see the look in his eyes when he realizes he's done playing and should start looking for golf courses to play at while the Red Wings play on. I want to see Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer hang it up for good after this series and know that it was MY team that retired them. Just like the Pistons finished Reggie Miller in 2004. I want to live with the satisfaction of knowing that those two douchebags were finished by Detroit.
I wanted the Ducks. I got the Ducks. Now I want to beat their skulls in and piss on their brains. I want them to pay for Game 4 in 2003 and Steve Rucchin. I want them to pay for having Rob Niedermayer push Hasek into the net in Game 2 in 2007, illegally tying a game they would win in overtime. I want them to pay for getting one of the luckiest bounces I've ever seen that tied Game 5 in the final minute. I want them to pay for having the luck of Andreas Lilja choking on applesauce and giving the puck away to Selanne for the game winner in OT which effectively ended the series.
I want them to pay the debt they've incurred.