There are a lot of takes on the Wings’ attendance problems, but none is more ridiculous than the idea that the Wings have too many “soft” Europeans. After all, the Wings have had a healthy dose of Europeans for almost 20 years, and didn’t have trouble filling seats until recently. A particularly ridiculous manifestation of the idea that there are too many Euros is the opinion that there are too many Swedes. Not surprisingly, this is an opinion held by the ultimate hockey dad (in the negative sense), Viktor Fedorov.
Reading a recent Russian interview with the man, it’s easy to attribute its incoherence to him rather than the loose translation.
Understand, the American fans appreciate action, “action.” And here they have received group of melancholic and languid Swedes yes a line [of] “driving off [to the] fair” veterans. In the country where elements of aggression are present even at children’s cartoon films, such academic hockey does not cause interest.
You have to wonder if this guy ever actually watches a Red Wings hockey game. He suggests that the team was much more rough-and-tumble when his son was here as a member of the Russian 5, with Bob Probert and Joey Kocur patroling the ice. It’s hard to argue the last point, as there is a marked difference in toughness between this team and the Probert-Kocur era teams, but it’s ludicrous to suggest that the Swedes are somehow less appealing to the bluecollar folks of Detroit than the Russians were. One of the biggest criticisms of Sergei Fedorov, for example, was that he didn’t lay it all on the line in every game or even in every shift. You would have to look very hard to find a Swede on the current Wings who takes shifts off like Fedorov did.
This goes back to the idea that the Wings’ Europeans are soft. Anyone who’s watched Tomas Holmstrom or Johan Franzen play knows they do not shy away from physical play. Ask anyone whose seen Niklas Kronwall lay out someone at the blueline whose the team’s big hitter. Talk to anyone who knows the pain Henrik Zetterberg played in last year. Sure, the team isn’t made up of a bunch of Derek Boogaards, but there are bluecollar heroes aplenty and lots of excitement to go with it. Maybe the team could use one big star to bind fans together like Steve Yzerman did, but if fans are looking for individual players to follow, they don’t have to look far. The problem with attendance in Detroit is tied much more to economic issues and a disillusionment with the Red Wings monolithic organization, not with the players themselves.