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Bittersweet feeling for this Red Wings fan

May 30, 2013 - Andy Heintz
Hockey is a sport that has always lagged behind the other three major team sports. But that hasn't changed my love for the game.

I was one of those guys who struggled to get into hockey. Then I witnessed an NHL game live for the first time and I was hooked.

I became a Detroit Red Wings fan because I had an infatuation with Buffalo Sabres goalkeeper Dominic Hasek. The next year he was signed by Detroit and the rest is history.

The Game 7 loss to the Blackhawks last night stung a bit at first. Then, I stepped back and realized that it was 1-7 matchup and just getting to seven games against a heavily-favored opponent was great for the franchise. Especially since the Red Wings and their young talent were likely a year away anyway.

The loss was bittersweet. But the move from the Western to Eastern Conference this offseason is even more bittersweet. I am going to miss the Western Conference rivalries with Chicago, the St. Louis Blues, the San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche. It is sad to know that playing a Game 7 against the Blackhawks may never happen again.

On the other hand, moving to the Eastern Conference opens up the chance for new rivalries.

Those rivalries will most likely come against new division rivals -- and Original Six members -- Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadians and Toronto Maple Leafs. Other members of the new Red Wings division include the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Wings have been trying to get into the Eastern Conference for years. It makes sense. The Detroit Pistons are in the Eastern Conference in the NBA and nothing about Detroit says West to me. But neither does Nashville.

Columbus also doesn't strike me as a Western Conference team, which is why they are moving to the East along with Detroit. Winnipeg is the Eastern team moving West.

Reasons for wanting the change from the Red Wings standpoint involves less travel -- not as many trips to the West Coast -- and more matchups against those aforementioned Original Six members. The only Original Six team not in the Eastern Conference is the Chicago Blackhawks.

I will miss the rivalry with the Blackhawks. But switching conferences couldn't be a smarter move for the NHL. They can now promote their product in a different way and in a way that can help ratings. Even though the Blackhawks-Red Wings Game 7 was the highest rated sports event ever on the short-lived NBC Sports Network.

I hope the rest of the league is ready for the Red Wings next year. They fell short this year, but that roster is loaded with young talent, a top-five goalkeeper and some of the best veterans in the game today. 2013-2014 could be a special year in Detroit.


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