The Detroit Red Wings will begin their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance on Tuesday night (10:30 p.m. ET vs. the Mighty Mighty Ducks). It's the longest playoff streak in all of sports. It's a wonderful coincidence the Red Wings have a guy on their team named Tootoo and his number is 22. The streak is something I want to jot some notes about.
When I was growing up, idolizing Steve Yzerman and listening to my Dad tell me stories of Gordie Howe, the Red Wings were starting to make the playoffs with regularity, but weren't getting very far. It's no coincidence the Red Wings officially turned the corner when they brought in a 6-time Stanley Cup champion coach, Scotty Bowman. Stanley Cup and 5-time All-Star goalie, Mike Vernon, didn't hurt either.
Entering the 1997 playoffs, the Red Wings hadn't won a Stanley Cup in 42 years. My Dad agonized over it. In his lifetime he was too young to appreciate the Cup in 1955, but remembered all too well the pain in the not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but SIX Stanley Cup Finals defeats -- and all the other failures -- through 1995. I was only 10 when the Devils swept in '95, but it's still a scar in the memory bank, witnessing the surreality of another team skating around the ice with the Holy Grail that was supposed to be our team's. Poor me.
I was 12 when the Red Wings won the Cup in 1997. I've since experienced THREE MORE Stanley Cup wins, FOUR in all in my 27-plus years. That's really not fair to my father who went four decades before experiencing just one. I'm spoiled. I also dated one of those Red Wings' daughters. Mannnn, I'm a lucky brat.
I don't know why I chose to write about No. 22 and didn't feel the urge to write about, say, No. 20. Maybe it was the incredible run to end this season to salvage the streak, winning five out of their last seven games and gaining at least a point in nine out of their last 11 games, a unique position for our favorite team usually rocking the Joe in the first round. That's probably it.
Now I have no idea what to expect against the Ducks. Maybe Babcock will coach a Bombay miracle. I tweeted at the end of the lockout and after the rough start that I almost expected the Wings, sans Lidstrom, to crap the bed and miss the playoffs. I was wrong.
The Red Wings are in the playoffs and thus, I'm going to soak it up, freeze it, zamboni it and appreciate its inherent beauty. Rinse and repeat for each game. As that cheesy saying goes, you don't know what you've got until it's gone, but as a Red Wings fan, I realized it when it was almost gone. The Red Wings are back in the playoffs, just barely, and damnit, I'm going to enjoy it, early mornings and all.
Let's. Go. Red Wings.