As Motor City stalls, Hockeytown's Red Wings soar

Sun May 31, 2009 6:01pm EDT
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By Nick Carey

DETROIT (Reuters) - All that separates the headquarters of U.S. automaker General Motors Corp and the hockey arena where the Detroit Red Wings play is a 10-minute walk along the banks of the Detroit River.

But the two organizations are worlds apart.

The Red Wings are on the cusp of renewed glory, vying for a second consecutive Stanley Cup, the trophy symbolizing the National Hockey League championship. They have won it four times since 1997.

The team is playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in a rematch of last year's best-of-seven finals that Detroit won four games to two. The Red Wings won the first game in this year's series on Saturday.

GM, on the other hand, is headed for an expected bankruptcy filing on Monday as the U.S. recession and the lack of easy credit have hammered sales.

Faced with a slumping economy -- Michigan's 12.9 percent unemployment rate in April was the nation's highest -- the Red Wings have become a rare symbol of hope and success for the greater Detroit area of several million people.

"We've grown numb from the job losses and bad news," said unemployed auto worker Scott Watkins while watching Saturday's game at a bar in suburban Madison Heights. "Without the Red Wings, what else would Detroit have to cheer about?"

Hockey is America's fourth most popular professional sport behind football, baseball and basketball. In Detroit -- sometimes dubbed Hockeytown and which borders on the hockey hotbed of Canada -- the game is huge.   Continued...

<p>Members of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate their overtime series win over the Chicago Blackhawks in their NHL Western Conference Final series in Detroit, Michigan, May 27, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>