I know I am making too much of this Stanley Cup series, but I can’t help myself. The re-match that has the champion Detroit Red Wings defending against the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins holds allegorical fascination for me.
In my heart, this series has nothing to do with hockey and everything to do with a tale of two rust-belt cities.
Pittsburgh, the former steel capital of the world, brilliantly reinvented itself after the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s. It was a time for that city every bit as heartbreaking and tragic as the collapsing automotive industry is today for Detroit. Since then, Pittsburgh has moved forward, grown and prospered, its renaissance a lesson in rising from ashes.
Detroit is struggling to wrest itself from the death grip of economic tragedy and political foolishness; it finds itself balancing shakily atop a tightrope with no safety net below and the winds of change blowing fast and furious. There is nothing certain about its future.
A Stanley Cup win again this year would mean so much to Detroit, the once-great city known as the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II. The Stanley Cup would bolster its confidence, help its balance and give it hope. If there ever were a city in need, it’s Detroit: Consider that the nation’s unemployment rate hovers at about 7 percent, and Michigan’s just below 13 percent; Detroit’s clocks in at a staggering 22 percent, over three times that of the national average.
But the truth is fate doesn’t hand lifelines to those who need them most; if it did, there would be no starving children in the world.
So, I continue to watch these grueling, brutal, nail-biting games in the privacy of my living room, where no one except my husband and kid can hear me cheer and wail. For me, it’s difficult to separate hockey from reality, power plays from unemployment lines; new wave from old school; Sidney Crosby from Henrik Zetterberg. Sports, a co-worker once told me, are important because they’re all about life; finally, I think I know what he meant.