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A Personal Thank You to the Detroit Red Wings

What are you thankful for?

NHL: Nashville Predators at Detroit Red Wings
I’m thankful for all of these guys, despite their usage and Corsi.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Thanksgiving is the time of year where we reflect on our good fortunes and express thanks for the things we are grateful for. We get sentimental and speak of our families and friends, the ability to provide for those we love, for health and happiness. Mentioning sports in the mix of all these more “real” things to be thankful for almost seems frivolous.

When I was in high school, I thought I’d had it all figured out. I had great grades and would be going to an excellent college with a reputation for molding well-rounded candidates for medical school. I all but had “where do you see yourself in five years?” answered down to the exact classes I’d be taking each semester. The prospect of further education wasn’t intimidating, but a challenge I was excited to take on.

Life, of course, often takes different courses than we expect. The grind of school and the pre-medicine pathway really started taking its toll on me in my junior year of college. Studying got harder and I was quickly losing motivation toward the goal I had dreamed of for so long—the only career I’d ever considered. My social life took a serious blow. I didn’t have much other than homework and lots of stress that I suddenly couldn’t handle.

I finally got the diagnosis this summer after months of my own suspicions and years of my parents’ concerns—generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder. Reading those words hit me like a punch to the gut, and I was suddenly seeing the rest of my life under a new lens. There was so much that made more sense, and the gravity of the time I’d lost and relationships that had suffered in the meantime was so much more real.

I say all this not because I’m brave or want sympathy—I’m not and I don’t. I want to illustrate just how thankful I am for the Detroit Red Wings, and that I became a fan when I did, because I truly don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t.

My junior year, when I was in that downward slope, was when I started really following hockey, in the shortened season of 2013. The first season after the retirement of Nicklas Lidström saw the Red Wings as a team looking to build a new identity now that the last of the great players from the dynastic nineties had left them. The team had its struggles in that lockout-marred year, but I took all of it in. I dove into fandom headfirst, learned what I could about the team’s players and prospects, watched games whenever possible, sought out other fans to learn more about the game. I can look back now and say I overdid it then, but at the time I didn’t care. I’d found something to make me feel things again. I could immerse myself into a team and go through the emotional highs and lows of games, a season, and hard-fought playoff series.

I’m not going to pretend that everything was fine and dandy after I’d found the Wings, because that’s not how things work either. The only years I can call myself a true fan haven’t been easy for Detroit, and I found myself taking a long and much-needed hiatus this summer when negativity surrounding the team reached a boiling point, fueled by a second consecutive exit from the playoffs by Tampa Bay in the first round. I let myself release some of the hold on hockey that I’d tied so tightly to my own emotions. I got a lot of things figured out in that time and life is starting to make a ton more sense.

The Detroit Red Wings are perfectly imperfect; I love them because of and despite this fact. They gave me so much more than I could have expected from a sports team. Again, I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t found them when I did.

So thank you, Pavel Datsyuk, for showing me how dazzling the game of hockey could be. Thank you, Darren Helm, for being my first favorite player (and my screen namesake!). Thank you, Henrik Zetterberg, for captaining the team as I know it. And thank you, Detroit Red Wings, for being my light in a dark place, an inspiration when a little happiness was all I needed some days. This year, I am thankful that you are my team.