Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The last time the Red Wings closed out a series at home was in 2002 when they won Game 5 against the Hurricanes to win the Stanley Cup. Since then, they have won eight playoff series. Nashville in 2004. Calgary and San Jose in 2007. Nashville, Colorado, Dallas and Pittsburgh in 2008. Columbus in 2009. Every last one of those series has ended away from Joe Louis Arena. Some in the most dramatic of ways, others in laughable fashion, and one in the most glorious way imaginable.

Tonight, our Winged Wheel warriors will take the ice in a place we have grown to hate. Twice before, we have seen our hopes and dreams end in this detestable arena. We have suffered the indignity of seeing the defending champions swept away in overtime in the first round. We have endured the pain of seeing the retooled Red Wings that had learned to fly get cut down short of their goal when we knew they were better.

We have seen that goddamn team lay claim to what should have been ours.

Tonight, well...tonight is about retribution. It's about payback. It's about justice. It's about righting a wrong two years old. But it's also about sending a message. You won't hear this during the two minutes ESPN dedicates to the NHL, and you certainly won't hear it from the CBC or the Hockey Night in Canada dinosaurs, but guess what? Hockey fans want the Red Wings to win tonight. Not because they're Red Wings fans, and not because they want to see a repeat. But because they see the Ducks for what they are, just as we do: a dirty, cheapshotting, bushleague team that relies on goon tactics and thuggery to wear down opponents because they aren't talented enough to win straight up. This is a battle of good versus evil. And it's time that good prevailed.

This is about atonement for the sins of 2007. It's about erasing memories. Memories of Rob Niedermayer nudging Dominik Hasek into the net in Game 2 to score the tying goal in a game the Ducks would win in overtime. Memories of Pronger slamming Holmstrom's head into the glass and busting him open and then having the audacity to give a "physics lesson" after being suspended. This is about atonement for that dreadful Game 5, for that goddamn puck that fluttered into the net, and for Andreas Lilja, who, while he may not be on the ice, will certainly be watching and praying for absolution for the mistake that still haunts us all.

Sometimes I wonder what the players think. Do they hate this enemy as much as we, the fans, do? Do the players who were on the ice at the Honda Center two years ago cling to the that bitter, disgusting feeling we all felt in our mouths while the Ducks celebrated their Western Conference Championship? It was like sucking on a rusty coin. Do they use that for fuel? Do they use the unconscionable blown call from Game 3 a week ago? Do they experience some of the same sadistic, evil things some of us feel but suppress? Wait, you mean I'm the only one who has a tiny voice inside me yelling for Babcock to send McCarty in tonight to stop Pronger's heart and make sure it stays stopped this time? Oh.

Collection time has arrived. The payment's past due, and the taxman cometh tonight in Anaheim. And when it's all said and done and the Red Wings have more goals than the Ducks (and it WILL happen, because the thought of a Game 7 against this team is too much for me to bear), I will savor this like a championship victory. I'll savor it more than any of the previous eight closeout games on an opponent's ice. When the buzzer sounds and the legions of Red Wings fans invading Honda Center are whooping it up while the fake, fairweather Ducks fans bail out and focus on the Lakers or Dodgers, I'm going to cling to the endorphin rush that follows. I'm going to relish the looks on the faces of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer (and his wife Rob), Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Randy Carlyle, and every other SOB wearing black.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. It gets very cold on ice, from what I hear.

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