The Value of Home Ice

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Red Wings Canucks

It has been suggested that due to the Canucks being close to assured to winning the NW division, they may be somewhat lacking for motivation these days. However, if Canuck fans were to turn their eyes east to Detroit Michigan they would see just the reason the Canucks need to kick it into high gear.

I speak of course of the Detroit Red Wings and their recent equaling of the longstanding NHL record of, twenty straight home ice wins held by both the 1929/30 Bruins and the 1975/76 Flyers. This recent rattling off of 20 straight puts the overall Detroit home record at 23-2-1, while their road record is a more modest 15-15-1. The Red Wings currently sit a top the Western Conference standings four points ahead of the Canucks. Should these teams meet in the playoffs home ice advantage could be a key factor in determining the outcome, thus making it beneficial for the Canucks cup aspirations to rope in those perennially strong wheeled Wings.

Normally, I am skeptical about the so-called “home-ice advantage” in this age of cookie-cutter arenas and charter plane travel but I rather believe that this is one of those few instances in which it may be key. Firstly, on home-ice a Wings team headed by the indomitable Mike Babcock is able to utilize the last change to full effect by getting their desired matchup all game long. Secondly, the Joe Louis arena, which is a throwback to the times before they served wine at hockey games, is as close as it comes to an imposing place to play for opposition teams. With 20,066 fans right on top of the playing surface this single-purpose rink named not after a corporation but rather refreshingly, after a boxing icon is one of perhaps two NHL barns left in use that can be said to have mystique (Madison Square Gardens being the other).

Twenty consecutive home wins is adequate evidence of this local advantage, however as impressive as the feat is, in my books it does not count as the record. Three of the Wings win in this streak have come via the shootout a luxury neither the 1929/30 Bruins nor the 1975/76 Flyers had. Consequently by this logic to break the record Detroit will need to get to 24 wins. If they can vanquish the Stars, Preds, and Sharks their opportunity to hit 24 will come on February 23 when they play host to the Vancouver Canucks in a game that may be as critical to playoff standing as it is to home-ice immortality.

Photograph by: Julian H. Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press

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Ian Ross 

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