DETROIT — Hockeytown, Motor City, The D, Motown. The city of Detroit goes by many names and now, after being voted by USA Today readers, can call itself America’s Best Sports City.
That title came as no surprise to Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary.
“Where I’ve played there’s no comparison, quite frankly,” he said. “Looking throughout the country, there’s a lot of cool, great sports towns. You know Boston is a great sports town, so is Chicago. … Detroit is just an awesome sports town. Sports a lot of times are uplifting too, especially when they do well. In particular, the Red Wings have been pretty stable for a number of years, a lot of history here. The Tigers, a lot of history too and go back to the Pistons in the 80s and then the Lions, football is always going to be huge. I just think the fans are just diehards.”
Cleary spent the early years of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes before landing in Detroit in 2005, a place that he still calls home today.
“I just love the people of Detroit,” he said. “It’s a great place to live. I know we’ve had our struggles in the city of Detroit and things like that but the fans and how they treat the players and how passionate they are, you can’t beat it. I’m glad we’re No. 1.”
As one of 12 cities in the U.S. to claim a professional team in each of the four major sports, the Wings, Lions, Tigers and Pistons fan bases that come out in droves to support their teams.
One of the newcomers to the Wings' locker room, center Stephen Weiss came from the Florida Panthers through free agency before the 2013-14 season. He said support from the fans has been overwhelming.
“Not only at the games but in and around the community you’ll have people come up to you and say things,” Weiss said. “I had a note left on my car at the mall the other day from someone just saying, ‘Hang in there’ and that was pretty cool. My wife and I thought that was awesome. You know, even when we do autograph night we sign for two and a half, three hours straight. It’s pretty cool.”
Weiss spent 11 seasons with the Panthers but said nothing he has ever experienced can compare to his short time spent here in Detroit.
“Well it’s the history, it’s an Original Six,” he said. “When you have that type of history, fans grow to love your team and your players and especially with this team. You have players that have been here for so long, you become attached to them. They grow the young guys and keep them for a long time, it’s easy for fans to become attached to players. In Florida, it was not like that with players coming in and out and tough for fans to really latch on to guys, so those are some of the differences right off the bat.”
A history of success and tradition is not limited to the Wings’ four Stanley Cups since 1997 and 23 consecutive playoff appearances, but also the Tigers' four straight American League Central Division championships from 2011-14, the Pistons' NBA title in 2004 followed up by a return trip to the NBA Finals in 2005, and the Lions' recent accomplishments, the title as America’s No. 1 sports city is well deserved.
“We did get Hockeytown for a reason,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “Our fans are obviously one of the better American fans in the league. Definitely, this organization is top notch all the way around so in regards to that, I agree.”
Detroit was ranked at the top of USA Today’s Top 10 sports cities, beating out Indianapolis, Dallas, Chicago, Green Bay, Boston, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Oakland.
The list was compiled from votes during a reader’s choice contest.