On Thursday night, the Detroit Lions beat their rival Green Bay Packers 34-20 on Thursday Night Football. Watching the game in between some NHL preseason action, we asked ourselves two questions.
First, wouldn’t Lambeau Field make a great setting for an NHL outdoor game (we’ve already asked ourselves that many times, take note Bettman)? Second, how would this affect the Detroit Red Wings?
A football team affecting a hockey team might sound weird so let us explain. Detroit has been longing for a winning sports team for years. Since the Red Wings’ impressive playoff streak ended in 2016, only one Detroit sports team has even made the playoffs.
The Detroit Pistons were swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs in 2018-2019. Now that the “loveable losers” of the historically bad Lions have shown some promise, the city has rallied around them. Just look at the crowds that traveled to Green Bay to watch the Lions be victorious.
The Detroit Red Wings need to get good now that the Detroit Lions are good.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings are stuck in their rebuild. General manager Steve Yzerman has taken a patient approach and fans have been patient that he isn’t trying to rush the job. After so many years of the “Yzerplan”, you might expect some more progress.
The team has been filled with high (but maybe not high enough) draft picks. Being cup contenders might be an unrealistic goal but after seven years of misery, at least a playoff spot should have been expected by now.
Yet, the closest Detroit has got was holding the second wild card in the East for one day late last season before imploding down the stretch.
The Red Wings have seemingly been the gold standard for Detroit area sports, winning four cups since 1997 and have almost three straight decades of contention. A rebuild was inevitable though after 2016 ended.
With another season of “maybe next year” potentially facing the Red Wings and the Lions becoming a loveable juggernaut, the Red Wings might be losing attention among motor city sports fans. That might not be surprising for another city but this is “Hockeytown” after all.
Another fun fact is that the Red Wings and the Detroit Lions, the city’s MLB team, both share the same ownership group in the Ilitch family. The Tigers are infamously in the midst of a failed rebuild themselves.
High draft picks and pricey free-agent acquisitions haven’t turned the tide for the city’s baseball team with the Red Wings only doing marginally better.
Seeing their pigskin-throwing neighbors do better just across the way might lead the Ilitch family to get impatient with the complacency of their own teams. Maybe that convinces them to make a few impulsive moves in hopes of a return to contention.
Yes, there are several differences, both in the business side and roster construction, between the NFL and NHL.
Yes, more is expected out of the Detroit Red Wings this year, especially after their mini-blockbuster acquisition of Alex DeBrincat. With every bit of success the Detroit Lions continue to have, the lack of success the Red Wings have will be amplified in hockey town.