DETROIT – It starts when they shut off the lights, and Ulysses Wolf walks to the middle of the ice, without slipping.
Wolf is a sharply-dressed, imposing fellow with a voice from Armageddon. As the scoreboard shows Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Steve Yzerman and other Red Wings past, Wolf grabs the microphone and booms: "Eighteen regular season championships. Eleven Stanley Cup championships. … WELCOME to the Stanley Cup playoffs."
With that, Wolf thrusts out both arms – tah-dah – and flames burst from the top of the scoreboard.
After the sound and light, we see Karen Newman, a throwback to when big blondes were Big Blondes and darn proud of it. Dressed for the stage, Newman walks to the area of the net, exuding the grandeur and confidence of old Detroit, and trembles the girders with the National Anthem.
As the noise builds, here comes the ritual octopus – count on at least two, tonight. Then the door opens to beckon a line of play-alike guys, in cherry uniforms, who bring hockey as close as it ever comes to choreography.
That is Joe Louis Arena, throbbing in repose this morning, with Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal coming up at 7 p.m. EDT.
Far, far too much phony, fly-by media sympathy has descended on Detroit in the past few months. True, the headlines aren't pretty. On Wednesday, you could read that GM stock had dropped to $1 a share, and that Education Secretary Arne Duncan had proclaimed the city's school system "ground zero" and said that Detroit reminded him of "New Orleans without Katrina."
And it is far, far too simple to say that any Red Wings success, going back to the 2008 Stanley Cup championship, provides balm for the Detroiters' wounds.
No, the Red Wings are special because they've been here since 1926 and they're not going anywhere. They have not betrayed anyone. They could have moved to Dearborn or Auburn Hills or where most of their fans actually live. Instead they're still here, playing on the edge of downtown Detroit.
Technological and economic forces have not rendered the Red Wings obsolete. New salary cap rules kept them from outspending everyone. So they out-innovate everyone instead. Franchises like Colorado and Dallas haven't made that adjustment. If owner Mike Illitch and general manager Ken Holland had been car guys, maybe we'd all be puttering around silently in GM electro-sedans, laughing at the boarded-up gas stations.
-- selected portion of an article by Mark Whicker • The Orange County Register • May 14, 2009, and a beautiful piece of writing it is!