or What to do in Detroit during the Western Conference Finals
Ok, so I'm not a hockey fan. Let's just get that out of the way. I've already made it very clear that I'm not a Detroit fan either, but when you live in Michigan, you at least have to pay your respects. Detroit is a fantastic sports city, which sounds blasphemous coming from my die-hard-Boston-fan mouth. But, it's true. Even if the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, businesses and residents are running for the hills, and the buildings look like they are crumbling around you, Detroit knows how to host sports fans. While the Lions continue to be one of the biggest jokes in football, Detroit still has the Tigers, Pistons and yes, the Red Wings. And you should see these fans.
Eric got us tickets to see the Red Wings at the Joe (that's the cool people's name for the Joe Lewis Arena), for game one of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. From the moment we got out of the car, it was obvious that the hockey nuts are insane here. Screaming curses and taunts at the few Blackhawks fans they could find, or even at their own friends in red jerseys, they were the loudest, most bearded and monochromatic hockey fans I've seen. The nice thing about the Joe is that you get right off the highway and drive into a parking garage, then walk directly through a tube to the arena, where beer awaits you. No need to walk or even drive through the city, which allows fans to ignore the desperate homeless and filthy streets while handing over $8.75 for a jumbo can of Miller Light. Woohoo! Everyone was drinking and milling around and hollering random chants until we got to go inside and find our seats. They turned out to be amazing.
As we settled in, I figured everything would continue like any normal hockey game. Nope. After a show full of pyrotechnics, huge banners and flags, and ear splitting noise, the National Anthem was sung by a tiny blonde with big pipes. Just before the end of the song, fans threw an octopus onto the ice. Then another. And another. I'm talking a real octopus here. Now maybe this isn't a surprise to other people, but I don't follow hockey aside from occasional highlights on Sports Center, so I was a little taken aback. The octopus seems to be the Red Wings mascot (who the heck came up with that?) so I guess it is acceptable, even admirable to toss seafood onto the ice at the end of the song without appearing disrespectful. Everyone went nuts and the screaming only got louder as each new octopus came flying through the air. Whatever floats your boat people.
The game itself was exciting in typical fast paced, body checking hockey style. We immediately realized it is impossible to get good pictures when everyone is whizzing by you at the speed of light, but extra large beers and Cheli's nachos made up for it. That and a very intoxicated young lady fighting with the guys behind us provided ample extra entertainment. She actually tried to climb into a seat occupied by a man twice her size who was with eight friends. She even came back for more after being escorted away by an usher. Just another example of why girls out drinking together must always follow girl law: Never let anyone out of your sight after consuming large amounts of alcohol! Especially not when she is young and cute and wearing a mini skirt.
In the end the Red Wings won the game in overtime, but we didn't get to see that. We left in the third period, while Detroit had a lead. Eric had to work in the morning and honestly, we were getting tired. Real hockey fans would probably say that the tickets were wasted on us, but to them I say, "Pbbllt!" We had a great time, had a new experience, and while I doubt we'll become true Red Wings fans ourselves, at least we earned an appreciation of them and their odd fish wielding ways.