All of the shenanigans that took place in Anaheim after Tuesday's Game 6 of the Red Wings' second-round playoff series, all of the thug actions, intimidations and child-like behaviors will be rendered meaningless tonight. As soon as a victor is determined in tonight's Game 7 of this Western Conference semifinal, the characterizations of the Red Wings and Ducks will go in opposite directions ... one side remembered as winners, the other as losers.
And that is just fine by Hockeytown.
Consider the beatings that the Red Wings took during and after Game 6 as the first part of proving the equation of toughness in these parts: You don't have to fight to be tough. The Red Wings do not fight.
The Ducks fight; in fact, they would probably try to change your mind about their preoccupation with fighting by fighting you.
This was the fifth straight regular season that the Red Wings finished dead last in the 30-team NHL in fights.
Anaheim, on the other hand, was first in the NHL with 82 fights this season. The Ducks finished
second last season and first in 2006-07 — Anaheim's Stanley Cup campaign. You'd have to add the total fights in the Red Wings' last six seasons to equal the number of fights that the Ducks had this season alone.
But you don't have to fight to be tough is the motto in Joe Louis Arena. There, the belief is that you have to be tough to win, tough enough to take the punishment and keep focused on the goal of winning hockey.
That is something I admire.
It goes against hockey tradition which also says that no one gets hurt dropping the gloves and fighting, but sticks and elbow pads can break your bones. Thus, hockey is the only place on Earth where otherwise rational people argue that bare-knuckle fighting is harmless, placing hockey a century behind the sport of boxing. It's obviously not harmless as evidenced by Andreas Lilja's ongoing headaches and Tomas Kopecky's damaged facial bones.
If the brawling at the end of Game 6 distracts the Red Wings tonight, causes even a moment of hesitation, then the Ducks will win both the game and the argument.
Personally, I think the Red Wings will make the Ducks pay for their punches by sending them home as losers. Detroit's current roster of players has shown for years that violence does not cause them distraction.
And that brings us to the biggest fight that is going to take place tonight. This game will be about legacy, about glory.
The Ducks and Red Wings have been hockey's best playoff franchises over the past six seasons. They are the winners of the past two Stanley Cups.
For the Red Wings, a win tonight will be another brick in their building a reputation of the best franchise in not only hockey, but in all of North American sports.
If Detroit could manage to win the Stanley Cup this spring — and that's a very difficult if to accomplish — then the Red Wings will have won back-to-back championships in the first four years of a salary-cap era, something that the salary cap is designed to prohibit. And that will make five Stanley Cups in the past 12 seasons.
But that's the next fight.
For now, beating Anaheim would put the Red Wings in the conference final for the eighth time in the past 14 seasons.
And that's how you earn glory in sports. One championship becomes aberration when surrounded by common seasons. Two championships begin to give players and franchises the scent of glory. Three is better than two. Four is better than three, and so on.
If the Red Wings are able to knock the Ducks out of the playoffs tonight, Anaheim will be closer to being remembered as a one-title wonder while Detroit moves another step toward glory.
And that blow would hurt a heck of a lot more than one mean-spirited elbow.