A lot of things are heard from the crowd at Joe Louis Arena during a Detroit Red Wings game, whether it's in October or June. There's no party like a Detroit party, and the fans at the Joe put on one of the best on a nightly basis.
Red Wings fans are always getting into the spirit of the game, whether it's finishing off the 'South Detroit' line of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" or humming along to "Sweet Caroline."
But a "Todd Bertuzzi" chant? Rarely does something like that happen at the Joe.
Despite the team's wild popularity, there are few times when a player gets his name chanted by the crowd. Chris Osgood's "Ozzie" chant after a big save is perhaps the one exception, but Osgood doesn't play as much as he used to. Stars like Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg don't even get the treatment like what Bertuzzi got on Wednesday.
Bertuzzi got the crowd behind him after taking on Phoenix's Rostislav Klesla during the second period of the Red Wings' playoff opener against the Coyotes. Klesla and Bertuzzi came together near the boards and then dropped the gloves in one of the shorter fights in NHL history as Bertuzzi lost his balance and fell as soon as Klesla grabbed a hold of him. Bertuzzi still managed to get a shot in after the fall, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. The chant surfaced again later in the third period when Bertuzzi got his helmet knocked off, forcing him to skate around helmet-less like he was playing in the 1970s for a few moments.
Needless to say, Bertuzzi was a bit stunned. He estimated it was at least seven years since he had an entire arena behind him like that:
"It was pretty cool," Bertuzzi said. "Probably better if it was after a goal. It was neat. Great fans here. When we get that kind of response, guys respond and play hard."
The score was tied at one at that point during the game. Detroit responded by scoring the next three goals en route to a 4-2 win. Pavel Datsyuk may have had the best quote of the night describing how Bertuzzi's fight flipped the tables on the Coyotes:
"After this fight, game flip our way," Pavel Datsyuk said. "Momentum."
Bertuzzi's game has changed in the past couple of weeks as he has gone to a more physical approach. On April 2 against Nashville, Bertuzzi exchanged fisticuffs with the Predators' Shane O'Brien twice as the Red Wings trailed that game 3-0 early. After Bertuzzi's second fight, the Red Wings scored three straight goals and eventually won in overtime.
Still, a "Todd Bertuzzi" chant? It's a far cry from what the man is used to getting.
Bertuzzi is usually booed at most arenas and is vilified at every opportunity. Most of that stems from his involvement in the Steve Moore incident eight years ago, which ended Moore's career and resulted in one of the longest suspensions in NHL history for Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi immediately became a "goon" across the league.
Wherever the man went, people hated him. Earlier this season, a certain Minnesota Wild blog encouraged fans to boo Bertuzzi every time he was on the ice during his 1000th career game. Bertuzzi had to change his game as a result, essentially taking the physicality out of it to avoid another incident.
But Bertuzzi has never been even close to a Marty McSorley or Matt Cooke type of player. He's always had skill and can contribute to a team, and fans in Detroit are starting to embrace that in his second go-around in the Motor City.
George Malik over at Kukla's Korner theorized that when Bertuzzi didn't get suspended for elbowing Chicago's Ryan Johnson earlier in the month, it lifted a weight off his shoulders and reintroduced the physicality to Bertuzzi's game:
The fact that Bertuzzi wasn't suspended for hitting Ryan Johnson-who he apologized to after leaving his feet and charging the Blackhawks forward earlier this month-seems to have lifted a ten-thousand pound weight from his shoulders. He's realized that the NHL will allow him to play physical hockey within the bounds of its rules again, and he's become so much more effective over the past couple of weeks that it's silly.
Whatever happened to Bertuzzi seems to be working well. If that is indeed the case, it may not be the last of the "Todd Ber-tu-zzi" cheer at the Joe.