Tonight's Sharks game against the Red Wings is already gut-check enough, with the two teams at the top of the Western Conference standings and the underdog detremined to defend their home turf.
If you want a sense of Detroit's deep hatred of Lemieux, check his Wikipedia page. It has clearly been hacked and altered with countless falsehoods and slanderous juvenile profanities by still-enraged Detroit fans.
Here in Shark waters, we just consider Lemiuex to be a nice, feel-good comeback story. Lemieux was retired for nearly six years, then fought (ha ha!) his way back up through the minor leagues as the second-oldest player in hockey.
But in Detroit, he's widely viewed as a cheat and an agitator for his vicious streak of brawling with the New Jersey Devils in a 1995 Stanley Cup sweep of the Red Wings. Lemieux has had "wanted" posters of him printed in Detroit newspapers. He estimates that 20,000 Red Wings fans once came to a game, all in matching "F*** Lemieux" t-shirts. One of the Red Wings has challenged Lemieux to a fistfight in the parking lot of a Detroit hamburger joint after the game.
Lemiuex told the Flint Journal what kind of treatment he expects from Detroit fans. "Probably no different than what it used to be. I don't expect to become a fan favorite in Detroit." Lemieux might, however, sell a lot of t-shirts.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who dares you to wear a Lemieux jersey to a Red Wings game.