Hockeytown Alive and Kicking

My ears are still ringing just a little.

I sat in the seats I’ve sat in since Joe Louis Arena was built and watched as the lights dimmed and the ice lit purple under black lights. The wheeled wing danced on the ice, then an image of the shiny silver Stanley Cup. The crowd erupted in tinny cacophony. Atop the scoreboard flames leapt toward the roof, and the crowd roared even louder.

It was the perfect thing to do the night before my former husband moves out of our house.

As I sat in the red plastic swingy seats in row 6 like I’d done since I was a kid, I was overcome with joy. Memories danced in my mind:

the winning game that clinched the cup after 42 years of victory drought

countless New Year’s Eves with my sister, brother, and parents, eating first at Joe Muer’s, then cheering ourselves hoarse at the game, then returning home to watch the ball drop on TV as we nodded asleep on the couch

swiping at tears in my eyes as Steve Yzerman’s number 19 jersey was raised to hang with honor alongside Red Wings greats Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Ted Lindsay

and though I don’t remember it, I cling to the story I’ve been told over and over of my very first Red Wings game, at Olympia Stadium, on my daddy’s lap. I was 4.

I am only beginning to emerge from a terrible marriage and a disappointing journey through religious awakening and an attempt to build a life with someone who never knew how to be truly close. And yet, I am so so happy.

I love where I live. Yes, that’s the same place that all the newspapers tout as having the most dismal economy, the lowest home values, the most foreclosures, and the worst bout of unemployment. I love it all the same because we are a town that bands together against the odds. When outsiders shake their heads and turn up their noses at the idea of Detroit – “why would you live there?” – I just shake my head. This is home. This is a provincial city of hard-workers who are fiercely loyal and have great team spirit.

The Pistons are winning, too, you know. We win a lot, even if you think we lose.

In all the years that I was unhappily married, I fantasized about living in the mountains, about moving to the sea, about relocating to New York City, thinking that a new place would have in its streets and in the contours of its hills, all the answers that I sought.

I know better now.

Geography doesn’t change a situation. We can’t be made whole by a place or seek a sense of place when what we really need is a sense of confidence.

That comes from inside. I’m glad I had the good fortune to gain a second chance. We don’t get many in life, so I’m taking this one very, very seriously.

In the row behind my dad’s friends tonight sat five or six of the top NHL draft picks from all over the world, invited by the Red Wings to witness their greatness on ice. These young men – 18, 19 years old at most – wore sharp suits and thumbed their way through text messages during TV timeouts. The next class of superstars, perhaps, eager to be a part of my hometown.

I leave this marriage on top of the world. It’s the best place to be.

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  2 comments for “Hockeytown Alive and Kicking

  1. May 27, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Great post.
    I, too, was struck by the way people “turn their noses up” when they hear I live in the Detroit area. (Full confession: when we knew were were going to be transferred here 24 years ago we thought we were being sent to Siberia.) Turns out it’s been a terrific place to live, raise kids, make lifelong friends. If only the economy were better, the tax situation for businesses more inviting, and OK, winter ended in mid-March.

    But I agree with you, people don’t understand how many great aspects there are to living here. And until they do, it’s a skinny twenty minutes between home and a major sporting event. The glass is half full.

  2. May 27, 2008 at 10:06 am

    This is a outstanding piece of writing to capture the purest element that drives real Detroiters.

    It’s not merely the score or the end result of our daily life. It’s the resolve to not be defeated, both in score of staged contest or in life’s journey. We are not New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Boston. We’re Detroit. We’re the first to say it’s not what it could be and we’re the first to stop others from taking liberty against our metro.

    Yesterday was just a hockey game, but also a great metaphor for what we Detroiters never take for granted and always savor: Our resolve to succeed, built from 100 years of sporting traditions and the generations of quality, determined people from all walks of life who have made that passion the thread & fabric of our communities.

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