Though many people will deny it to the end, the rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings may never die. It certainly has not died yet. Here at MHH, we make no effort to hide this, as last night's game thread will attest. Watching the Avs beat the Wings will always bring us joy, will always make us proud, and will always feel like good triumphing over evil.
There's no doubt that the rivalry is not the same as it was before. The Blood Feud days are over. But even though the original players are nearly completely gone, and though the teams have transitioned or are transitioning into less-dominant positions in the league, the deep hatred between their fan bases persists.
Red Wings fans would have you believe that hatred for the Avalanche is now below them. Their team has become so dominant, and the Avs so terrible, that Colorado is now unworthy of their ire. Why would a team so consitently atop the Western Conference stoop to worry about a former rival suffering through the darkest days of their franchise's history?
While most Wings fans seem to live in denial of the rivalry's persistence, there is little doubt many of them harbor the same hatred for us that we still hold for them. What else would inspire a Detroit fan to visit the blog of the Avs' newspaper beat writer just to publicly ridicule and disparage the family of the other team's star 18 year-old rookie? Maybe Detroit fans are just so bored that they literally have nothing else to do, but I doubt it. In Detroit, there's always a fire to set or a house to bulldoze. In truth, those hateful, juvenile comments left by Wings fans on Adrian Dater's recent blog post were motivated by their deep hatred for anything having to do with the Colorado Avalanche.
Those comments, now deleted despite Dater's initial failed attempts to erase them, were typical of the kind of petty, juvenile hatred we're used to seeing on Wings' blogs and message boards. They're really nothing new. The controversy, if there is one at all, arose from Dater's inability to effectively moderate his blog's comments section. He felt forced to harshly respond to trolls and he subsequently alienated some of his readers by doing so.
One of the strengths of Mile High Hockey, I think, has been our willingness to shut down trolls when they appear. Blatantly hateful and petty comments by fans of opposing teams are erased and the writers are banned. Sometimes we've been able to do this so quickly that most readers and commenters never knew they were there at all.
While this may strike some as heavy-handed or contrary to higher standards of free speech, it works very well at maintaining order and civility. And let's not kid ourselves, Mile High Hockey is not a democratic society. It's a community of fans, but a heavily-moderated community. While we foster spirited discussions and disagreements, we do not tolerate hateful comments from trolls just looking for an angry reaction. This policy, which has worked very well for more than two years, will never change.
I believe, from both experience and faith, that Avalanche fans as a whole are more mature and more civil than Red Wings fans. I also believe that our team's recent troubles have made us more humble and also more appreciative of any small victories our boys in Burgundy and Blue may achieve throughout the season. Wings fans have not had to endure the indignity of missing the playoffs or finishing near the bottom of the pile in many, many years. They've become spoiled and obnoxious because of it. This fact rears its ugly head periodically, as it did on Dater's blog, when Wings fans ridicule Steve Moore, the victim of a shameless attack, a broken neck, and a ruined career. It also becomes apparent when Wings fans criticize the physical appearance of the women in Matt Duchene's family.
It's one thing to make fun of the opposing team's city, or their arena, or their players on the ice, or their fans as a whole. It's another to stoop so low as to make fun of serious injuries* or make sexist jokes at the expense of family members. We here at MHH will continue to hate the Wings, always and forever, but we'll do so without shedding our dignity.
*In the past, some MHH members have made fun of the major injuries suffered by Kris Draper in 1996 when he was hit from behind by Claude Lemieux. I discourage these kinds of jokes and will continue to do so. I hate Kris Draper and think he's one of the dirtiest players in recent league history, but I'll never wish injury or suffering on anyone, even a Red Wings player.