They return tonight to a familiar place where they’ve often felt abandoned, betrayed, unloved.
A home, after all, is reputed to be a man’s castle. Home is supposed to be where the heart, not the heartbreak, is.
On more occasions than they care to recall of late, the Calgary Flames have trudged off the ice at the end of a deflating evening with the sound of catcalls clanging like incessant church bells, in Dolby stereo, between their ear lobes.
Poor Calgary. But if you noticed in the game against Detroit, the fans didn't wait until the end of the game to bring out the "boo birds". Here's what Eric Nystrom had to say about the Calgary faithful...
“We don’t feel great — we’re in a tie game and our fans our booing the power play"
There's more, and keep in mind this quote was from a few days ago:
"It’s not like we’re 20 points out. There’s 13 games left. We’re three points out. If that’s out, I don’t know — geez — what these people expect.’’
Nystrom sounds a little combative, doesn't he? Probably not a good idea to say things like to the press with player-turnover being what it is in Calgary these days, but then again...
Anyway, the coach took had this to say about the team's abysmal home record...
“We started out OK, but it’s become a real issue most of the season. As coach, I’ll take the responsibility. But the last few games here, we’ve been more assertive at home, harder to play against, and that’s been encouraging. Detroit the other night was a 1-1 game right until the end against another desperate team and I thought for the most part we competed hard."--Brent Sutter
When asked about the booing, he had a much more diplomatic response:
“I don’t really give it much thought, to be honest. I’m concentrating on what’s going on in the game. I do understand how passionate our fans are. They breathe and bleed red. They care. And you want ’em to care. I know they’re frustrated. Hey, we’re frustrated, too."
The Red Wings can have that effect on teams and they're fans. Good thing the Flames didn't lose to Pinky's Wild on home ice yesterday, they might not have made it out of the building.
The Red Wings haven't really been experiencing this despite being only 3 points clear of Calgary. And I find that a little interesting.
On one side you have the Detroit fans, spoiled for years getting less than what they expected. On the other side, you have the Calgary crowd, growing more and more frustrated after years of early round exits since making the Stanley Cup Finals.
Now I know this has been mostly a frustrating season for the Wings, but I can't recall a time when Joe Louis Arena was actually booing the Wings. I suppose the crowd at JLA may have been unhappy with a performance or two from time to time, but do you think we've ever made the players feel like Eric Nystrom?
Is it a matter of class? Is it faith in the organ-i-zation? Is it pure unadulterated passion for their team? My easy cop-out answer would be a gray mixture of all three plus other factors.
What do you think?