Even walking through the concrete tunnel from parking structure to Joe Louis Arena, the smells, sounds and echoes are familiar.
It’s the familiarity of childhood that I recognize when I go to hockey games in Detroit. My father’s had season tickets to the Red Wings since 1979, when the arena was built, and I started by sitting on his lap, then sitting beside him to now taking my children to games.
Last night, we rooted, we cheered, we ate at the Olympia Club, we nursed beers in the stands (Leinenkugel, an adolescent memory, but that’s another story), we waved to familiar season-ticket holders and we stood for the national anthems (I know O Canada just as well as my friends across the border) and for military personnel. It was a patriot-filled fun-loving American sports night.
Detroit has always been a sports town, that’s for sure. And I said to my husband over dinner that I’m really proud to be from Detroit. I like it here. It’s home.
I like the way we’re imperfect, even. Always in a state of rebuilding, renewing, starting over. I like second chances. It means that nothing is so sacred that we can’t redirect, reconsider, refocus.
Detroit is a city of second chances. There were how many years between Stanley Cups (42 – 1955-1997), how many years known as The Dead Wings (15 – 1967-1982) and yet as of last year, we are still the NHL franchise with the most post-season appearances.
My childhood new year’s eves included dinner at Joe Muer’s or Carl’s Chop House, hockey game, then watching the ball drop on our family room TV. Traditions speak of values, and this one connected me to my father’s love of the game, his childhood playing on city streets frozen over, and his dreams for his children to have more than he did.
When my father started attending Red Wings games, seats didn’t cost much. Now, I won’t even say what we have to pay to keep these seats in an arena begging to be replaced. We go not because we’re such hockey fanatics but because going, sitting there, cheering for those familiar red winged-wheel jerseys symbolizes something close to religion, to belonging to a community of believers, to riding the wave of a hard-earned win after years of just trudging along, as if we too were on the team.
That’s sports in America. A way we can come together with others, have hope, believe in resurrection and redemption.
(By the way, we won.)