My beloved Red Wings are in the Western Conference finals, battling it out with the Dallas Stars for a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. This is pretty familiar territory for Hockeytown (Detroit) with the Wings having won 14 division championships in 19 seasons, and three Stanley Cups in the last 11 years.
However, Wings fans have been getting tons of shit from the sporting world for their inability to fill seats at The Joe. If you watch the televised games there are pockets of empty seats at every level. As the Red Wings have become something like the Yankees of hockey everyone's first instinct is to rip the fans for not being "into the playoffs" until later rounds, for taking the team's accomplishments for granted because of past successes, for not following as closely because our Canadian all-stars have been replaced with foreign athletes, for not appreciating a team that's more finesse than brawn, for losing faith because of a few seasons of bombing out in early playoff rounds, etc. Even Mitch Albom, the favorite son of South Eastern Michigan got into the fray with his column, "Wings come out big, so why don't all the fans?" One only need look at the hundreds of comments the column generated to figure out why those seats are empty.
"'Why can't we fill empty seats' indeed. $200 for tickets is prohibitive. Gas is expensive. Parking alone was $15 in the first round, and if it's anything like ticket prices, it goes up each round and becomes exorbitant. We won't even talk about concessions or souvenirs. Have you not noticed we're in our own personal little mini-depression here in Michigan, you blind, self-congratulatory son-of-a-(rhymes-with-Mitch)?? We are trying to feed ourselves and our family and put braces on teeth and get back and forth to work. We don't have the $800 it would take to take a family of four to see a game."
"No dough to blow at the Joe. Times ARE tough, my family has cut back to not go under, and I have to carry my clients. CABLE is a luxury we've got rid of. Like it or not, the WINGS are a luxury product, and while I love them to pieces I can't pay for them."
Check out more comments here. Michigan's unemployment rate is still above 7% - nearly 3% higher than the national average of 4.9% - and that doesn't count workers that have left the state in search of new jobs. Michigan has lost 596,000 of the 900,000 manufacturing jobs that existed 10 years ago. While a few commenters cite the call for a boycott "against Detroit" in protest of the cities arguably corrupt Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the vast majority are just ordinary Michigan folk who have hit hard times and simply don't have the money to take the family to the game.
So, I'll add my voice to the legions of Hockeytown faithful who are following the Red Wings at home or from afar when I say, "Back the fuck up."