November 04, 2007

New Hockeytown USA: If Detroit isn't Hockeytown USA anymore, then what city is? From Hockeytown to Ghost Town. Holy Octopi, what the heck is happening to this tradition-rich Original 6 city? Who has displaced them as an American Hockey Mecca? Columnist Ross McKeon weighs in.

posted by skydivedad to hockey at 06:44 AM - 20 comments

The setting and support for the Wild are cool, but I think you can read too much into the early enthusiasm for an area that was starved for a team. The Rockies had a run like this too in Colorado, but losing took its toll over time. Their sellout streak ended and fan support faded. It wasn't until this year's playoff run that the fans came back in force.

posted by rcade at 07:32 AM on November 04, 2007

but losing took its toll over time. That hasn't happened in Detroit. The Red Wings continue there winning ways. Certainly a 1st round exit against 8th seeded Edmonton 2 years ago may have been painful for their fans but they did go all the way to the Western Conference finals last year. The 3 year gap between Cups from 97-98 and 01-02 only saw a rabid fans base continue their sell-out ways. This years squad is arguably the best in all of the NHL at least the best in the west. Some have argued the retirement of Steve Yzerman and the lack of a Strong North American Face for the franchise has hurt the attendance but with Henrik Zetterberg leading the NHL in points and with Lidstrom (a certain HOF'er) wearing the C how can a fan not be excited?

posted by skydivedad at 07:49 AM on November 04, 2007

I see this primarily the result of three factors, at least two of which are touched on in the article. First and biggest (I think) is the Michigan economy. As hockey's fan base in many cities is more blue collar (it certainly was in Detroit when I was growing up in Michigan), I think economic downturns may affect those fans more greatly. Second, NHL scheduling is shameful. Every Original 6 team should, at a minimum, have at least one home and home with every other Original 6 team. Actually, I think every West team should play every East team at least every year (at home at least every other year). The unbalanced schedule is ridiculous. No one in Detroit wants to see the Wings play the Predators and the Blue Jackets 8 times each per year. Except for perhaps the Wings players. The Detroit fans don't have frequent opportunities to see Crosby (he visited with Pitt in his first year), will only see Ovechkin for the first time later this year, and similarly don't get to see other up-and-coming stars or established stars in the East except maybe every four years. This is not by any means limited to Detroit, but again, it's shameful. Third, the Wings are victims of their own success. Like the Atlanta Braves of the 90's to early 00's, the fans have come to expect a competitive division winner every year. Like the Braves, this results in no sell-outs during the regular season or even during the early rounds of the play-offs. While I don't want to see the Wings miss out on the playoffs, I would bet a couple of years in the wilderness would result in fans coming back once they turned things around at a later date.

posted by holden at 08:43 AM on November 04, 2007

I don't understand NHL scheduling. I live around eight hours from teams in Tampa and Atlanta. My team, the Dallas Stars, won't be visiting either one all season. I'd love to see the Stars play in either venue.

posted by rcade at 09:24 AM on November 04, 2007

Third, the Wings are victims of their own success. That's a great point holden and doesn't bode well for a pick up in attendance this year. The Red Wings hold the longest current playoff streak of all professional North American sports teams, at 16 consecutive seasons. Don't get me started on a rant about the NHL Schedule. It's beyond logic! I do want to point out the current Minnesota Squad has had some playoff disappointments and a 1st round exit last year included but it hasn't diminished their fan base in the least , however I don't buy into the anointment by McKeon of the Twin Cities as the "New Hockeytown" USA. You can't have "Hockeytown USA without a Cup in my view, until such time I'd say the distinction is still up for grabs, if not still presiding in Detroit.

posted by skydivedad at 10:07 AM on November 04, 2007

The poor Michigan economy combined with the extremely high prices of tickets are a major factor. People may pay $80 to see the Penguins or the Senators, but not the Blue Jackets or the Blackhawks. The schedule deters people from purchasing season tickets since it is much more viable just to buy tickets for certain games. Also, the lockout definitely did damage to the fan base. While the Wings may have not lost their most rabid fans, the year off from hockey turned many more casual fans away from the Red Wings.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 10:16 AM on November 04, 2007

Third, the Wings are victims of their own success. This is what happened with the Atlanta Braves. In 1991 something like 750,000 people showed up to greet them after losing the World Series. By 2001 they couldn't sellout a playoff game. Granted, Atlanta doesn't have the tradition the Wings have, but still...

posted by drumdance at 10:55 AM on November 04, 2007

As a Minnesotan, I believe that such a title should encompass a lot more than just the NHL. Now sure, the Wild make a strong argument from the pro angle, and the North Stars always drew well when they were here (the primary reason they left was a money-grubbing owner who was fleeing a sexual harassment lawsuit). But Minnesota hockey is about a lot more than just the Wild. For example: In how many states could the term "fantasy high-school hockey league" be even remotely believable? Well, in Minnesota, they are fairly common. The state high-school hockey tournament is a massive event every year. In college, Minnesota schools comprise almost half of the college hockey's best conference, the WCHA, and Minnesota players are a large factor on every team in the conference and beyond. The WCHA Final Five is often a better tournament the the NCAA Frozen Four is. Michigan is really the only state that can rival Minnesota when it comes to high school and college hockey, so Detroit has always been a good choice. But St. Paul is the best today, in my biased opinion.

posted by TheQatarian at 07:02 PM on November 04, 2007

Detroit's success runs in cycles. I can remember when Detriot was an aweful team year in and year out. They're up and down like most big city economies. The impressive franchise, fan base and attendance wise, regardless of the economy is the Philadelphia Flyers. Even when they are bad that building still sells out. Guys want to play there just because it is a hockey mad city.

posted by Hockey fan at 07:07 PM on November 04, 2007

I don't know if Minnesota is prepared to take over as Hockeytown USA, but even after losses, jerseys are still worn proudly and the fan fervor is fairly big (although with every other team performing terribly, it's easy to cheer for the only team that wins). The loss of the North Stars really left a dent (retro gear is still quite popular, too), and the fan base wants to make certain they won't lose their hockey team again. However, in terms of history, it's quite hard to go against Detroit.

posted by PublicUrinal at 11:23 PM on November 04, 2007

All I can say is AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Please someone anyone give me a championship!!! "They can't tell the titles for the rest of us, and I can't crown me Tarzan King Of Mars" Monster Magnet How bout dem Flyers??

posted by GoBirds at 05:33 AM on November 05, 2007

You can't have "Hockeytown USA without a Cup in my view, until such time I'd say the distinction is still up for grabs, if not still presiding in Detroit. I don't agree - mostly because the reference of "Hockeytown" speaks to the popularity of hockey amongst the other big sports, it's not a badge relating to success on the ice, but rather in the stands and in the community. But also, because if that criteria is needed to be a mecca of hockey, then my town would just about fold up and disappear - despite having a startlingly successful franchise (but don't get me started). Detroit IS Hockeytown. Minny is a great franchise that will have long term success because Minnesotans are hockey folk - but you don't get to steal that title because it ain't up for grabs. That - and you need better jerseys. The whole "wild" as nomenclature thing still pisses me off. "I am a Wild!". Nope. Doesn't cut the mustard.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:45 AM on November 05, 2007

Detroit IS Hockeytown. Minny is a great franchise that will have long term success because Minnesotans are hockey folk - but you don't get to steal that title because it ain't up for grabs. I agree with Weedy here. The term "Hockeytown" is a copyrighted phrase established in 1996 by the Red Wings. HOW does one annoint that title on a team that has yet to win Earl Stanley's cup even once? IF or when the Twin Cities manages to have a team playing for nearly 80 years, then they might be considered - 6 down 73 to go Wild . . . GO Wings

posted by B-2 Spirit at 12:05 PM on November 05, 2007

Why would Minnesota even want a town named "Hockeytown?" They've got it even better with "the State of Hockey" tag. Much bigger that way, you see.

posted by NoMich at 12:36 PM on November 05, 2007

NoMich Does that make the Dallas (North) Stars, America's Hockey team?

posted by B-2 Spirit at 12:57 PM on November 05, 2007

Well, see there, everybody can be happy if they just leave good enough alone. I'd like to see someone take the title of "Hookers playing nickel keno while whacked out on cranktown" away from Reno. Yeah, good luck.

posted by tahoemoj at 01:08 PM on November 05, 2007

I understand the point of the article was not to try to stop Detroit from using the term Hockeytown USA, but the Red Wings own that title and it's theirs to keep. Let's do a quick associtaion: I say Showtime, you say: ..... Los Angeles Lakers. I say "America's Team" and you say: ..... The Dallas Cowboys I say Hockeytown USA, you say: ... Detroit Red Wings None of those will ever change. Move on. Nothing to see here.

posted by Cameron Frye at 01:23 PM on November 06, 2007

When I think of Showtime, I think of that HBO competitor. When I think of America's Team, I think of the Carolina Hurricanes. When I think of Hockeytown, I'm going to only think of Cameron Frye, supercop, telling me to move along now 'cause there's nothing to see here.

posted by NoMich at 01:54 PM on November 06, 2007

It could have been worse. He could've whipped out the NUFF SAID!

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 01:56 PM on November 06, 2007

Well, if he's supercop, I want to be the Thought Police. YYM, stop thinking it, or he might do it! Now, then, move along. Except you...yes, you. Your papers, please!

posted by The_Black_Hand at 10:10 AM on November 10, 2007

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.