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Where are my tickets, Mr. Holland?

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While working on a piece about the 10th anniversary of the great Colorado/Detroit game at Joe Louis Arena, I caught myself reflecting on some of the great games I've had the fortune of seeing in Detroit during the 1990's, through a variety of means. Then another thing came to mind - when I'm in attendance, the Red Wings win. I'm on a huge personal winning streak here, so perhaps the Red Wings front office would want to bolster their chances during the upcoming playoffs and make sure I'm in the house for those critical games? I can make myself available...

June 4, 1995: Detroit takes Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals from Chicago, 3-2 (although the Hawks put one of the goalpost as the final horn sounds). Wow, has it been that long since the Blackhawks achieved anything? Ticket courtesy of a college buddy who had a spare.

October 13, 1995: The Wings pummel the Edmonton Oilers in their home opener, 9-0. After the painful Finals sweep against New Jersey the previous summer, there was a great deal of talk that Steve Yzerman was going to be traded for (gasp!) Alexei Yashin. During the pregame intros, Yzerman gets his usual thunderous ovation, while coach & GM Scotty Bowman is booed mercilessly. How times change... (ticket from a coworker)

January 17, 1996: Steve Yzerman scores his 500th goal against Patrick Roy as the Red Wings beat the Avalanche. My department at work won a company contest, and we got treated to dinner in Greektown and tickets to the game.

February 19th, 1997: The Red Wings beat Calgary in Yzerman's 1000th career NHL game (scored tickets from a different coworker).

March 26, 1997 (Avs/Red Wings): More about that in the next post (press pass via In The Crease). Wings won 6-5 in overtime.

Games 3 & 4, 1997 Stanley Cup Finals: Landing these tickets is a story worth telling - back then, when corporations were just making their push onto the World Wide Web, Duracell Batteries posted a contest on their website to win tickets to Games 3 & 4 of the Cup Finals that season. They included a little Java-based game on their web page, with a shooter trying to beat a computer goalie, and whoever posted the best score over the course of a month would win the prize (tickets to both games for two, airfare, hotel, and $500 spending cash). While checking this out from work, I found the game challenging, and the top scores at the time were somewhere around 80-100 points. At the time I was a computer programmer, and I found (through total luck) that when I had my terminal emulator running (my programming session on the main computer), it slowed the Duracell game to a crawl, making it a cinch to rack up a score ten times higher than what anyone else could do. The creator of the game emailed me to see how I did it, but honored the results and I won the prize. Since I won this a few months before the playoffs started, there was no way to know where Game 3 & 4 would be, so my (future) wife and I mused about possible destinations (New York, Miami, Denver, etc.). When it turned out that those games would be in Detroit, and I lived just 40 minutes down the road in Ann Arbor, the generous Duracell folks swapped the airfare and hotel for an extra $1000 cash, which actually helped me pay school bills and graduate from Michigan the next summer. See, web surfing at work can be productive! Needless to say, the Wings won both games, and I got to see Stevie Y raise the Cup in Detroit for the first time in 42 years.

Games 1 & 2, 1998 Stanley Cup Finals: Game 1 was a 2-1 Detroit win, and Game 2 was probably the greatest game I've ever seen, as the Red Wings came back twice from two-goal deficits to defeat the Caps 5-4 in overtime and set the stage for a sweep in Washington (press pass via In The Crease).

March 30, 2006
: After living in Indiana from 1998-2005, I move to Nashville for a new job and am invited to a suite for a Red Wings/Predators clash. Sporting my #2 Fetisov jersey, I enjoy a 4-2 win by the Detroiters.

See, the streak is still alive, Mr. Holland! 10-0 in your last ten games when I'm in the building. The important thing to remember is that I didn't have to pay a dime for any of these games, and if you want to avoid another first-round playoff exit, I recommend you foot the bill this time around as well.

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