If you’re a Red Wings player, there can be no better feeling than this: it’s deep in a sudden-death play-off game, the Wings’ season on the line, you’re utterly exhausted and you suddenly hear, behind the sound of a capacity Detroit crowd going absolutely nuts, the unmistakable opening piano notes of the Journey song, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.
And you become bullet-proof. And can skate forever.
Believe it or not, this is Red Wing heaven.
Every team and every sport has its idiosyncracies, which is part of the joy of whichever league or mob of athletes we choose to follow. There’s a baseball team in America where fans bring inflatable fruit to games. Every English soccer team’s fans have their own signature chants and songs. My beloved Richmond Tigers in the AFL boast the best theme song in the League, including the spine-tingling line: “Oh, we’re from Tiger – YELLOW AND BLACK!!! – we’re from Tigerland.” If you’ve never heard the Richmond crowd sing that song in victory, and the emotion that goes into that line, you simply have to one day.
In Detroit, at the Joe Louis Arena, home of the Red Wings, the song is Don’t Stop Believin’, recorded by a band I would normally have very little time for, Journey, back in 1981 for the album, Escape. (If you want to hear it, without hockey atmos, click here) It’s one of those songs that has never gone away, featuring in The Sopranos, Family Guy, Glee, on a Chipmunks album in 2008 (no, really) and continues to be one of the most downloaded songs in Ireland, according to Wikipedia. Go figure. Several sports teams have embraced it for the sheer motivational force of its title and that opening keyboard riff, but it’s the Wings who emotionally own it.
As far as I can tell, having only become a Detroit devotee in the last few years, the entire basis for the fans’ love of this song is one line, near the start, and it is this:
“Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit. (He took the midnight train going anywhere)”
Like Richmond fans and Yellow and Black!, if you’re in on it, the line in bold is the one that can make us Wings fans cry, can make you sing so loudly that your lungs might burst.
“Born and raised in South Detroit.” (Even though, as I’m hearing the song, he got the hell out of there, but anyway …)
At the Joe, when that song starts up, it means: WE’VE WON.
When that song starts up, it means we’re dancing on the grave of an opponent still shuffling around the ice with increasing desperation, but knowing, as we do, that it’s over.
When that song plays, opposition teams must feel their hearts sink.
On WingsLive, the excellent Coveritlive feed on the Red Wings’ website, provided for the world of fans not at the Joe, fans will start clamouring : “Play Journey! Journey time!” and the audio feed will kick in, followed by a stream of comments all reading the same thing: “BORN AND RAISED IN SOUTH DETROIT”
And at the Joe itself? Well, very high on my Life List, is to attend a game at the Joe, so I can watch the Wings for real and so I can sing that song, live in the stadium. Because it makes me misty-eyed from literally the other side of the world.
Don’t believe me? Well, witness yesterday’s stunning Game 6 in the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the San Jose Sharks. Down 0-1 again, early in the third, the Wings scored twice (Go, Hank Zetterberg!) to steal a narrow lead. If the Sharks can level the scores and force overtime, they know and we know that they’ve beaten us repeatedly through this series in OT, so the momentum will be with them … in other words, this is a knife edge.
With a minute and a half to go, the Sharks pulled their goalie, to give them an extra attacking skater – an all-or-nothing move. It leaves an empty goal net and sure enough, Detroit’s Darren Helm wins a loose puck near the centre of the ice and fires truly to make it 3-1, a minute to go.
Game over. We’re back from three games to nil down. We’re going to game seven. Miracle on ice continues.
Cue Don’t Stop Believin’ on the Joe’s sound system, but turn down the volume so the fans can do the rest …
And this is it. Please turn up your computer’s volume and have a listen to pure, unadulterated, beyond-boundaries Red Wing fan joy in full voice. Look at that crowd jumping around. I have tingles even now …
Game 7 is on Friday (Saturday Australian time). In San Jose, at the Shark Tank. Can the Wings finish the miracle?
Don’t Stop Believin’
(and yes, the beard stays!)