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Thank you, Fans!

Friday, 05.13.2011 / 12:13 AM ET / Fan Zone
By Bill Roose  -
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Thank you, Fans!
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DETROIT – It’s easy to understand why so many fans consider Joe Louis Arena the epicenter of professional hockey in the Midwest – if not the whole country.

It’s where the fans’ love affair with the Red Wings is genuine, and greatly appreciated by the players. With 806,892 boisterous fans packing The Joe during the regular-season, the energy in the building was a definite advantage for the Wings.

“When the fans are real loud it really helps us out, it’s like having an extra guy out there,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We really get pumped up and it’s easy for us to play harder.

“I just want to thank you all for your great support you’ve given us all year.” 

While it’s the guys on the ice that score the goals and win the games, the players believe that they wouldn’t have enjoyed another successful Central Division-winning season – let alone a 20th consecutive run in the Stanley Cup playoffs – without the immense support from their loyal fans.

To a man, players and coaches recently spoke with great admiration about the fans. When asked about the fan-support, they immediately point to the noise that fills The Joe; and the exorbitant buzz that they bring to the old barn, which has been part of the landscape along the Detroit River since 1979.

Through thick and thin, the fans’ support for the Wings has never wavered. But there was a special resurgence, of sorts, at The Joe this season, particularly in late March and April.

But why?

Despite a still sour Michigan economy, the Wings had 27 straight sell-outs at The Joe this season, averaging 768 more fans than in the 2008 Stanley Cup-winning campaign.

With all but one county in southeast Michigan still experiencing greater than 10% unemployment, fans were undeterred by the economy and continued to flock to Red Wings’ games this year.

According to ESPN figures, the Red Wings were third in NHL total attendance (home and away), drawing 18,952 fans in 82 regular-season games. The Wings only trailed the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens.

Someone who has a new found understanding of what it means to play for a team with a tremendous global following is Wings forward Jiri Hudler. After a one-season hiatus in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, he quickly gained a new appreciation for what he and his teammates have in Hockeytown.

“Well, it’s different. A lot different,” Hudler said. “We’ve got such loud buildings, especially at The Joe. They call it Hockeytown for a reason. So, people are supporting us, and they’re great fans. They’re loud. We get playoff crowds in the regular-season, and it’s even bigger in the playoffs.”

In return, the 2010-11 season and the playoffs gave Wings’ fans many memorable highlights. From Nicklas Lidstrom collecting his 1,000th career point, to coach Mike Babcock winning his 300th NHL game, there was plenty to cheer about.

Speaking directly to the fans, Babcock said, “Being a Red Wing and being in Detroit and being in Michigan, we get unbelievable support. Thank you, very much.”

The fans’ devotion wasn’t just limited to JLA. It followed the team and players everywhere. There were immense crowds for player appearances at Detroit area Meijer locations to see Patrick Eaves and Tomas Holmstrom. And the Wings’ school visits program was a success, and likely to continue on a grander scale in the future because of the unselfish participation of Lidstrom, Danny Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk, Brian Rafalski and Justin Abdelkader.

“They’re awesome,” said Abdelkader, who was a guest reader to second- and third-graders at Detroit’s Glazer Elementary School this year. “It was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to go out there and read to the kids and it shows the support we have around Detroit and how many Red Wings fans there are.”

Late in the season, something in the atmosphere changed. An overwhelming enthusiasm, usually reserved for the playoffs, filled the building.

In March, the Wings hosted top Eastern Conference teams like the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs, an Original Six foe that always stirs emotions of a bygone era when the two teams featured guys like Gordie Howe and Johnny Bower.

“The stretch with Toronto and Washington and Pittsburgh, I think they started seeing it getting closer to playoff time and they got excited too,” said forward Darren Helm, of the fans. “Obviously, the Phoenix series was really great in the two games we had here, and it was even a bit louder (against San Jose).

“They’ve been behind us a lot this season. To have their energy, it gets loud in here. So I think the guys are always excited to play on home ice and play in front of our fans.”

Besides their intense excitement, the thing that the players like about their fans is that they’re more than casual observers of the game.

““We have great fans and they’re loud and they know the game of hockey,” Eaves said. “It’s always nice to be at home and have people in your corner cheering for you. … They’re plenty loud.”

Michael Caples, Dave Burke and Jeff Sanford contributed to this report.




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80