I can understand, and maybe even accept the "Detroit sucks" chants. That particular phrase has a long history of being chanted by the fans of the Wings' biggest rivals, and if I'm going to get all up in arms about it tonight, I'll have to write out retroactive diatribes on a quarter of the teams in the league.
What I'm upset about is what they did to Chelios.
He put on a Blackhawks jersey, stood up on a Blackhawks ice, in front of God and everybody, professing his Chicago-ness and his love for his hometown team, the team he spent nearly a decade with, and they booed him.
He was expecting it. He was planning for it. He said "let's let bygones be bygones" and waited for it to stop. It kept on. It got louder.
I joke a lot about Chicago fans being unclassy jerks, but I didn't think this was very funny. This went beyond unclassy. I'd actually like to hear what Mickey Redmond was saying about it off-camera, but Redmond's a gentleman and I'm a girl, so I doubt I'd get to hear it from him anyway.
What basis do I have to say this was unclassy? Let's take a look at what classy looks like:
- Last November, Lindsay and I were at a Wings game right in the middle of the vomitrocious stretch of three games (two back to back at home) where Detroit was held scoreless. Joe Louis Arena was hosting the Atlanta Thrashers. The crowd was silent when Slava Kozlov scored, but when Budd Lynch announced the goal over the loudspeaker, we clapped for him, because he was one of ours.
- I don't actually remember whether Wings fans booed Marian Hossa for going to the Blackhawks last season, but I don't remember them doing it. What I do remember was a thread on message board about whether booing was or was not appropriate in that situation, and the posters who yelled at the pro-booing individuals for unclassiness.
- Remember Bob Probert? He didn't end his career with Detroit. In fact, he spend quite a few years throwing punches as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. But after he retired, if someone at Joe Louis Arena had tried to boo him? The guy next to him would have knocked his lights out. So probably would have Probert.
- This a a hockey blog, so I don't know how many of you even care about basketball, but there's some crossover with the Wings and Pistons fanbases, so I'm counting this as relevant for the sake of this argument. Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons was traded to another team. His first game back at the Palace? The fans gave him a lengthy standing ovation.
This isn't even about Wings fans being un-realistically classy. Trevor Linden was the heart and soul of the Vncouver Cnaucks; he wore the C, he gave them his best, and then he left. Vanouver didn't boo him in an Islanders jersey. They held up signs saying "Always a Canuck", and "Captain in our hearts". Earlier this season, when Modano, as a Red Wing,went back out on Dallas ice, the fans (and this is a crowd that at the end of the 2008 western conference finals chanted "Let's go Penguins" as the Red Wings awaited the presentation of the Campbell Bowl) didn't boo him. He was the heart and soul of the Dallas Stars, he wore the C, and the fans gave him the cheers he deserved.
Well, Chelios was the heart and soul of the Chicago Blackhawks. He was a hometown boy, one of their own, a fan of the team growing up, and he gave them the best years of his career. The Chicago River flows backwards through his veins. If you cut him, he'd bleed vaguely racist feathers and deep dish pizza (and then you'd be bleeding for making him bleed his own blood). But Chicago didn't care about that tonight -- they seemed much more interested in hurrying things along to screaming through the national anthem and singing the chorus of Chelsea Dagger on perpetual repeat. Chicago didn't care that he was out there on their ice, wearing their sweater, trying to talk about what an honor it was to have played for their organization -- he had been a Red Wing once, and I guess for them hating another team is more important than caring about your own.
By the third period. there were some fans in attendance attempting to turn the tide of the chanting from "Detroit Sucks' to Let's go Hawks"resulting in what sounded like "We Want Socks" (which everyone in my household found incredibly humorous). If those were the real fans, the ones who recognize what Chelios gave their organization and appreciated him for it, then my heart goes out to them. Maybe someday their compatriots will realize that there's more to being a Blackhawks fan than hating the Red Wings.