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A Red Wings' nation in Toronto

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings' fans gathered inside of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto before the game at Air Canada Centre last on Saturday night.
TORONTO – In a show of foreign-turf solidarity, a group of over 60 Red Wings’ fans met at the Hockey Hall of Fame before Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs. The Red Wings handed out 20 free admission tickets to the Hall and raffled off bobbleheads, video games and autographed pucks.

Tim and Kristin Zinger from Kitchener, Ontario, attended the event, and although Kristin is a Leafs fan, her husband remembers converting to the Wings back in the early 90s.

“All my friends laugh at me but when (goalie) Allan Bester got traded to the Red Wings I was a big fan and I followed him over and I’ve been here ever since,” Tim said.

The Zingers try to make it to as many games at Joe Louis Arena as possible. Earlier this year, they attended the Toast of Hockeytown and they have plans to take their two young daughters to the home game against Chicago next Saturday.

And although they had acquired tickets to the Air Canada Centre (a feat in and of itself as tickets are consistently pricey and difficult to come by) the two enjoy seeing games at The Joe more.

“You get a lot of people like us who will drive an hour to come by and watch the game,” Tim said. “But we’d rather go three hours the other way and go to The Joe.”

Opened in 1999, the 18,819 capacity ACC is home to the Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Raptors, and the Rock of the National Lacrosse League. Despite the arena’s newer state – TVs in every elevator, two concourses, suites on multiple levels – the Zingers think that JLA offers a truer hockey environment.

“It’s a better atmosphere than the ACC,” Tim said of JLA. “It’s just more fan-based.”

Alayna Brown and Danielle Mulvey, two friends who learned about the Hall meet-up on Twitter, were coworkers at a hospital in Toronto when they discovered their mutual passion for the Wings at work.

“We shared a cubicle and hockey came up one day and it was one of those cloud-parting moments where the sun came shining through,” Brown said as the two, both regaled in Steve Yzerman jerseys, waited outside the Hall for the giveaway. “And now we watch games together all the time.”

When other coworkers gave them a hard time for their allegiance to the winged wheel, the two simply responded “1967” – the last year the Leafs won a Stanley Cup.

At times, it can be tough for a Wings’ fan in foreign territory. Watching a Leafs-Wings matchup last season from Wayne Gretzky’s Bar near the Rogers Centre, the two were the only Wings’ fans in the establishment and had to brace some heckling from the locals as the Wings won the game. Despite that occasion, though, Brown believes there’s a substantial Wings’ fan base in Toronto.

“They’ve got to be around here somewhere because they surface every once in a while,” said Brown, who later won an autographed puck in the raffle.

Later in the night, it was clear by the red and white jerseys speckling the stands of the ACC that many of those fans had indeed surfaced.

Dave Peltier, of Windsor, Ontario, was proudly wearing a Brendan Shanahan jersey on the concourse of the ACC during the game and estimated that the ratio of Wings to Leafs fans in the arena was around one in every four.

“I’ve got to give it to some Toronto fans, they’re good people,” Peltier said. “They’re high-fiving me; it’s been a good arena. I wore this jersey for a reason. I wanted to see how the people would react and it’s all good.”

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