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The video is once again making the rounds on Facebook timelines, Twitter feeds and inboxes across Chicago -- a 1998 Blackhawks television ad featuring Jeremy Piven, pre-Ari Gold days. The Evanston, Ill., native sits in an empty United Center, open rows stretching out above and below him.
Into the darkness and stillness he says:
"In a way, everything I know about life I learned from my father watching the Blackhawks. It can all be summed up in two words, two simple words that ring over and over in my memory:
"DE-TROIT SUCKS! DE-TROIT SUCKS!"
|Hawks alternate captain Patrick Sharp and Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will likely face off a few times during the Western Conference semifinals.|
It ain't clever and it ain't mature, and for years it hasn't even been close to true, but that chant sure has stuck.
It's so popular among Blackhawks fans, young and old, that many are guilty of yelling it at games in which the Wings aren't even participating. It's on posters, T-shirts and crude cartoons of Calvin peeing on Detroit's wheeled wing logo.
And it'll be there at the United Center on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks and Red Wings meet for the 800th time, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
It'll be outside the arena as hyped-up fans wait for doors to open well before game time, it'll make its way around the 300 level as the Wings take the ice for the first time in warm-ups, and it'll be screamed from nearly every seat in the house as the puck is dropped at center ice to start the game.
I betcha it'll be extra loud this year too.
See, this is the last time the Hawks and Wings will meet as Central Division and Western Conference rivals and the last time they'll face off in the early rounds of the playoffs. Realignment will send Detroit to the East next year, and future postseason meetings with the Hawks can come only in the Stanley Cup finals.
Chicago sent the Wings on their way with a quartet of bon voyage victories during the regular season, sweeping them for the first time since 1976-77. The Hawks have won seven straight dating back to last season, and the Wings were watching from home when Chicago raised the Stanley Cup in 2010.
But the last time they played in the postseason, it was the Hawks who went home early, falling 4-1 in the 2009 Western Conference finals. For years (nearly all of the 2000s, in particular), it was Detroit on top and Chicago, to borrow the city's own parlance, sucking.
Yes, the Blackhawks may be this season's streaking darlings, but when it comes to intimidation, the residents of Hockeytown, USA, still hold the upper hand.
It took some doing (four straight wins to end the regular season), but the Wings were able to extend their playoff streak to 22 consecutive seasons, the longest active playoff streak in major pro sports. They also boast the most championships of any U.S. NHL franchise, having hoisted the Cup 11 times.
They aren't the favorites this go-round, but after upsetting a good No. 2 seed Ducks team in the opening round, they would love to play spoiler again against the top-seeded Hawks.
It's exactly the matchup the NHL wanted, especially when trying to win over disgruntled fans still mad about the lockout-shortened season. Hockey fans who declared a boycott this season may have no choice but to break their self-imposed blackouts Wednesday night. It's Hawks-Wings!
This pair of Original Six teams has been duking it out on the ice (quite literally, in the Bob Probert/Stu Grimson days) since 1926. They have faced each other more times in the regular season than any other clubs in NHL history and have met 15 times in the playoffs; the Hawks have won eight series, the Wings seven.
It's not a literal subway series, but it's about as close as you can get. Whether it's to start one of those "Detroit Sucks" chants at the Joe or to sneak an octopus into the United Center to toss on the ice, fans need to travel just a few hours on Interstate 94 to steal a seat in the enemy's house.
Beginning next year, the Blackhawks and Red Wings will meet just twice a season. Frequent trips on I-94 will become a thing of the past -- and so, too, may the rivalry itself. Best to enjoy it now, while the octopuses are cold and the chants are yelled with fervor.