For years the Anaheim Ducks have been tied to the Kings for the whole geographic rivalry thing. It never made a lot of sense to me. The Ducks didn't enter the league until the '93-'94 season. I had just turned 10. I had already spent years cheering the Kings, because they were the Southern California hockey team. It seems strange to HATE a team I actually spent a few years cheering for. I imagine more than a few Ducks fans grew up the same way. As a Southern California native, I know the only thing that fuels the rivalry with the Kings is that people from Orange County hate L.A. Let's be honest for a second: no Gretzky in L.A. means no hockey in Anaheim.
I've always been a firm believer that the only thing that creates a rivalry is playoff battles. Regular season tilts just don't have the consequences to develop a real rivalry. There's something unique about playing the same team game after game after game with the Cup as the prize that really brings out the hate. You can't hate somebody until they've crushed your dreams over and over again. As such, I can't really hate the Kings.
There are teams I don't like. The Predators come to mind. It's hard to enjoy a franchise whose fans get really excited for a first round victory. I don't like the Stars. Mike Modano threw too much hate during the 2003 series and I'll never forgive Craig Ludwig for that elbow on Selanne.
There was a line brawl. The Stars are horrible. But I don't hate them. Plus, we lead the playoff series total 2-1, so why keep any hate.
There was a playoff series against San Jose, but the Sharks are such a disaster Obama is thinking of offering federal aid for their rebuild. If anything, I feel bad for San Jose fans; their team hates them.
Now that we've dismissed the usual suspects, there's only one team left: The red wings. I don't capitalize their name, because I hate them. I will capitalize the city though, because there's probably some people who live there that aren't red wings fans. I imagine they are good people. The red wings are the source of my hockey ire. Anaheim fans had a rough life in the beginning, living under the shadow of the Disney gimmick. We loved our hockey and it mostly didn't matter to us that Disney was using it as a marketing ploy. We were lucky that we didn't have to wait too long for the playoffs. That trip to the playoffs was vindication, proof that Anaheim hockey was serious hockey. What happened? We were swept away by Detroit. Two seasons later, it happened again. Yes, three games of the 1997 series went to overtime, but the only consolation prize in the playoffs is not getting swept. For nine years, the only thing to show for the Mighty Ducks' existence was a pair of dismissals from the red wings, and a seven game series win over Phoenix. Although, the only people who care about Phoenix are trying to move the organization someplace else. Detroit was between us and being a respectable hockey franchise.
It was embarrassing. It wasn't just that the red wings beat us; you can't deny how talented those teams were. It was that the Detroit/Anaheim series were at the forefront of the culture war that emerged from Gary Bettman's sunbelt expansion. Detroit was original six royalty and Anaheim was a gimmick from a greedy Bettman and greedier Disney. Detroit rarely faced criticism for anything. The players could do no wrong, except Chris Osgood who must have said something about somebody's momma to be judged so harshly for winning games. Meanwhile, the Ducks were just the Dynamic Duo-Kariya and Selanne.
2003 was vindication for the Ducks and pain for the red wings, a chance to repeat foiled by a Southern California upstart. In 2007 Detroit was denied another Cup. Make no mistake, that team would have beaten the Senators too. But then you there was Kronwall...
I'd like to go full Tonya Harding on Kronwall. He plays without any concern for other players on the ice. He leaves his feet regularly, and I hate him. I hate the way red wing fans irrationally defend him with that nonsense follow through argument. That man is worthy of all of my hate.
Ducks/red wings is a quintessential battle of old guard versus vanguard. It wasn't the colisseum battle that Colorado/Detroit was in the 90s, but it was a special kind of intense. Never let a red wing fan lie to you about how much they hate Anaheim. This was a perfect hockey rivalry. There were the past shadows of Detroit dominance that the Ducks had to battle through. The red wings had to overcome being beaten by their little brother to regain their original six pride. Three times in six post seasons the Ducks and red wings met, and four times the winner represented the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup final. There was playoff familiarity that burned into regular season matchups. It was arguably the best rivalry in the league for nearly a decade. It was a subtle rivalry, and those tend to burn fiercer. Kings/Ducks makes sense. Shark/Ducks makes sense. Anaheim/Detroit was the rivalry that should not have mattered. It should have been all red wings all the time. Instead, they were forced to trade blows with an upstart. Openly admitting the intensity of the rivalry would have been a dent in Detroit's armor. But that hate was so visible on the ice, and the hockey was beautiful.
I've seen 24 playoff series as a Ducks fan. Six of them were against Detroit. I hate them. Mostly, I hate that they've been able to retreat to the softer Eastern Conference, where they will forever hold the series lead because they'll avoid us by not making a Stanley Cup final for another 15-20 years. Whenvever I think the world is too horrible a place to continue to function, I remember that red wings fans are about to endure the second coming of the 80s and joy fills my heart.
There will always be teams I dislike, but nothing will match the fervor with which I hate the wings. They darkened my playoff door too many times. I hate Murray for not putting together teams that could beat the red wings and give us the series lead before they fled to the East. Maybe 10-15 years from now, with the new playoff format, I'll learn to hate somebody else. For now, the red wings are the largest part of Ducks playoff history. I am tired of them, but I will miss them, a true sign of a rival. You are worthy of my hate Detroit, and I do hate you.