As the top eight teams in the NHL's Western Conference begin a series of epic battles just two weeks from today, there's something hockey fans should take notice of. While the West Coast locals have their daily California dreams of a Sharks-Ducks series, and the northwest fanatics of Alberta hope and pray that their beloved Calgary Flames could battle it out with their fellow Canadien foes in the Vancouver Canucks, one team and their core group of fans can only pray that divisional rival Nashville grabs the eight seed in the quarterfinals. Why is this you ask?
It's been quite sometime now since the NHL's best Detroit Red Wings have entered a playoff series knowing that their opponent was on the same side of the Mississippi River. As a matter of fact, it would have been the 2004 post season when the Wings last met up with a team that was even close to comparable in time zone. This was when the Red Wings met, and defeated the Nashville Predators in a six game slug-fest in the Western Conference Quater-finals.
The experts supposed reason for the Wings downfall in the Conference Finals last year was a lack of size, strength, power, and determination. They claimed that the Red Wings were worn down by the physical styles of the Flames, Sharks, and Ducks. I'm not going out of my way to make excuses for Detroit, but perhaps it wasn't as much the teams they played as it was the cities that these teams called home. So rather than focus on the Flames, Sharks, and Ducks, maybe, just maybe our attention should be turned to words like Calgary, San Jose, and Anaheim.
In order to finally figure out just how many miles the Wings covered in last years playoffs, I hit the books.
Round 1: #1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #8 Calgary Flames
Games 1&2 played at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI. Red Wings take to the air for Games 3&4 in Calgary, AB (1,900 miles). The respected teams head back to Detroit for Game 5 (1,900 miles). Wings head back to Alberta to put out the Flames(1,900 miles). After a six game battle, the teams is headed back to Detroit to face the Sharks in the semi-finals(1,900 miles).
Round 2: #1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #5 San Jose Sharks
Games 1&2 played in Detroit. Both teams then head to San Jose, CA. for Games 3&4 (2,400 miles). The two teams head back to the Motor City for Game 5 (2,400 miles). Sure enough it's back to California for Game 6 (2,400 miles). The Wings advance with a dominant effort, and return home to face the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals (2,400 miles).
Round 3: #1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #2 Anaheim Ducks
Games 1&2 played in Detroit. The top two teams in the West head to Anaheim, CA. for Games 3&4 (2,300 miles). With the series even even, the juggernauts fly back to Hockeytown for Game 5 (2,300 miles). After a heart-felt loss, the Wings head back to Anaheim where they were eliminated in Game 6 (2,300 miles).
Wow! It is exhausting enough just looking at the Wing's itinerary from 2007, let alone living it. Yeah, the Wings may have been disrupted and bruised up by their opponent's physicality, but if so, it took some 24,000 miles for the boys in red to show it.
And so this year the Predators are on the verge, but it looks like the Wings will be heading to Vancouver to start the playoffs. This year they want something back for their miles, and I can assure you that it's not discounted air fare they are looking for. Instead, the Wings aren't asking for the short trip, because this years team has gone and will go the extra mile to get their names engraved in history, but most importantly to hang an eleventh banner from the Joe Louis Arena rafters.
I've flown Southwest, American, and United Airlines. Every now and then they will hand you out a free night's stay in a hotel, or a free redeye flight to Antarctica, but good old Red Bird 1 is going to offer their customers something a little different this year: Lord Stanley's Cup. Now how's that for frequent flyer miles?
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