Western Conference Final: Detroit expecting a nightly serenade in Chicago
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DETROIT -- The chant from the Blackhawks' crowd at the United Center is simple but gets its point across.
"Detroit s---- (rhymes with pucks)! Detroit s----!"
Get the picture?
This is how the Red Wings are expected to be serenaded before, during and after the upcoming two Western Conference final games in Chicago, but this is nothing new between the Original Six rivals.
The Red Wings have a 2-0 lead against the young Blackhawks, playing in their first conference finals since 1995, heading into tonight's Game 3. This is the first of two games at the United Center.
Brett Lebda, in his fourth season with the Red Wings, grew up about a half-hour north of Chicago in Buffalo Grove and was a Blackhawks fan. If anyone understands the mindset of the typical Blackhawks fan, Lebda figures he has as good a grasp as any.
Hey, that whole thing about Detroit?
That's just all in fun.
"It's just a chant, [and] it's been going on for a long time," Lebda said yesterday after practice at Joe Louis Arena. "It's kind of like tradition. It's an Original Six rivalry and you've got to look at it as flattering going in there.
"If you ask any intelligent Blackhawks fan if the Red Wings really s--- (rhymes with puck) if they say, 'Yeah,' well, I think, obviously, history speaks for itself.
"I think it's just part of that rivalry. It's a fun thing for them to do."
This begs the question -- does this mean Lebda chanted along with The Chant?
"I think it was more just something you did when you went to the game," he said, matter-of-factly.
"It was something that became tradition and kind of stuck with it."
Guilty! So he did join in the chant!
Lebda laughed at the revelation.
"I take everything back," he said, chuckling.
That was then and this is now, and Lebda certainly is more in tune with trying to get the Red Wings back to the Stanley Cup final, although he is proud, as a native of the Chicago area, to see the Blackhawks finally becoming a major player in the NHL postseason.
The anti-Detroit chant is so much a part of the Blackhawks' fan base, the organization a few years ago enlisted the help of actor Jeremy Piven, who grew up near Chicago and is a noted sports fan.
In the advertising spot that was used to drive interest and ticket sales, Piven speaks of going to the Blackhawks games as a child with his father.
Much of what his father taught him, he said in the ad, was learned going to those games. In fact, it could all be summed up in two simple words. At that point, the camera pans back, and Piven, all alone in the United Center, begins to chant those two words .
"Good stuff," he said at the end.
"I don't know why Jeremy would have done that, but it seems to have stuck," Chicagoan Chris Chelios, the former Blackhawk-turned-Red Wing and a friend of Piven's, said.
Of course, not all Chicago fans hate Detroit.
At least that's what John Funteas said. Funteas, who along with his friend who goes by BlackhawkBob, are the editors of Fifthfeather.com, a Web site created in November featuring "intelligent" commentary and other enlightenment regarding all things Blackhawks.
Funteas understands the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry and why there is such an anti-Detroit stance, but he distances himself and his readers from those Blackhawks fans who verbally poke the Red Wings.
"I think it's more the fact that when our teams are bad in Chicago, we look for a reason to hate someone else," Funteas said. "A lot of fans just hang onto the past -- we hated the Wings then, and we still hate them now."
Chelios, who played nearly a decade for the Blackhawks and was a member of the 1994-95 team that lost to the Red Wings in their most recent Western Conference final appearance, likes the rivalry and enjoys the spirited verbal combat between two cities.
"These are two cities right next door to each other, and any chance either one gets to take a shot at the other one, they will," Chelios said.
First Published May 22, 2009 12:00 am