Is it okay to hate those pesky Red Wings?

by Gary Shelton on April 19, 2016 · 3 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Odrej Palat absorbs blow from Justin Abdelkader./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS.

Ondrej Palat absorbs blow from Justin Abdelkader./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS.

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

By now, you are working up a pretty good froth in the name of the Detroit Red Wings, aren't you?

By now, you curl your lip when you see those thermometer-colored uniforms (red so the blood stains wash out easier). You are thousands of miles away, but you hate the feel of Joe Louis Arena. You hate Detroit itself, which is kind of like Cleveland, only without the fun of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Most of all, you hate Justin Abdelkader, don't you? The sneaky little twit.

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The Lighting-Red Wings series has brought out the worst in both./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

The Lighting-Red Wings series has brought out the worst in both./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

You know Abdelkader, old Captain Cheap Shot, the guy who punched the blood out of Mike Blunden in Game One, but who refused to drop the gloves against Brian Boyle in Game Two. Evidently, the refs were watching him, and Boyle wasn't lying defenseless on the ice, so it made a difference.

Does that sound like a bully to you? Me, too.

Of course, a friendly Detroit fan bought Boyle a beer...and poured it on him.

Tampa Bay could not hate Abdelkader more these days if he vandalized the ship in Raymond James Stadium and mugged four of the community heroes in the parking lot. He is Darth Vader. He is Neidermayer. He is Hannibal Lecter on skates. Give him an ear, and he'll be Mike Tyson.

There is an old saying in hockey. A series really doesn't start until you work up a healthy dislike for the other team. Hate, some players used to call it, but that wasn't really accurate, so players started using softer terms. Still, it is that annoying  realization that one team feels for another team that is trying to steal its dream, claim its prize and rustle its cattle.

So there are a lot of hard feelings going on across the league. It isn't just the Lightning and the Red Wings. Everyone has an edge against someone. Everyone thinks the other team is being chippy. Everyone is trying to win through the penalty box, until they look as if they're in the Shawshank Redemption.

These days, the Red Wings are the Skating Incognitos, and you cannot be sure if goals or gashes are the prime objective. If Hell's Angels had a skating club, it would be the Red Wings.

You know their type. Back during the Stanley Cup win over Calgary, Abdelkader's role was played by Ville Nieminen, who was paid by stitch he inflicted.

Admit this: If Abdelkader wore blue instead of red, you would probably cheer him. A little, at least. Instead, he is public enemy No. 1. Put it this way. You could line up Takashi Okobu, Art Williams and Oren Koules … and you'd boo Abdelkader. You'd flap your arms, the way Boyle did, and you'd make chicken noises. Tampa Bay people would rather have root canals than see this guy succeed.

This is nothing new. Back when the Bolts won the Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames, the team had worked up a great bit of anger toward the Flames, who seemed to delight in the bruises they left behind.

Remember Andre Roy, a defenseman on that team. He put it best. "I hate olives, and bad traffic and soft music," he said. "And I hate the Flames."

Oh, okay. Hate is a horrible word, and it's the reason for most of the world's problems. But we aren't talking about real hatred here. We're talking about irritants, about annoying players who make your blood pressure rise. We're talking about how you hate running out of gas, and you hate bad traffic. It's sports hate, which isn't the same thing.

Other players would use more gentle words. Yeah, the Lightning respects the Red Wings...right into the boards. The Red Wings admire the Lighting...so much they would love to see their blood on the ice. And so forth. They are Team Batman vs. Team Superman. They are Team Hatfield against Team McCoy, Team King Kong vs. Team Godzilla.

To the other city, of course, both teams look like motorcycle gangs on ice. There is a thug factor to the Red Wings that should put the authorities on standby.

Back before Marty St. Louis earned his own wrath from these Lighting fans, he said this: "I don't know if it's really hatred. But you have to mentally want it more than them. If it means hating them, you hate them."

And so you wake up today, and the Red Wings are boiled liver and broccoli and haggis and Justin Beiber.

You hate them, don't you?

And if they win Tuesday, you'll hate them more.

A late skirmish left the ice littered with equipment.

A late skirmish left the ice littered with equipment.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric April 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm

Well said!

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Cecil April 19, 2016 at 8:44 am

Yup, you nailed it! But who is the guy on the Lightning that the Detroit fans hate for his cheap hits and nasty play? I ask that tongue in cheek because of course our boys don’t go in for that sort of thing!

Cecil

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Gary Shelton April 20, 2016 at 12:11 am

Probably Paquette.

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