Game #24: I Miss the Detroit Vipers

I obviously grew up as a huge Detroit Red Wing fan (as if that hasn’t been obvious). However, the Red Wings weren’t the only Detroit/Michigan hockey team I had a special place in my heart for. I was kind of a die-hard Detroit Vipers fan for a long time.

The Vipers had a couple of really cool things going for them. First, the name and the jersey. I mean, come on. Too cool.

They played at the Palace of Auburn Hills which was only about 15 minutes from my house and was actually a really nice arena during the time they played there.

During pre-game introductions they came out of a huge inflatable snake mouth filled with smoke. By far the coolest entrance of any hockey team.

Tickets were cheap. Even now I think I can count on one hand the number of Detroit Red Wing games I have seen in person. I must’ve seen the Vipers 10–15 times over the course of a few years.

One of my teammate’s dad was the head coach of the Vipers. To me, the Vipers were just as impressive as the Red Wings. They were professional hockey players who played in front of thousands of fans every single game. The fact that I got to hang out with someone I considered a legitimate celebrity was pretty cool.

My favorite memory of the Vipers, though, didn’t even involve going to an actual game. Instead, I distinctly remember listening to them play in the Turner Cup finals on a little radio while I laid in bed. They must’ve been playing a team out west because I remember it being pretty late. I think the game went into overtime, too. I can’t remember if it was game seven or just the fourth win. All I know is that the Vipers won the game and were therefore Turner Cup champions!

It felt anti-climactic to lay in bed while my 2nd favorite hockey team had just won a championship so I got out of bed and walked through the dark and quiet house (my parents and all my brothers were asleep) and whisper cheered.

Man, I miss the Vipers.

Game Notes

  • I doubt there is anybody my age or a little bit earlier who can watch the Red Wings play the Devils and not have painful flashbacks to the mid-90’s and the absolutely devastating experiences we had playing that team. Not only did we get swept in the 1995 finals after dominating the regular season, but we got swept by a team playing the most boring hockey in the world. It seems unlikely that a play style that existed 22 years ago is still alive in this year’s incarnation of the team, but I swear the Devils are always the most boring team. Always.
  • What really stood out to me in this game was how much trouble the Wings have with breaking out of their own zone. Any team with a halfway competent forecheck gives us absolute fits on the breakout. There were a couple points in the game where we spent the entire shift in our own zone just wrapping the puck along the boards, behind the net, and then getting into a scrum at the hashmarks before whipping it around the boards again. I swear to god there was one shift where that happened 4 times in a row.
  • This game was boring forever and then it wasn’t! Mantha scored! Which is lucky for him because he still looked lethargic and lame as hell out there. It’s interesting to see the power that a goal can have on the momentum of the game, though. Mantha’s goal *was* pretty lucky but it didn’t matter. We came out afterward and actually had some jump in our step.
  • Booth had himself a season tonight. Good for him.
  • Jensen must have had the fastest emotional rollercoaster of all time on the OT goal. He went from thinking he was springing the forwards on a 2-on-1 the other way to putting it directly on the tape of the opposing team in less than a second. That can’t feel good.

The Wings scrounge up another point by losing in OT, falling to 10–9–5 on the season. Hooray for loser points!