A declaration in this space two weeks ago that the Ducks would defeat the Red Wings in the Western Conference finals — and that Detroit could no longer call itself Hockeytown because games at Joe Louis Arena weren't selling out — generated hundreds of impassioned responses.
Some were even free of obscenities.
Red Wings fans, many of whom listed return addresses in Arizona, Texas or Tennessee, indignantly defended their team and the city's puck passion. The NHL may have a comparatively small audience south of the Canadian border, but its followers are unmatched in their devotion.
But a disappointing number of those "fans" channeled that passion into hate and skipped rational arguments to spew sexist venom.
A sampling, minus the expletives but with spelling and grammar intact:
"If Detroit wins, your gonna be gettiing a [ton] more emails from me you [prostitute]. Why don't you report on your own teams from now on. Like the Kings, where are they? Or the Lakers? Women should stick to writing articles about cooking and homemaking and NOT sports, cuz its obvious you have no idea what....you are talking about, [Don Imus word]."
"You have no idea what your baby ducks are in for! A woman writing about hockey in southern California! Leave the hockey to us sweetheart!"
"You are one cocky writer. I am going to remember that damn story and if the wings win the series, I'm gonna laugh in your face via e-mail. If there's one kind of writer I have no respect for, it's a writer exactly like you who writes worthless … like that.
"I'm surprised your man let you out of the kitchen long enough to write this article. You don't know much about sports, so you should stick to cleaning the house."
"Of course what do women know about hockey anyway. Go back to the kitchen and make me something to eat."
Which segues into a proposed menu:
"Stick to what you in California know intimately. Granola."
And insults directed at L.A.:
"You just showed on little you know about hockey write about something you know like smog, gangs, traffic, pollution. Stuff everyone in LA can relate too."
Then there was the generic curse:
"Burn in Hockey Hell."
The Ducks eliminated the Red Wings in six games and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, but the idea here isn't to gloat.
It's to suggest that the unprecedented torrents of anger sent this way are better aimed at Mike Ilitch, the Red Wings' owner, and the club executives who set playoff ticket prices too high for an area that has been gut-punched by the auto industry's decline, the departure of Comerica Bank's headquarters for Texas and growing unemployment.
The Red Wings didn't sell out any of nine home playoff games, ending a streak of 452 consecutive sellouts. Although the announced attendance was often close to capacity — NHL teams announce tickets distributed, not people in the building — the large clusters of empty seats told of an economic alienation that will become an emotional divorce if the Red Wings don't return some of the loyalty they've long enjoyed.
The recent success of the Tigers and Pistons has diverted some fans away from the Red Wings. That, coupled with the Red Wings' early playoff exits the last few seasons, left fans cautious about investing their money and hope in a team they weren't sure would go far, especially because the investment required was sizable.
The average regular-season Red Wings ticket cost $43.13, according to Team Marketing Report, but the cheapest first-round playoff ticket was $63 and the top was $144. That increased with each round and topped out at $225 for the conference finals. The Pistons sold 1,000 tickets for the first round at $12 each and their lowest price for the conference finals is $24.
Many fans who sent e-mails this way said they couldn't afford Stanley Cup playoff tickets after they had shared season tickets with friends and built vacations around Red Wings trips. Some felt doubly disrespected because they couldn't get Versus, the obscure cable TV network that had exclusive U.S. rights to the conference finals.
A restaurant manager and longtime Red Wings fan said poor business had led her company to close 10 of its 12 restaurants. She must turn away job applicants every day. "People like us are the true hockey town," she wrote. "We're still here, we're just broke."
Another fan said the slump in the auto industry forces people "to make decisions like whether the car payment gets made or junior gets lunch money this week. The cost of tickets is out of reach for many people who in the past were able to go to these games and cheer the Wings to Lord Stanley's prize."
What happened to the lower ticket prices NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said would accompany the new economic system that he killed the 2004-05 season to get?
The Ducks won the West, but every fan loses when Hockeytown suffers. We share your pain, though not the sexist sentiments.