(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers who hated them the most. Here is Nashville’s own J.R. Lind from III Communication, the Internet's preeminent Conference III blog, remembering the 2012-13 Detroit Red Wings. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
By J.R. Lind
This is not a normal eulogy.
This is not simply goodbye to the 2013 Detroit Red Wings.
This is also goodbye forever from the Central Division and from the Western Conference and a valediction from Conference III, a group Detroit will never join, never wanted to join and which never wanted Detroit to join, despite what they'll tell you ad nauseam.
It is fitting that the Red Wings get two eulogies in one, powered as they are by money made from the brilliant idea that people want twice as much for the same price.
You see, one day, roughly 149 years ago, Mike IIitch, at the time a sprightly 82-year-old entrepreneur, said "People really seem to tolerate terrible pizza. I bet they will really get a kick out of two terrible pizzas!"
Of course, he said it in Latin, the language of his youth, and only Mikael Samuelsson could understand him, remembering the tongue from the first interview he ever gave, to Tacitus for his Germania in AD 98.
"The Red Wings are old" jokes are as old as Drew Miller looks, I know.
And while retreading has-been jokes is as easy as re-treading has-been wingers, Wings fans deserve more from their Eulogy, just as they absolutely deserve to be forced into cheering for Todd Bertuzzi, the Pavel Datsyuk of the out-of-court settlement.
And Detroit always gets what it deserves. Never in the history of professional sports — and not in human history since the Hansa agreed to give precedence to the Council of Lübeck — has one member been so coddled by its league.
How could we, in this age of rapid intercontinental travel, four-star hotels and medical advances so amazing they make your head spin faster than if you got blind sided by a leaping Justin Abdelkader, expect the Wings to suffer through multiple trips to the West Coast?
How dare we force their fans to watch games that start at 10 PM local time?
They didn't deserve such mistreatment and it was an obvious detriment to their success, with their run of 22 consecutive post-season appearances and…wait, how many Cups have they won?
I keep forgetting, but there is one sure-fire way to get the answer.
[clears throat, turns north towards Michigan]
"You gave up home ice advantage and blew a 3-1 series lead to Chicago!"
[cups hand over ears…waits…calculates for the speed of sound…and…]
"HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON? IS IT 11?"
Ah, yes, there it is — the unofficial motto of the city of Detroit.
Detroit actually has two official mottoes, by the way: Speramus Meliora — "We Hope For Better Things," because maybe this is the summer a genuine, in-his-prime top-flight free agent finally signs in Motown — and Resurget Cineribus, "It Shall Rise From The Ashes," because sometimes the jokes make themselves.
In any case, "HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON?" is the lone reply to any suggestion that the Red Wings have some kind of shortcoming.
"Dan Cleary is in your top six?"
"HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON?"
"You signed Jordin Tootoo and Jonas Gustavsson in the same off-season? On purpose?"
"HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON?"
"How did Tom Renney get a job? Is he blackmailing Mike Babcock? Does he know how Babcock gets his hair to do that?"
"HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON?"
And so on.
Everyone in the West knows what it's like when the Red Wings come to town and how we graciously fling open our cities' doors to them, because we don't want them to pick our locks.
How we'll miss their annual visits, four games which — if you ask a Detroiter — are our franchises' sole source of revenue.
"HOW MANY CUPS HAVE YOU WON?" they yell at us and waiters and bartenders and cab drivers and fire hydrants on the street.
"IS IT 11? IS IT?"
They never wait for the answer so they'll never learn that the fire hydrant is, in fact, a long-time member of the Montreal Canadiens organization.
It's always amazing to see our home arenas when the Red Wings visit — how light flickering off the tin foil hats interplays so delicately with the red of the jerseys. Such enticing, wondrous and yet dangerous beauty. This is how Larry Murphy felt the first time he paid a dollar for a hot dog, how astronomers feel the first time they spot a quasar or how a Juggalo must feel on seeing his first garbage fire.
Conspiracy theories, how do they work?
We don't blame them for coming, of course. It's so difficult to get tickets in "Hockeytown" — what a charming sobriquet you gave yourselves, Detroit, though the way things are going, it might soon be "Hockeyunincorporatedcensusdesignatedplace" — that Michiganders must hit the road for the chance to feast their eyes upon their heroes and also Kyle Quincey.
And have you ever watched a game at Joe Louis Arena? Even on television, it's hard to see the action. There's so many fans constantly and forever aimlessly milling about in the lower bowl, coming and going — even while the puck in play — one must wonder if game attendance is a make-work union gig.
And every two or three minutes, someone will turn around to show their face to the camera. We can only assume that this is some sort of cheap proof-of-life effort.
"Jason" — all male Red Wings fans are named "Jason," by the way — "Jason, this is your mother. I haven't heard from you in awhile. I'm going to watch the game. Please get your face on camera."
Oh and how excited Jason's Mother gets when that misspelled Ian White jersey turns to the camera and she sees her prodigal son's face. She records it and sends the video to relatives who have escaped Detroit for places with better climates and more pleasing aesthetics. Places like Nashville, Atlanta and Poland.
In between milling about and spinning around to wave at the camera, Detroit finds the time to engage in its favorite pastime — carefully listing all the ways they have been slighted by the league, the referees, the economy, the media and their most important cultural contribution of the past 20 years, Kid Rock, who achieved the dream of every red-blooded Detroit-born male: he moved to Nashville and got arrested for beating up a strip club DJ.
While their primary complaint — the horrors of watching away games that start at 8 PM; what suffering they've endured! — has been addressed, they still are convinced the NHL has it out for them.
The NHL that put them on national TV an estimated 59 times this season.
The NHL that has twice awarded the unmatched exposure of a Winter Classic, even allowing them to hold it in Ann Arbor because no one actually wants to be outside in Detroit in January or ever.
The NHL that employs and promotes Stephen Walkom who gave the Wings new life in Game 7 against Chicago simply by noticing Kyle Quincey's only useful hockey play of his career.
Fans and media are not without blame either, as we have been underrating the Detroit Red Wings ever since Ilitch came up with his second great idea — "People will pay $10 for mediocre pizza; I bet they'll pay $5 for a pizza-like substance so long as it comes in a box illustrated with a cartoon picture of my nephew, Julius Caesar."
Yes, we underrated Nicklas Lidstrom his entire career while lauding him with infinite Norris Trophies, including at least one he absolutely had no business winning, and while allowing him to use our cities' power supply to recharge his lithium batteries 41 nights a year.
And we still underrate Pavel Datsyuk, which makes us a lot like Ken Holland, who so underrated Datsyuk in 1998, he passed on him seven times before deciding that third-round pick Jake McCracken (who doesn't even have a Wikipedia page) might gain something by meeting that Russian kid.
What unheralded genius Holland showed by accidentally drafting a Hall of Famer in the sixth round of a draft so shallow David Legwand was taken second, just four picks in front of future Swiss league occasional contributor Rico Fata.
It's that level of foresight that crafted the 2013 Detroit Red Wings — a team that squeaked into the playoffs just a nose ahead of the historically woeful Columbus Blue Jackets and who, once there, needed seven games to beat the Anaheim Ducks, whose regression to the mean Dan Cleary would be jealous of, if only Dan Cleary had ever in his career been even slightly above average.
The completely-predictable retirement of Lidstrom left the Wings with a big hole on the blueline, but no problem! According to top-flight hockey minds, Holland was going to sign Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
He actually did neither, of course, so he was forced to settle for Option 2395 — inking Carlo Colaiacovo and praying that Cola wouldn't shatter his wrist while signing his contract.
Not that all his moves were desperate, though. He was able to move Kent Huskins for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, which will definitely yield the next Datsyuk, based on Holland's exemplary history of finding late-round gems which he has done exactly twice. He also showed top-flight GMing by managing to sign college UFA Danny DeKeyser, who was more or less born at Joe Louis Arena.
Perhaps, though, the DeKeyser signing is a signal of a new era — a younger era, an Eastern era, an era in which Detroit doesn't unnecessarily insert itself into every conversation about hockey anyone has ever had.
We heard a lot about ends and death during the Chicago-Detroit series; a series which will be remembered not just because Detroit hasn't imploded in such a dramatic and ugly way since the Edsel was introduced, but because it also generated some of the most mind-numbing treacle ever uttered.
"It's sad to see this rivalry end."
"This is truly the death of a great tradition."
And down here, in the South, where we have writers who use a lot of words while also making sense, unlike writers from Detroit, lived a man named William Faulkner. Detroit would have offended Faulkner's sensibilities, not because it was northern or because he refused to suffer self-importance, but because he was a human who could see and smell.
Anyhow, he wrote this in As I Lay Dying, perhaps with the Red Wings in mind (he did like hockey, you know):
I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind — and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.
And while Detroit surely thinks the whole west will collapse when it moves to the east, it's not true. They are no more than a single tenant moving out of a tenement.
Conference III doesn't need them.
We don't need Detroit to give us overrated cheap-shot artists like Abdelkader and Bertuzzi; St. Louis still employs David Backes and Hugh, er, Barret Jackman.
We don't need them to perpetually parade past-their-prime stars to shore up a curiously defective development pipeline; we have Dallas.
We don't need a team that relies on the warm memories of glory past; we have Colorado.
We don't need a fan base that heaps unnecessary amounts of blame on its goalie for every loss; we have Chicago and eventually Corey Crawford will start screwing up.
We don't need a team that persistently engages sketchy money-making schemes; we have the Predators, who also capably replace the greatest thing about the Red Wings — a well-dressed coach with a legendary coif.
We don't need the bloviation of "Hockeytown," because we have the even more bloviated "State of Hockey."
We don't need a team whose artificial mythos justifies its own importance, because we have Winnipeg.
Enjoy your move to a much more favorable time zone, Detroit, and all those trips to Montreal (where, perhaps, someone will ask you how many Cups you've won, for once).
We have everything we need. All you were was that second pizza, just as redundant and disgusting as the rest of us.
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