I can tell you the exact moment I realized the NHL offices did not like the Red Wings.
In 2001, the Wings were the two-seed, facing the L.A. Kings as the seven-seed. The Wings were very heavy favorites to win the series. Most people assumed a two-round walkover to set up an Avs/Wings Western Conference Final.
However, the Kings, who were not supposed to make the playoffs (IIRC, they made it in the last two days of the regular season), had a slight problem: the Staples Center was heavily booked during the period when they would've hosted games 3 and 4 of the first round of the series. Now, it's your responsibility as a professional sports franchise to try to figure out where to play your games, and to leave dates open for playoff games.
Faced with this, the NHL released a schedule with this mind-boggling schedule for games 2 and 3:
Game 2: Saturday 3:00pm ET @ Detroit
Game 3: Sunday 8:30pm PT @ LA.
So the Wings would have to play a weird (read: capitulation to TV rights holder) start time, then fly cross-country to play their next game at 11:30 p.m. ET Why so late? The Lakers had an afternoon start, and they had to allow enough time to pull up the boards and get the ice prepped. Not surprisingly, the Wings played like crap in game 3, blew the two-game lead, and lost the series in 6.
To this day, I believe the Red Wings should've told the league no, to the point of forfeiting game 3. The league should've told the Kings to go find another rink, even if it was an inconvenience to them. And at that point, I became convinced that the NHL despised the Red Wings, to the point of embarassment.
This leads us to the non-secret secret: the Wings/Hawks game at Wrigley next New Years Day. Let me be clear: I will be there. The phrase "Money is no object" has been muttered more than once by yours truly, for a number of reasons: I am a Wings fan, I love Chicago, but most important of all, it's at freaking Wrigley Field! To put it another way: if they announced the game was at Soldier Field, I'd enjoy the game from the comfort and privacy of my couch. Instead, I will be at Salt & Pepper at 6 a.m,, eating my traditional breakfast and stocking up on memory cards.
But why? Why disrupt the long-standing tradition of the New Years Eve game? In fact, why not just have an outdoor game in Detroit (even if it's not in 2009)?
The answer is simple: The NHL hates this franchise. To be clear, I definitely don't think this affects the contests proper. But I do think they have made it pretty clear they don't care at all about this franchise, from the absurd decision to put them in the Western Conference to pairing them with those hockey hotbeds of Columbus and Nashville and playing them eight times a season to locking out the conferences, meaning seeing the Leafs, Rangers, Bruins, and Pens at home exactly once every three years.
There's nothing much the Wings can do. But I do think someone at 600 Civic Center needs to start trying to mend fences.