When the NHL re-aligned the conferences to accommodate the Atlanta Thrashers’ relocation to Winnipeg, they moved the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings out of the Central Division and over to the Eastern Conference. It made sense, since both of those teams were in the Eastern Time Zone; West Coast road trips were particularly hellish for their fans.
By re-aligning the conferences, the league managed to break up two very strong, and very heated rivalries: one between the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche, and one between the Red Wings and the Blues.
If the Blues were the Central’s little brother to the Blackhawks, both teams were little bros to Detroit. The Wings held a 25 year streak of playoff appearances that wasn’t broken until 2017. After losing in the final to the New Jersey Devils in 1995, they won back to back Stanley Cups, first on the strength of the Russian Five in 1997, and then swept the Washington Capitals in 1998. They raised the Cup again against Carolina in 2002 and for the most recent time against the Penguins in 2008.
Their list of Hall of Fame players is absurd. They are, without a doubt, one of the most consistently successful NHL teams in history, the last three seasons or so not included.
I think that it’s fair to say that because of their success, geographic proximity, and inclusion in the Blues division, we as a fan base very strongly dislike the Detroit Red Wings.
It’s easy to forget that they were a powerhouse. They finished the shortened 2019-2020 season with a 17-49-5 record and then suffered the indignity of losing out on the first overall draft pick to a team that is TBD. Fans who had to watch the Wings plow through the Blues on their way to playoff success can have a little catharsis as they point and laugh at the sorry state of Detroit hockey right now, but it doesn’t negate how incredible they were in the past and how high and mighty the Wings were perceived. Fans forgot about the “Dead Things” era of hockey, but they’re being reminded of it again right now.
The Blues, obviously, appear to be on a very different pathway. A team that’s always had to fight for what successes that they’ve had has finally been rewarded, but time will tell if the Blues can build something like Detroit did. That struggle, that fighting when it looked like the wings had it so easy with Stevie Y and Nick Lidstrom made for a hell of a rivalry. Sometimes it was one-sided. Sometimes Blues fans got under Detroit fans’ skins, and certainly vice versa (no one misses the trolling during GDTs).
There’s no denying that the contempt didn’t impact the players. Sure, the Wings aren’t the Blackhawks, but there’s a lot of dislike between the two franchises that’s in danger of disappearing.
And finally, the grand-daddy of them all:
For the longest time, a Blues blowout victory over the Wings felt like winning the Cup.
Now that the Blues have finally won one and the Red Wings are in the league basement, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the old animosity remains. Or, with the years passing and new rivalries forming, will Blues fans even remember shouting “fuck Detroit?”
My money is on yes. Some things take a long time to die.