By Dan Leach
As the seconds melted away in the third period on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh after Riley Sheahan’s epic late goal, Red Wings fans knew that the annual rite of passage for the last 22 years was going to stretch into 23.
What has been basically a certainty since 1991, seeing playoff hockey in the D in the spring, is something that so many other cities and fan based wish they could be a part of. When you add to the fact that in the last 20 years in the four major sports, parity has become prevalent at all angles.
The fact that in recent salary caps have been enforced, gone up, gone down, CBA’s busted up and lockouts forced or prevented, the sports landscape has changed in a major way. The Wings organization, one of the classiest in all of sports, could care less, they just simply keep on putting out an amazing product. Under the stewardship of one of sports best GM’s Ken Holland and one of sports greatest ever owner’s in Mike Illitch, The Red Wings are a franchise that so many others try to model themselves after.
It was that ownership and that GM that brought in Mike Babcock to take over in 2005 and while he has fantastic during his tenure, his job this year of managing an insanely injury ravaged and youthful lineup all season, has to be considered his best so far. That on the sheer fact that you can make several cases that this team shouldn’t be anywhere near the postseason in the first place. Luckily I do not think there are many out there that don’t realize and embrace how lucky they are to be Detroit Red Wings fans. They wear it as a badge of honor and with the utmost gratitude towards the hockey gods.
It is the complete opposite of what Yankees’ fans, which I have been told aren’t too high on anyone in Detroit’s list BTW:), have seen. Those fans have become greedy and ungrateful about how lucky they have been to, for years and years, be able to watch their team in the postseason. That was done in a sport though with no salary cap and the Yanks have only won one title in the last 14 years anyway. Hockey has a salary cap now, but even in the age when it did not the Wings did it with smart moves, heart , and passion, which is the true embodiment of their fans.
Who knows what the postseason holds for the Wings this year, but the sheer fact that they have given themselves at least a shot at making a run for a cup for the 23rd straight year is something truly magical. The Spurs have gone to an NBA leading, by a long shot, 17 straight postseasons, so they would at least have to be in the conversation of being able to equal what the Wings have done in the coming years. That being said, the Spurs might need to do it for 13 more years in a row cause what would cause you to think that the Wings won’t make it and even 30 straight with how this franchise has been able to get it done over the past two decades plus.
Relish this streak Wings fans as I know you will, cause what you are witnessing is something that likely will never been seen again.