Next time you watch a pro game on TV, check out the people in the crowd, specifically those wearing gear from the visiting team. Some of it isn't so surprising, like when the rabid Steeler fans descend on Cleveland for a game with the Browns, because it's not that far a drive, and tickets are probably readily available. Other times it makes me wonder.... Who's the King of the Road when it comes to fans?
In the NHL, my guess would be the Detroit Red Wings. It seems like no matter where they play, there's always a sizable contingent sporting the winged wheel and cheering on their heroes. That begs the question -- where do they come from? The ones directly behind the visitor's bench can most likely be attributed to friends and family of the players themselves, because every visiting team gets a certain allotment in that regard. But what of those scattered amongst the crowd -- sometimes many?
Do hard core fans spend big bucks on air fare, motels, and scalpers' prices for tickets just to get into the game? Maybe. Is it part of a vacation plan? Could be. Are they former Detroiters that retired and moved into that particular community? Possibly.
I can understand people taking off for a vacation to places like NY, Boston, or LA, because there's a lot of stuff to see and do in those cities. And what better time to plan it than if the Red Wings will be in town? If they can afford the other prices in those cities, then they can afford a hockey game.
Retirees? Being a native Michigander, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that when most people from this state retire and relocate, it's down south -- or out west. Someplace where it's warmer in the wintertime. Places like Tampa Bay, Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, Carolina, Colorado, or maybe Anaheim. Even San Jose isn't too bad.
But wait a minute. Nobody takes a vacation in Buffalo, Minnesota, or Vancouver in the wintertime. It's too cold. That would be like vacationing in the blistering heat of Miami in the middle of August. It doesn't make sense.
And what retiree in their right mind, after working 40-50 years in Michigan, would want to spend their golden years in frigid remote outposts like Edmonton or Calgary? If they thought January and February in Michigan were bad, wait until they go through a winter of THAT. Buffalo would start looking good. For that matter, Afghanistan or Iraq might start looking good, hockey or no hockey. Montreal, while cold, is more citified, but if they can't speak fluent French, they'll be ignored, treated like schmucks, and never be able to order anything in a restaurant. What kind of life is that for a retiree?
Yet Red Wings' fans pop up in all these places and every other arena throughout the hockey season. How it all works -- I have no idea -- but it does, and I salute them.
I didn't mention New Jersey. According to my friend Mel, formerly of Brooklyn, NY, and now chasing the pretty girls all over the state of Florida, NOBODY goes to New Jersey -- unless they have to. Like for a Jets game.
A look at Road Kings from other pro sports next time.....