More Than Hockey: Missive from Hockeytown

I live in a town besieged by a bad rap after years of Devil’s Night fires, crime and a city population diminishing greatly as young talent fled for the suburbs or other urban centers deemed more dynamic and with more to offer. Detroit has long been known as a dying city with ballooning obesity rates – not a good profile.

But there’s a reason I live here.

I lived in New York and Washington, D.C., but came home to Michigan because I wanted a slower pace without slowing to a crawl. I wanted friendly faces, not angry sidewalkers on a mission to get somewhere fast.

I love my hometown and it’s not because of the economy, the restaurants or the big businesses that operate here. It’s because my city has soul.

We are provincial and urban at the same time, we wave others in ahead of us in traffic, we wave to say thank you when they let us in, and many of us inquire about the welfare of passers-by just because that’s the salt-of-the-earth character we carry.

Detroit put this country on wheels, we birthed a rockin’ music industry and we have always had stellar sports teams – not just one, but all four major sports in our corner.

When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup after 42 years of championship drought, I pumped my fists in the air, sang and cried for an hour in the stadium and then hours after in the streets with tons of people I didn’t know, all feeling the same sense of redemption.

And yesterday, as I sat in the seats my family has had since 1979 at the arena we affectionately call The Joe, I watched a video that presented the Red Wings not as a mere sports team, but as this game symbolizing the values and the character and the hard-working, winning spirit of all those who call this town home.

We are known as Hockeytown, a proud sobriquet for a town that has earned it. Hockey is a blue-collar sport, representing possibility of rising from oblivion into stardom. All of our sports wins offer each of us everyday folks something to identify with that stands for so much more than the work beneath our fingertips.

We amount to something. This town stands for winning. We keep going, even in the face of stacked odds. We rise to many challenges. We do not accept defeat. And we believe that every season, every year, we get a fresh start.

That’s what big name sports do for us all: remind us that we always have another opportunity to win, and each game is a victory in itself, each loss a valuable lesson, each win something to carry home.

I took my children to the game yesterday, and those familiar feelings came rushing back. Allegedly, I sat on my father’s lap at the age of 4 at Olympia Stadium; many a New Year’s Eve I celebrated with my family and the Red Wings. Now a new generation gets a glimpse of what this town stands for, and I promise you, it’s way more than anyone thinks.

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