Like so many of you, I was the product of the early to mid 90's Red Wings teams. Considering my age, 21, it's hard for me to trace any allegiance to the club back any further than about 1994 without it sounding artificial. I remember my first NHL experience was watching a game in the lock-out shortened season of 1994-1995 between the Red Wings and Sharks (I think). Being the youngest of three, my two older brothers commanded the remote control and I was forced to either watch what they chose or return to Legoland. Sorry, yellow construction worker with interchangeable body parts, you just weren't cutting it that night.
That February night (okay, I had to look that up, I don't have that good of a memory) was the start of something good. Now, being seven years old means that I had an attention span of about four seconds and it was hard for me to really know what we even going on except when a team scored...which the Red Wings did 6 times that night. But after watching a few more games--back when ESPN actually cared about hockey--the speed, physicality, and intensity of the game had me hook, line, and sinker. Originally the reason I chose the Red Wings was because red was my favorite color and like younger brothers often do, I followed everything my older brothers did religiously. My oldest brother, Jesse, was a Wings fan while my second oldest brother was originally a Canucks/Pavel Bure fan before converting to the Red Wings. Following the lead of Jesse, I started rooting for the Red Wings and it has grown from slight interest to bordering on the edge of obsession.
Things got worse after we got EA Sports' NHL 96 for Sega Genesis with Steve Yzerman and Scott Stevens on the cover. The fact that I could play as the Red Wings whenever I wanted instead of having to wait for a TV broadcast was inticing and it also helped me to learn the players names and positions. Hell, I can probably still tell you about 90% of the roster from that year based on the game alone.
The rest of the story after the jump...
After that, it developed into playing street hockey in the backyard where of course as the youngest I was forced to play goalie and be fired upon by the two older brothers. Being from a town in Virginia that had limited hockey equipment other than the staples of sticks and helmets, I was forced to play goalie with soccer shin guard, a baseball glove, another shin guard for a blocker, and a couch cushion for the chest protector. I probably, wait I did look ridiculous but the fact that I was playing was enough for me. Jesse spent his hard earned money on a set of goalie leg pads, a real chest protector that didn't forfeit someone's seat, a real goalie mitt, blocker and stick, and even a subscription to a goaltender magazine. I swore I was going to be the next Chris Osgood but the lack of local youth teams quickly stomped out that idea. That ended my hopes of being a goalie but it would have been impossible to end my fascination with the game and the Wings.
I remember the Lemieux hit on Draper and the ensuing brawl the following year. Patrick Roy being clotheslined by Brendan Shanahan en route to Mike Vernon was one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen in a game. The intensity of the Colorado/Detroit rivalry boosted my passion for the game and for the team. Winning the Cup that year was even more of a boost but it was also bittersweet. Like many, I was utterly heartbroken by the limousine accident that ended Vladimir Konstantinov's career. Vladdy was my favorite Red Wing in the short time from when I began following the Wings until the accident. I still get giddy when I see Vladdy in an interview or in the owner's box at the Joe. I remember McCarty's epic goal in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Flyers or Lapointe's blast from outside the faceoff circle that beat Patrick Roy in the playoffs. One of the best memories as a Wings fan was jumping up and down hugging my brother while watching the Wings win the Cup against the Hurricanes.
I got my first Red Wings jersey at Christmas when I was about 10 or 11. Jesse handed me the box and as I opened it and folded back the tissue paper, the sight of the Winged Wheel on a white jersey made me just about pee myself. It was an authentic white #14 Brendan Shanahan jersey and it was massive on me at the time but barely fits me now. I played hockey in it constantly and it became my second skin during hockey season, much like my current Wings jersey is my second skin. Even though Shanahan's gone and the jersey doesn't fit, the jersey will never be hidden away.
I feel very fortunate to see more Stanley Cup wins in my lifetime than many franchises have ever seen. I've been through the humiliating first round exits too. The recent lost season briefly diminished my interest in hockey but that has since recovered and actually gone higher than ever before with the 2008 Cup win and a better understanding of the inner workings of the game.
In June, both of my brothers moved across the country. One of the last things we did together was watch the Finals against Pittsburgh. Even though it was a series loss, there was nothing I would have rather done than spend that time watching the team we grew up together cheering for. With Ozzie back in net, it was like I was 10 years old again watching the Wings in my Shanahan jersey. To me, the Wings are not just a sports team but rather something that stemmed from my childhood with my brothers and without them, I wouldn't be writing this article right now. But I am and it's something I can't thank them enough for.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading my personal account of becoming a Wings fan. I probably rambled a bit, but it's hard to encapsulate my lifetime of Red Wings memories without doing so. Feel free to post a comment with your own personal Wings story or create a fanpost with the same thing. We love reading this stuff and the uniqueness of everyone's story is fascinating to me.