Imagine an NHL Without Detroit . . . It Could Happen

Cup'pa Joe

I watched Wednesday night’s Detroit-Dallas game on the NHL Network within a morbid context. On my commute home last night I read ‘Detroit: A City on the Brink,’ published last month in The Week magazine. I recommend it as must-reading for all hockey fans and every American.

The narrative in this piece is nothing short of harrowing. Most Americans I think have a general/vague notion of how tough times are in Michigan generally (the nation’s highest unemployment rate — by far) and Detroit most particularly. But I wonder how many know just how truly desperate times are in the Motor City? This is how the Week’s dissection of Detroit begins:

“Outside the city’s downtown core of office buildings, Detroit looks like a postapocalyptic nightmare. The collapse of the auto industry, political dysfunction, and epidemics of crime, drugs, and arson have battered Detroit like a slow-motion hurricane, leveling entire neighborhoods and causing a major chunk of the population to flee. Nearly 30 percent of the city, an area almost the size of San Francisco, has been abandoned to “urban prairie”—vast, depopulated stretches of high grass and shattered asphalt. An Asian plant species sometimes called “ghetto palm” sprouts from the remains of abandoned buildings, where wild pheasants are occasionally sighted. The torched skeletons of homes are commonplace. In the 1980s and ’90s, demolition permits outnumbered building permits by more than 10–1. Nearly 30 percent of the city’s remaining housing stock—more than 100,000 units—lies vacant.

Wild pheasants roaming downtown?

(To be fair, wild pheasants could be said to be governing our Metrorail system.)

The data about Detroit is more than damning — it’s jaw-droppingly frightening.

  • In July, the median Detroit home price was $7,000. “That’s not a typo,” the Week points out.
  • The Detroit public school system today is so bad that it is under emergency control of the state.
  • Detroit’s population in 1950 was 1.85 million. Today it is 770,000 — or about the size of Winnipeg.
  • Half of Detroit’s children live in poverty; one-quarter of the adult population didn’t graduate from high school. The median household income is about half the national average.
  • “This is a whole city that is poor,” says Wayne State University professor Robin Boyle.

Even the little good news in Detroit is bad. When the homicide rate dropped 14 percent last year, a mayoral candidate quipped, “I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but there just isn’t anyone left to kill.”

You may have seen the news of just this week of the sale of the Pontiac Silverdome, longtime home of the NFL’s Lions. It was built in 1975 for $55 million. A Super Bowl was played there. It sold on Wednesday for less than $600,000.

A colleague in my office yesterday pointed out to me a gross irony about Detroit’s demise. He asked me if I’d seen Clint Eastwood’s remarkable film ‘Gran Torino.’ I told him I had. He then asked me if I knew where it had been shot. I didn’t. The movie concludes with a white-knuckle, intergenerational, shoot-’em-up showdown. I won’t spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen it, but the film’s producers needed a neighborhood in which fantastic destruction could take place without anyone really noticing. They chose Detroit, and in point of fact the city has become a popular Hollywood destination for shooting similar destructive sequences — there’s no around to much care about the havoc.

Without injecting too much partisan political science into this tragic tale, does Detroit’s story give you any pause at all about one-party control of a large municipality, uninterrupted, for decades?

I’m not sure how much the NBA would miss the Pistons, the NFL the Lions, or Major League Baseball the Tigers, but I’m quite sure that the NHL would miss the Wings. They aren’t just an Original Six franchise, and the home away from home of Mr. Hockey, among numerous other hockey legends; in a very real sense the Wings are the flagship franchise of the league. But if a city is dying — and Detroit most assuredly is — how can anyone reasonably forecast a long-term future for any sports team there? Put another way: were Detroit with its existing population and poisonous socio-economic conditions today without a pro sports franchise, where among all American cities do you imagine it’d rank as an expansion candidate?      

Professional sports teams lost in a city in our contemporary experience always suffered from egregiously bad management and or ownership, and so we had easy scapegoats, but today Harvard economists are at pains to forecast a when and how of a durable turnaround from the catastrophic economic constriction here of the past couple of years. Worse, it’s generally believed that the U.S. will lag behind the rest of the globe in the recovery. Sports in our culture has ever been a distraction from tough times; today it’s naive to think it can’t be caught up in them.    

Dallas defeated Detroit last night at the Joe, 3-1. But that’s the least of this city’s worries.

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67 Responses to Imagine an NHL Without Detroit . . . It Could Happen

  1. IwoCPO says:

    This is a good post, one I wish you could have waited 24 hours to make public. I say that because we, Wing fans, are still recovering from the shaft job we got from the officials last night. I wish it was a slow day because this would generate plenty of conversation at A2Y.

    One thing I’d like to address…

    “A colleague in my office yesterday pointed out to me a gross irony about Detroit’s demise. He asked me if I’d seen Clint Eastwood’s remarkable film ‘Gran Torino.’ I told him I had. He then asked me if I knew where it had been shot. I didn’t. The movie concludes with a white-knuckle, intergenerational, shoot-’em-up showdown. I won’t spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen it, but the film’s producers needed a neighborhood in which fantastic destruction could take place without anyone really noticing. They chose Detroit, and in point of fact the city has become a popular Hollywood destination for shooting similar destructive sequences – there’s no around to much care about the havoc.”

    The reason movie producers are heading to Michigan is because the state is giving them big tax breaks and it’s just plain cheaper to shoot there.

    Good post though. I’m sure it will open some eyes and generate some unpleasant, but inevitable, conversation.

  2. It seems almost silly to discuss a bad call in a hockey game relative to this discussion, but like you I watched that last night, and I judged it to be the most egregious act of officiating incompetence in the realm of replay I’d ever seen, in any sport. And the watchful eyeballs (such as they are) in Toronto were “on top of the matter” too.

    You sound personally vested in this disaster. Every American I think should be sleepless over it (interesting, isn’t it, to take stock of where this story generally resides in mainstream media circles). A once titan metropolis is on life support. Fifty governors should have formed an emergency task force, and on his domestic agenda the President should have it at the very top of his priorities. This is about so much more than the Big Three automakers.

  3. Nathan says:

    I thought that “Gran Torino” was filmed in Traverse City (but the viewer was supposed to imagine it was in Detroit).

    Your post is good though. Forget my nitpicking. Detroit has problems, but I don’t think Michigan will ever lose its sports teams. Don’t forget that until the Lions opened Ford Field, two of the four professional sports teams from the are were actually in the suburbs.

    I would guess that almost all of the income the four major sports teams in the city make comes from suburban fans that make the drive 20, 30, 40, or more miles into Detroit to see their favorite teams play.

    The destruction of Detroit would undoubtedly put our sporting world into question, but with the size and population of the Detroit suburban area, the city itself falling apart isn’t a death sentence for those teams. Worst case, maybe Mike Ilitch works with Oakland County and builds the Wings next arena in Novi instead of on the Detroit River.

    I have no concrete reasons to believe this, it is no more than hope since I was born and raised in Michigan, but I just have to think Detroit will find a way. Cleveland used to be the “armpit of America.” Now it’s regarded as one of the nicer metro and suburban areas in the midwest. Pittsburgh was bent over by its ties to the steel industry. Now it’s revitalized and growing while most American cities are contracting. New York City managed to wipe out Hell’s Kitchen and clean up 8th Avenue to the point where now it’s littered with office buildings and coffee shops (and yes, the occasional adult bookstore or peep show).

    Most major cities seem to go through this and find a way out. Let’s hope Detroit does.

  4. Gary says:

    Gran Torino Filming Locations, per ( ):

    Center Line, Michigan (interior bar scene)
    Detriot, Michigan
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
    Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan
    Highland Park, Michigan
    Royal Oak, Michigan

  5. Zoogz says:

    No doubt, the picture you paint above is grim. As someone who lives about ten blocks north of Eight Mile in the town formerly called East Detroit, I can see these things happening myself a very short way from my doorstep.

    However, even with all the flight of capital and the flight of people, Detroit’s still not *dead*. The film credit has been responsible for bringing back jobs, and while Gran Torino was definitely filmed in the suburbs (one of the Grosse Pointes, IIRC, just north of Detroit) most of the films that come here are not apocalyptic ones, just regular movies. Ford posted a pretty big profit and seems to be moving up, even if GM and Chrysler may take time. I personally have a white-collar job that amazingly does not have anything to do with automotive work (in full disclosure, I have done white-collar auto work too).

    There’s still a town here. It’s still got a beating heart. There may be a ton of space in Detroit itself where the houses are crumbling or where there are empty streets… but on the other hand, in my barely-suburb area just north of town, I’m seeing less “For Sale” signs too.

    My point is that the talk about franchises leaving seems extremely premature. If the NHL is trying to stick it out in Columbus and in Raleigh, NC… if the NBA is trying to make Oklahoma City a hoops-playing mecca… if Milwaukee can handle multiple sports franchises, I can’t imagine that Detroit should have so many problems that even one (much less all) of its franchises are yanked. Of course, any unscrupulous owner can swoop down, buy a franchise, and move it — just see Seattle for the loss of their SuperSonics — but the discussion seems to be about viability rather than ownership turnover chances.

    Last note: the Silverdome sale. This was really a special case… there aren’t too many stadiums SO FAR AWAY from a downtown area that end up getting vacated. Since the land underneath the stadium was useless, they figured they’d keep the stadium on top of it to see what they could get. I really wish at this point that it’d get bought and a CFL franchise put in. I would believe that it would at least half-fill the stadium, even if the franchise wasn’t the greatest… football around here SUCKS.

  6. James says:

    I don’t understand how you can make the assumption the city would lose a team because of its currently-depressed state. The team has no arena debt and its value is actually steadily rising due to television deals its been able to make. Its operating income rests around $27 million. Its revenue was $130 million last year. 4th in the league, despite the economic issues. The only debt it has is player and staff salaries, that’s it. And let’s not forget – the league has revenue sharing now. Detroit, if it comes upon really hard times, will get revenue sharing from the league like lots of other teams have done who have had the opposite situation – considerably healthy and wealthy cities that can’t support an NHL team (Phoenix).

    Another point: you realize that most people who go to the games don’t live in Detroit, right? Most of those people live in suburbs, or cities further out. These are the people with the jobs and the money to spend. The city itself is dying, and it’s so depressing to see, but I don’t see how you can correlate these two circumstances to each other, honestly.

  7. Gary says:

    A CFL team would be a neat idea. That kind of expansion into the States would be a bit better than the mid-90s expansion. (Yes, I know Baltimore won the Grey Cup. I actually ate lunch next to it in Montreal before they moved.)

  8. Guy says:

    There is a tremendous disservice being done to Detroit by those who come from elsewhere looking for a sad story to tell. Glad some people on the ground there took the time to describe a more meaningful reality. Detroit proper may lie in ruin but the suburbs thrive and support the Detroit teams. Throughout the last 20 years, Oakland County, north of Detroit, has been among the five most affluent counties in the U.S. (Auto industry woes may have changed this recently.) The Wings also get a big boost from ticket buyers from Windsor and area, Canadians who would never let hockey move from their area. There are many and varied reasons why Detroit is Hockeytown and will remain so.

  9. The reactions of most of the Detroit-vested responders here arrived as I hoped they would: with appreciative alarm. But I confess, of dissenting sentiment I never imagined someone suggesting ‘We’ll just relocate the team(s) to the suburbs.’ Kind of missing the point, isn’t it?

  10. goaliemom31 says:

    The NHL without the original six Detroit Red Wings stretches the imagination into the realm of science fiction. Wings fans reside throughout the entire world. The fanbase attending the games is not pulled from the city. People come in to watch the games from all over Michigan, as well as other parts of the country.
    As far as the abandoned homes, those homes should be abandoned and demolished anyway. The levels of lead in the plumbing, paint and asphalt are an abomination. Single pane windows, lack of insulation, crumbling, asbestos filled plaster, antique wiring and inefficient heating systems make these homes uninhabitable. Moving out has probably saved the lives of many.
    As far as the Pontiac Silverdome is concerned, it was purchased by a Canadian firm. Plans to convert it to soccer fields are welcomed, as it will provide us with another sport to enjoy.

  11. Corey says:

    I’m not sure how you can blame one-party dominance over a particular city for the fact that manufacturing is no longer a viable thing to do in the United States. Or blame one-party dominance for the spectacular failures of an entire industry. In fact if I had to blame politicians at all (and I don’t blame them, I think we’re generally better off for it), I’d blame those that pushed NAFTA and other free trade agreements.

    Maybe the occasional Republican mayor would have helped diversify Detroit’s economy, but I’m not sure exactly how that would work. I know it’s not the point of your post, but still.

  12. Red says:

    MLB is not going to let one of their historic franchises, the Tigers, simply disappear. Bad economy and all, my understanding is the Tigers remain on solid financial footing, they will likely challenge for another playoff spot next season, and have an incredible amount of history. The Tigers have smart ownership and management. They’re not going any where. And neither are the Red Wings, for that matter.

  13. Former Ann Arborite says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the NHL’s real concern how many seats are filled with butts? And hasn’t The Joe been full to capacity for, oh, the last 10 years or so? If I’m a team owner, it’s not the grime outside that matters, it’s the passion inside that counts.

  14. It so pains me to write this, but now too many commentors I think are illustrative of how perhaps Detroit’s arrived at the fatal condition it has: shocking indifference. Yes children are dying, yes the surviving aren’t being educated, and yes our business core has been hollowed out, but for God’s sake let the games continue. Rome is burning, but our gladiators still have game! Is any Detroiter interested in, say, actually saving his city, or should we blithely accept the arrival of the Oakland or Dearborn Red Wings?

  15. Corey says:

    I don’t know about official numbers, but the few Wings games I’ve watched this season have been very sparsely-attended. Maybe it’s a bad sample. In any case, I think you’re right that Detroit doesn’t have much to worry about (it’d be like moving the Yankees) but if I were them, I’d be awfully concerned about whatever plan there might be to move a franchise into southern Ontario.

  16. Corey says:

    Pucksandbooks, it sounds like you’ve just discovered that this is happening. It’s been going on since the mid-70’s, at least. No one’s arguing with you that it’s a terrible, awful thing but I’m sure people are just generally numb to what’s going on after over three decades.

    You blame “shocking indifference”, but I think the real answer is “very bad decisions by the Big 3” and “shifting global capital flows that make manufacturing in the US less profitable than abroad”. If the film industry could be outsourced, and American movie studios went decades without releasing a good film, the same thing would happen to Los Angeles.

    If you have an idea on how individual people can reverse global economic realities, then you should probably introduce yourself to President Obama – I’m sure he’d be happy to listen.

  17. Corey, I don’t accept your supposition that Detroit alone among American cities has been ravaged by globalization, and personally, I think the UAW — far more so than Japan’s automotive industry — has a role in the Big Three mess that’s unique. The difference it seems to me — and perhaps you were the commentor who referenced Cleveland — is that other cities acted (not without pain of course). You and I I’m sure agree that a Marshall Plan is needed to rescue Detroit. And you and I might also agree that sentiments like many articulated above achieve something less than the political pressure needed to make it happen.

  18. goaliemom31 says:

    So easy to sit there atop your high horse in Washington, DC and blame the autoworkers for wanting to scrape by on living wages while the fat-cat executives line their pockets with millions. Why don’t you come here and see for yourself what is going on? Stop accusing the workers and taxpayers of Michigan of not caring about Detroit. We have been funding the city right along. Obama’s money all went to Lansing. Granholm is more interested in building brand new shiny bridges than helping the impoverished. Medicaid no longer covers dental or optical among other services. Why? Funding cuts. I guess the homeless are supposed to sleep under the bridges. Do we enjoy watching our sports teams? You bet we do! It’s the only diversion we have from the harsh reality of Michigan’s economy being flushed down the toilet.

  19. MP says:

    My response to the article in The Week was “no sh!t”. I didn’t really find it harrowing. Not because the facts aren’t grim – they are – but because there wasn’t one point in there that I hadn’t already heard 10 times elsewhere, for going on 25 years or longer (note that the “Renaissance” Center was built and named in the mid-70s). No, what’s disturbing is the fact that Pucksandbooks is likely correct in that most of the country only has a vague sense of what has been going on in Detroit. Whose fault is that? I’d argue that you can’t pin it on shocking indifference on the part of Detroiters, even though it’s true that there are some suburbanites who try to take an out of sight out of mind approach to what’s going on merely several miles away. In fact, Detroiters have pointed out for years about how insensitive and mean-spirited and smug or even racist it has been to make Detroit a national punchline, whether that’s by hacks like Woody Paige or Jay Leno or by more “serious” outlets. “Murder City” jabs, jokes about burning down the city in post-championship celebrations (has never been a disturbance afer the Wings’ 4 Cups), schadenfreude as supposedly fat cat autoworkers lost their cushy overpaid jobs, laughing off concerns about trade and outsourcing expressed by “xenophobes”, etc. Instead of taking potshots about empty seats at the Joe from time to time, and writing off complaints about the local economy as excuses, maybe the national media should have seen that as a sign that most Detroiters have their priorities right. There are more important things on which to spend $200 than hockey tickets. But if the rest of the U.S. is finally waking up to the human misery present in the city they’ve been mocking for years, I guess that’s a good thing – better late than never, especially if any constructive solutions can be brought forward.

  20. While you bring up a lot of interesting points, because you’re not from around the area you don’t have them quite right. I haven’t read any of the other comments so I’m not sure what has already brought up, but here is what I got out of it:

    1. I read the same article in The Week (it was good, but nothing really new). All of the stats they mentioned are accurate, but what most people fail to realize is that while the city of Detroit is extremely bleak, the outlying suburbs known as metro Detroit are doing much better in comparison. With the collapse of the automotive industry (for various reasons, some being their own, most not) has hurt this area we are still surviving.

    2. The Silverdome is located in Pontiac (about 30 minutes outside of Detroit proper) and has been vacant since the early 2000’s when the Lions moved into Ford Field in downtown Detroit. It’s a lot more expensive to build a brand new stadium then it is to sell a 35+ year old stadium no one wants.

    3. While Gran Torino was filmed partially in Detroit, parts of it were also filmed in Lincoln Park Michigan which is about 15-20 minutes outside of Detroit.

    4. Your suggestion that one political party had anything to do with the down fall of Detroit is just plain wrong. Racial inequality in the housing and employment markets starting in the 30-40’s and peaking into the late 60’s has a tremendous amount more bearing on why the city is in the state of disrepair it is today. An amazing book I’m reading at the moment that covers this topic exactly is this one:

    5. While the failing economy has produced a down turn in people being able to go to sporting events, I honestly don’t think you’re going to see the Red Wings moving anytime soon. They have adapted to the economy quite well in fact, still doing a decent job of putting people in seats in one of the worst areas of the country. They do a good job of marketing the team and have quite a few good deals and have adjusted ticket prices. Metro Detroit has always be a huge sports area given the number of teams we have on the pro and college area and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

    I don’t mean to nitpick but while it’s good that the word is getting out that we need help in Detroit, its just as important that people know and understand exactly what is going on.

  21. MP, if I had any doubt about there existing resolve enough among the affected to right this terrible wrong, it ended with your searing perspective. Thank you for sharing. And caring as passionately as you do.

  22. Zoogz says:

    “pucksandbooks wrote:
    The reactions of most of the Detroit-vested responders here arrived as I hoped they would: with appreciative alarm. But I confess, of dissenting sentiment I never imagined someone suggesting ‘We’ll just relocate the team(s) to the suburbs.’ Kind of missing the point, isn’t it?”

    “pucksandbooks wrote:
    It so pains me to write this, but now too many commentors I think are illustrative of how perhaps Detroit’s arrived at the fatal condition it has: shocking indifference.”

    Detroit’s the way it is due to lack of reinvestment in the community. Once the largest employers in the area started laying off, lowballing workers, and then outright packing up and heading out, money leaves too. Police departments and fire departments suffer, people play fast and loose with the money that’s left, and cesspools happen unfortunately.

    The argument about the suburbs is just disingenuous though. We had the Pontiac Lions for decades prior to Ford Field, and we continue to have the Auburn Hills Pistons. At least according to the most recent figures, while the City of Detroit may have a smaller population, the three-county suburbs plus Detroit is 4.4 million people, still good for 11th in the US. You can’t have that many people around without having at least SOME wealth too.

    This still is a college town. Oakland University, Wayne State University, University of Michigan, U of M Dearborn, University of Detroit Mercy. The aforementioned film industry has started to create jobs, and I have heard of studios opening. The automakers are coming back, slowly. There are chemical companies in the south end, some pharma toward the west, and since this is a border you have the complement of federal jobs too. There are jobs, there is wealth.

    It seems that only the city of Detroit is getting considered here. It’s great to talk about a place that’s pretty honking big completely failing, but the suburbs surrounding the city provide at least 2/3 of the true metropolitan area of Detroit, as well as 5/6 of the population. That area, while still facing high unemployment and jobs leaving, is still able to support sports teams.

    The suburbs argument is also disingenuous because there are many towns that do not have sports teams downtown. (Examples: New York Giants and Jets, New England Patriots.)

    The suburbs argument is disingenuous because I’m fairly sure that the Washington Capitals don’t get every single paid customer directly from Washington D.C.’s inner city, to provide only one example. Sports is a luxury, and many cities that have had suburban flight get their paying customers from the suburbs, where excess money usually lives.

    A fun exercise to consider: how many cities in the United States have three football stadiums within twenty miles that can hold 65,000, 80,000, and 110,000 people? How many cities in the U.S. have separate arenas for hockey and basketball?

    Detroit, especially within the city limits, is certainly suffering. However, a wider look at the landscape may be in order.

  23. capsrus says:

    > Without injecting too much partisan political science into this tragic tale, does Detroit’s story give you any pause at all about one-party control of a large municipality, uninterrupted, for decades?

    Good piece, but the shot about partisan politics misses the point. I’ve been doing consumer research in MI for 20 years. The state’s demise is much more about reliance on a single industry that refused to adapt than any partisan politics. If you think one party can’t run a city for decades, visit Chicago.

  24. Matt says:

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned (didn’t have time to read all the comments, I have to get back to work) but having been born and raised in the metro Detroit are (Grosse Pointe) I can assure you the Red Wings aren’t going anywhere.

    Anyone who’s from the area knows that 95%, possibly more, or the Red Wings fan base doesn’t even live within the Detroit city limits. Granted, these folks are hurting too, there’s no question about that, they aren’t hurting nearly as bad as those stuck in the city.

    Attendance numbers alone support my argument. So far this season Detroit sits 4th amongst all NHL teams (behind Montreal, Chicago and Philadelphia.) So even if you shave off a portion of the current 2010 attendance numbers, they still sit within the top 10 – and this is (as you point out) during the absolute worst economic times the city has seen in a very, very, very long time.

    They aren’t going anywhere – the cities population could drop to 200,000 and they wouldn’t budge – their market is outside the city limits.

  25. Matt says:

    Shoot, forgot to cite the link that provided me attendance numbers. Here it is, I apologize:

  26. Stoeten says:

    “Without injecting too much partisan political science into this tragic tale, does Detroit’s story give you any pause at all about one-party control of a large municipality, uninterrupted, for decades?”

    What an absolute load this statement was. And disappointing to see it in an otherwise great piece. No, it does not give me pause, because I’m not daft enough to actually believe what’s happened to Detroit has all that much to do with municipal politics. To paint such a bleak picture of the city, and then try to connect it to some partisan political bullsh!t while overlooking the obvious other factors that have contributed massively to the situation? Please.

  27. Don says:

    You do realize that the population of the District of Columbia is less than the population of Detroit, right?

  28. Genius says:

    Is this guy kidding?? Detroit will always support the wings. Pull your head out moron. The lions are the team Detroit can’t afford to support.

  29. Dan says:

    Hey I think this article is negative BS! The Redwings are not moving and neither am I. Things will get better, Pittsburgh expereinced the same think in early 80’s and survived. Also Detroit the “City” and Detroit the “Metro” are 2 entirely different animals. And its Detroit the metro that is the engine of this great state. Keep your heads high Detroiters and Michigan and do not buy into this negative-doomsday garbage.

  30. Cameron says:

    I cant imagine the NHL selling the detriot red wings to an owner who has intentions to move as they are much more historic and important franchise then those stupid coyotes. The only detriot team i can see moving would be the Lions cuz well, 1 win over the last 2 seasons sorta discourages fans from coming to games

  31. Brian says:

    While Detroit proper has a small population the whole metro area has well over 4 million people. That should also be reported. Detroit is in a down turn but will recover.

  32. AndHowe says:

    While your facts are correct regarding the ‘city of Detroit’ proper, you obviously don’t live in Southeastern Michigan, nor understand the dynamics of fan attendance in Metro Detroit. I can say, without debate from anyone living in the Detroit area, that 95 to 99% of fans attending Red Wings games do not live in Detroit, but rather from the more affluent suburbs that ring the city (from adjacent Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, as well as Windsor across the river in Canada). This is no exaggeration. The city of Detroit proper has not had an inner city hockey fan base since the 1970’s.

    Therefore, equating the Red Wings potential demise with that of the city of Detroit proper is incongruous. The Wings, as other posters have noted, are doing quite well financially, thank you very much, and they could steamroll over everything within 10 miles of Joe Louis Arena and the fanbase would not change. In fact, it most likely would increase, as there would be better parking. And then we could all go pheasant hunting after the game.

  33. jack smith says:

    THis article is sensationalism–trying to cause a panic among hockey fans when it is uncalled for. There are a lot of empty seats, but that’s a problem accross the board in the NHL. Blame Gary Bettman, not those poor Detroiters we should pitty and feel sorry for. Detroit attendance is still high compared to the rest of the league, and they have income. Why didn’t you pull up attendance and recenue statistics when writing this article? Because you know this article came out of your sensational ass.

    There are a lot of poor people in Detroit, but they are not going to games and probably never did. For one thing, hockey is mostly a white sport, and although the white people living in the suburbs are hit hard, they are still surviving (at least the ones who stayed). they can still go to the games, maybe not as often. But then again, who can in this country??? And as far as actual Detroiters…those living in the city, there are many reasons why they are in the situation they are: Corruption, auto companies that refused to change their ways, 16 years of the racist reactionary Coleman Young, should i continue?? Detroit is a poor city, because any person with money after 1967 left (black, white, arabic…it doesn’t matter).

    Things are changing. young adults looking for culture and a nonsuburban life are moving back into midtown. This may slowly improve the situation. And yes, it’s a smaller city so they need to radically demolish enitre neighborhoods like they are currently doing in Flint.

    Nothing the see here…just a sensational prick trying to make a headline.

  34. tf Rodent says:

    There have already been a few excellent posts that cover this, but it’s worth repeating: Metro Detroit has a population of 4.4 million, and even with present dire conditions Oakland County, one the boundary of Detroit, is one of the richest in the country. The state of the City of Detroit, the home of the have not’s, is the result of many, many years of racial barriers, disinvestment, and malign neglect. While Metro Detroit is still populous and highly viable, the image and moral shame produced by the image of the City of Detroit has hurt Metro Detroit for many years. Maybe finally it’s being noticed. The Red Wings aren’t going anywhere.

  35. Joe says:

    Most people have a problem moving into the city WHY?
    because of the drugs, criminals, and all of the other nasty crap that happens there. The city goverment will not do anything about it period. You can’t move there without thinking you’ll be dead in a week because somebody thinks you have money or you house gets broken into who wants that crap, not for my family.

  36. Joe says:

    Give me a break about the Wings moving they are FOURTH in NHL team value and it’s not like Detroit’s economy just turned bad.

    The Wings still have 12,000 season ticket holders and most of the empty seats are season-ticket holders who can’t physically attend every game and can’t sell off the other games because of the economy. Plus the Joe’s concourses are so bad if you go for a beer you can’t get back to your seat until 5 minutes are gone in the period and then you have to wait for a whistle to go back to your seat.

  37. Joe says:

    Why should Detroit be worried about moving another team into Southern Ontario namely Hamilton which is roughly 3 hours drive time away. It’s not going to cut into the Wings fan base except possibly in London. Chicago somehow is a great example of one-party politics, look at the crime rates and schools in Chicago.


  39. Greg says:

    The pen may be mightier than the sword, but you are a pathetic piece of dirt! Don’t come into our town with your irresponsible retoric from some totally eroneous trash compiler. This city will be reborn especially considering at some point the lowlife Govenor who has singlehandedly driven spending in our wonderful state capital will have to go.Thatis before she bankrupts the whole state. We still have the one thing that others will most certainly crave in the future, and that is the water from our great lakes and the hard working men and women who will fight dregs like you behind crappy photoshoped pictures and innuendos of our faltering franchises and dilapedated streets. The ghetto you speak of is in your own mind!

  40. Les Martz says:

    Michigan Blows! It always has and always will. I lived there for 6 1/2 years, I know how bad it sucks.
    If Detroit has 12,000 season ticket holders, why do they have all the empty seats in the lower half of the Joe on TV broadcasts?

    At least you can drive 80 miles an hour on the rotten highways, they can’t afford to pay the State Police.

  41. Nick from Toronto says:

    What a shame… I would hate to see this team in dire straits. I do feel for the city and it’s citizens and hope that it really gets better!

  42. Lois Kohler says:

    You are what I call, an alarmist. I’m realistic as to what this city has gone thru with no help from the corrupted local state or federal government. If many cities like Detroit, can turn around, so can it. The glass is half full, and writers that would put this information on national print, should be ashamed to put more negative outlooks on this stuggling city. One of the greatest things about it, it has produced more local loyal talent than most other cities. Hockey is the greatest and it would not be the Red Wings if moved anywhere else. Take that pen of yours, and your perspective and start seeing it as the great city it will become again. You breed a negative disease that spreads like wild fire. Stats do not make a city. People make a city. How dare you talk about us this way, when the more than 50 plus suburbs, have many former Detroiters who are still loyal to the city. Gary Bettman who does not belong in Hockey, is trying to make a Hockey City out of Phoenix. He even brought in the great one, Wayne Gretsky. The coyotes are doing better, but they have as many and more empty seats than Detroit does. The city and all its riches does not support their team. Hence, in the 70’s, the World Hockey League came in and Houston had Gordie Howe and sons. The Detroiters were the ones who came and supported the team. Not people from Houston, who had no taste for Hockey, only football. Enough said. You sure do no good for our City. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

  43. MotorCityT-cat says:

    This is a [BS] story. The Red Wing fans are a nation, not a city. The author compares the demise of the city to the fan base and, frankly there is no point of comparison. Let’s be honest, the the economy is down everywhere and it will impact professional sports attendence, but it will be back and soon. Red Wings will be in Detroit forever.

  44. Bill Beaudoin says:

    I just love when some out of town guy writes about Detroit, they sound like some guy from Latvia or the Canary islands who only knows the U.S. from Television or Movies. If the City of Detroit were sawed off and floated down the St. Lawrence River 97% of (local) Red Wings would still be here.

  45. Jason says:

    Sad, sad, sad…Its going to be a long while before this is all turned around; the city and the wings.

  46. Jeff says:

    I’m sure everything here is true, but you’re obviously not familiar with The Metropolitan Detroit Area. The city itself does not supprot the Wings and really has not for decades. It is the sprwling surrounding suburbs that do. Times are hard for us too, but again you clearly do not understand this area. Wing nuts are just that, NUTS. The wings are home in Detroit for better or for worse.

  47. Tim Wilson says:

    This article is beyond ridiculous. An NHL without Detroit will NEVER happen. Half the other owners in the league would be lined up to jump in as fast as possible if anything ever happened. The Detroit CMSA along with SW Ontario has around 6,000,000 people. Add in Toledo just an hour away and you are close to 7,000,0000. I can’t even believe this guy could write something so absurd. He obviously has no idea what makes up SE Michigan. This is sensationalism at it’s finest. What a joke.

  48. Matt Damphouse says:

    As much as I hate to read Detroit bashing articles, the statements made are true. I’ve grown up across the river in Windsor, and have witnessed the steady decline of a, once beautiful, metropolis. I’m not talking about the people of Detroit. The people of Detroit have been victimized by corrupt, long serving mayor Coleman Young, and then a meglomaniacal,womanizing, and convicted felon joke of mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. This is the short list of Detroiters who completely misrepresented the true spirit of Detroit.Let’s not forget the corporate screw job given to all of Metro-DetroitThe people who stayed do not need to hear conjecture and speculation concerning their beloved RED WINGS, Tigers, Pistons, and Lions.Don’t think for a moment that what is going on in Detroit can’t happen elsewhere. No one believed that the abanonment by GM in Flint could happen, but they were wrong. Wake up America, greed is the biggest contributing factor in Detroit’s comatose condition. Don’t rely on Government to help, we all know how that scenario will play out. I have been a WINGS fan since I was 5 when DETROIT and Toronto were always battling each other out of the basement. Ahhh good times. Back to reality. I hope someone out there cam mount a grassroots campaign to give a help save a City filled with strong, family based human beings. I have always loved Detroit warts and all!!

  49. B.Kam says:

    While what the article about the city of Detroit might be true, what the author doesnt mention, and what many people above do, is that unlike other major cities, the teams in Detroit are actually supported by people living outside the city.
    Infact, I recently went to the game when the Avs were in town, and the place was atleast 3/4 full.
    And like somebody above said, if places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh can turn it around, then there sure is hope for Detroit.
    About the Silverdome, though I have no idea who bought it, there was talk about it being used for CFL games, if the Windsor are gets a CFL franchise.

  50. robin gilroy says:

    It’s amazing how you can distorst facts. First of all, the Red Wings are suported by suburbia, not the inner-city. I assure you that the fans at the games drive downtown from the burbs. Yes, the region is suffering and attendance is down, but I would guess that is’s comparable to other sports and other venues. It’s a product of a falltering national economy. Detroit has been on the decline for years, but up until last year, getting a ticket at the Joe was almost impossible.

    Finally, many movies are being filmed in Michigan, not just the City of Detroit, because of very attractive tax incentives. These are high budget movies being filed throughout the state that have brought in actor s such as George Cloney, Clint Eastwood, and Drew Barrymore. You also forget that in Hollywood, scenes are made to look real regardless of venue. Gran Torino was actually filedm in Hamtramck, not Detroit!

  51. Jeremy Kinnunen says:

    I think if these teams moved closer to the Mac. Bridge, more people from the U.P. would be able to watch them live. I’d have to drive 14 hours to see a stinking game. Move the teams North, and level Detroit and us it for a dump. Useless city.

  52. nate says:

    two years ago detriot was considered one of like 4 places that could support 2 nhl teams. not only is our attendace still strong we are one of the strongest draws on the road. not to mention the owner who wouldn’t leave detroit if it was on fire.

  53. Big W says:

    The Red Wings will survive as long as they keep the bridge to Windsor up.


    The demise of Detroit goes beyond decades of mere Democrat Party control. Florida was a one-party (Democrat) state until the mid 1980’s and it grew just fine (if not too much). The city of Detroit was killed by GREED. Auto manufacturers built crappy cars (my rusty Vega and my brother’s Maverick being two examples) and tried to up profits by cheapening the product. Unions were following right behind with unrealistic contracts that focused solely upon immediate gain, apparently figuring auto makers would never die. Everybody wanted immediate gratification, and now they have nothing.
    Now that the Democratic party has been hijacked by national socialists, tax-cheats, thieves and illegal immigrants, the future looks bleak indeed.
    As for the Wings, I am sorry to say it but if the Colts could slip out of Baltimore, and if my Dodgers could abandon Brooklyn (ok, I’m that old) then nobody is safe.
    As I watched the Dallas game the other night and saw the Wings “screwed again”, I honestly wondered if the NHL is the right place for the Wings. Maybe the Wings ought to threaten to bolt the NHL for some other league. It is obvious that the NHL does not like or respect the Wings, so why stick around?

  55. Ken-Biig says:

    This story is so full of drama its laughable to one who lives in this area. Yes the city of Detroit has many problems unmatched by any other large city in the US and I agree it is unlikely to recover.

    The fact is the people who attend the Red Wings games do not come from the city. There is no correlatition between the City of Detroit and the Red Wings. They have nothing to do with each other besides the name. They do however provide employment for residents and the bars and restuarants are very busy on gameday. With that said I have a few questions for the author:

    1. What is the population of the Detroit metropolitan area and since were talking about hockey that would include Windsor and its surrounding area? Windsor is the city across the river in Canada.

    2. What team consistantly had one of the top 5 payrolls in the NHL before the salary cap was instituted? Hint, its not LA, New York, Toronto, or Chicago (those would be major markets).

    3. So your a film critic too? Gran Torino was not a very good movie but what do you know!

  56. We’re not exactly sure, but we think we would have taught you that you meant:
    So you’re a film critic too?
    instead of
    So your a film critic too?

  57. JP says:

    this is what happens when liberals are in charge for too long.

  58. The article commits a basic logical fallacy, the non sequitur. That is, the state of the city’s economy does not make a move imminent. Don’t forget that the Wings are still one of the five most valuable NHL franchises; and even in Gary Bettmann’s NHL, it’s highly unlikely that an Original Six franchise will relocate.

    Low attendance, though, is cause for concern.

  59. D says:

    I glad to see this type of info circulating on the web. Detroit has been losing population for more than a decade. You say they have the highest unemployment now…consider what it would be if all the jobless people stayed over the past decade.

  60. chris kohar says:

    my sympathies go out to those in Detroit and Michigan as they are going through a very tough time these days. But I would have to ask the media to pipe down a few notches as they portray Detroit as the worst econimically depriced city of all time. Now you want to stir the pot more by taking away one of the few bright things left in their city? I am sorry but their unemployment rate pales in comparison to western pennsylvania and pittsburgh in the 1980’s! Beaver county (NW of the burgh) hit an all time high of 28% in the mid 80’s, worse than the great depression. we kept our sports teams and found ways to keep our youth progams going and thriving. so please dont place detroit on a high throne and say they wings are going away and make a said situation into a way for the emia to sell news papaers and ratings. this author should be ashamed and embarrased!

  61. chris kohar says:

    one other note,unless you have ever lived through the horror and turmiol that these folks are going through, pleae have some sympathy and not bring additional anamosity to their torn and fragile lives. why irritate these folks more by insisting that the wings will most likely leave because of poor and deplorable conditions. keep in mind that 90% of all tickets sold in pro sports are bought by blue collar folks not some white collar schmuck like you. when was the last time you had to go down to the train tracks and gather coal that fell off the train in order to heat you home? you probably dont even cut your own grass!

  62. Bill says:

    A totally misinformed article. I was born in Detroit and have lived in the area for 50 years. Some of what you said is true but you really don’t know the city. The Detroit Metro area has a population of around 4,000,000 people.

  63. Owen says:

    Detroit has a nonpartisan form of government. Its
    recent troubles stemmed from greedy elected officials who put themselves before the citizens who elected them. The newly elected officials, including Mayor Dave Bing, appear to be highly motivated to turn the Ship of State around. Despite the tone of your article, I believe they will succeed. The DWings will stay.

  64. Richard Harris says:

    The job loss is simply due to Free Trade. If we won’t protect our jobs, we won’t have any. We need to abandon all Free Trade agreements and initiate aggressive protectionist policies. In the 1960’s we were Econimus Rex. Today we are simply wrecked.

  65. G. W. Gehring says:

    I realize that most (all?) of the comments are sports related.
    And, why talk about Detroit’s problems other than in the context of sports.
    Detroit’s problems can be summed up in a single word: EDUCATION.

    Or maybe two words: TECHNICAL EDUCATION

    But then, those words define America’s problems.

    One quarter of Detroit’s adult population did not graduate from high school??? Better check your sources. Three years ago, a study determined that of all the students who entered 9th grade four years earlier, only 28% graduated! So if it’s not already a fact, it soon will be: ONLY one quarter of Detroit’s population has graduated from high school.

    Born in Detroit: 1947
    Graduated from Detroit Public Schools: 1964
    Graduated Wayne State University: 1972
    Left Detroit for good: 1979
    Reason for leaving: Had lost three jobs in previous five years. Woke up. Saw writing on wall. Wanted to go (and be) someplace that wasn’t dying.

    Just astounding that Detroiters (and here, we must include the suburbanites: They are the primary factor keeping the region semi-comatose) continue to look for things/people/events to blame.

    The solutions to Detroit’s problems are IMPOSSIBLY difficult. Impossible to achieve. They are:

    Written and spoken English
    Ability to think logically
    Ability to solve problems
    Ability to recognize reality

    I am convinced that Detroiters (and, indeed, most Americans) would respond to this suggestion with:
    “…Are you crazy?…”
    “…We can’t do THAT!…”
    “…No way!…”

    And to that, I would retort: “Hmmmm…. Really?? I just returned from six weeks in an engineering design office in the Middle East. I saw literally scores of engineers, planners and architects producing some of the highest-quality work I’ve seen in 20+ years. These guys (and gals) were from Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, India, Philippines, Afghanistan, Kuwait and dozens of other “backward” countries. Americans were less than 1.5% of the group. Brits (Scots, Irish, Aussies) were — perhaps — ten percent.

    Wake up Detroit!

    Wake up America!

    Quit crying in your beer.

    Turn the TV off.

    Lock your kids in their rooms and MAKE THEM HIT THE BOOKS !!!

    — gwg

  66. CF Richards says:

    The facts in this article are correct but its assumptions are not. The Red Wings will never leave Detroit because their support comes from the metro suburban population of 4+ million people. The City’s demise can be tied to its loss of diversity, poor management, corrupt politicians and collaspe of the domestic auto industry. Some of the worse racial attitudes in the country exist between a city 80% black and suburbs 85% white. It doesn’t make rebuilding the area any easier. But Michigan remains 1 of the 3 best hockey markets in the U.S. Little Ceasar’s and Honeybaked continue to have some of the best youth teams in the country. And UM, MSU and WMU all have strong college programs. Those of us who know and support the Wings and Michigan hockey understand this. We are and always will be Hockeytown because hockey here is more than empty buildings and vacant lots.

  67. portaljohn says:

    schmuckwithbooks –

    The Detroit Urban Area (Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties) ranks as the 9th most populous of the United States, with a population of 3,903,377 as of the 2000 census (which will be lower in the upcoming census due to the economic climate).

    The population of the whole Metro Detroit Area (9 counties in all) is 5.4 million.

    The Red Wings aren’t leaving, but I do wish Winnipeg will get another team. I hope Bud Selig could talk Gary Bettman into retirement as well.

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