Orange County ... strange land
Forgive me, for I am a stranger in a strange land. But in Orange County I'm not seeing the signs of hockey culture. (An oxymoron, I know.)
I have not seen any kids play hockey on a driveway or move nets to the curb when someone shouts, "Car!" I have not heard any locals dissect the local NHL team. And I do not see anyone outside of the Ducks' arena wear anything with the word Ducks, colors of the Ducks or anything resembling a cartoon Duck not named Daffy in these parts.
So forgive me if it surprises me that this is the place from which Detroit was attacked as not being the hockey town that it once was.
One day before the start of the Western Conference final between the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings -- a series which resumes with Game 3 Tuesday night -- the Los Angeles Times printed a column by Helene Elliott that assailed Detroit as having lost its status as Hockeytown because the Red Wings have not been able to sell out a single playoff game this spring.
Let's get the terminology straight first. There's a difference between the upper-case Hockeytown and a lower-case hockey town.
The former is a marketing label. Just like America's Team, Hockeytown was a brilliant campaign. The problem is that a lot of people started taking Hockeytown one step further and believing that Detroit was the best lower-case hockey town, period.
It's not. It's a damn good hockey town. You could make a good argument that it's the best hockey town in the nation, although the state of Minnesota probably has Michigan beat. But until you've had lunch at a deli in Montreal in the middle of summer and listened to every table chattering about the Habs' defensive pairings or been to Vancouver and realized that the citizens there don't just follow the Canucks, they follow everything hockey ... then you don't understand how far behind Detroit is from Canadian cities in hockey.
In other words, the logo Hockeytown can't be disputed. It's Detroit. It's Joe Louis Arena. So there's no argument that Detroit is Hockeytown just like Dodge trucks are Ram tough. It's a slogan.
So I assume that the attack based on non-sellouts in the playoffs is that Detroit is losing ground as a hockey town.
Forgive me if I take offense to someone from Southern California takes a sledge hammer to Detroit's love of hockey. Heck, the paper that printed that column doesn't send a writer on the road during the regular season because it feels that there's no local interest.
Anaheim slamming Detroit as not being a hockey town is like Butte going on a rampage saying that Memphis has nothing to do with music. They're not in any position to open their mouths.
Let the people from Toronto fire away if they wish. That's valid. Let someone from Minneapolis start a friendly rivalry with Detroit about which town cares more about hockey.
But Hockeytown is what Detroit is. It's a marketing label that cannot be removed until those selling the product decide to do so.
And Hockeytown is a hockey town. There's the history of an old franchise that was around when our grandparents, our great-grandparents went to games. And there is a current love of the Red Wings that still is strong.
I'll take my chances with the hockey fans of Detroit compared with the hockey fans of southern California.
To take a shot at Detroit because only 19,000 people find it affordable to buy playoff tickets instead of 20,000 on any given night isn't right.
But I guess that's what they do in this strange land.