Today, the City of Detroit Celebrates along with Hockey Fans Everywhere for Lord Stanley's Cup has been won for the 11th time by the Detroit Red Wings! With this win, Detroit, one of the Original Six teams, moves into third place all time for the most Stanley Cup wins, behind only Montreal and Toronto--two other Original Six Teams.
In many ways, this Stanley Cup Championship is about history--the glory of winning Lord Stanley's Cup, the first hockey player from Newfoundland to hoist the Stanley Cup above his head in triumph, the first European Captain in Nicklas Lidstrom to lead his team to victory in the NHL. This championship is also about Detroit's past and unique Hockey Traditions--the most unique, and odd, of them all probably is the throwing of the Octopus on the ice; and the history of old arenas such as Joe Louis Arena and the Igloo in Pittsburgh, which are the two oldest rinks in professional hockey, and are ancient by professional sports standards.
But while the history of the Stanley Cup Championships, and in Detroit in particular, is certainly an important thread in the tapestry, the others that hold it all together revolve around just One Goal.
For Dallas Drake, who began his hockey career as a Detroit Red Wing sixteen years ago and traded around the NHL and who found himself back in Detroit this year and playing for a championship, he had just one Goal--winning that elusive Stanley Cup for the 1st time. The Captain of the winning hockey team is always presented with the Stanley Cup for his victory lap around the ice, but the tradition of the handoff to the next player is also well known. The Captain of the Stanley Cup Winning team chooses a player, by whatever criteria, to be the next individual to hold the cup and to skate around the ice. That first handoff is an honor bestowed by the captain to his team mate. For Nicklas Lidstrom, the decision was easy. Dallas Drake, who started his career with the Wings, who meandered around the league, and who finally came full-circle back to the Wings and won a Stanely Cup Championship. For both Nicklas Lidstrom--who was there when Dallas Drake first arrived--and Dallas Drake, it was a special moment.
One Goal. For Sydney Crosby, the young Captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who has dreamed of the Stanley Cup and grew up idolizing many of the players he was mixing it up with in this series, his fortunes revolved around one goal. Monday night, Pittsburgh was able to win the game in part because Detroit's Defenseman Kronwall shot the puck into his own net. While Detroit overcame that deficit, Pittsburgh played its heart out through three overtime periods, battled back after Detroit took the lead, and forced a game six last night. Last night, a loose puck which Pittsburgh goaltender Fleury inadvertantly knocked into his goal was the counter-balancing of the karmic scale and gave Detroit it's lead which proved decisive. But for young Syd Crosby, having come so close to Hockey's Highest Pinnacle, he'll need to work hard over the summer and learn from this rough life lesson to become stronger, better, more focused and ultimately to achieve his goal.
One Goal. For Chris Osgood, the most unlikely starting goalie in the history of the Red Wings, this moment must be sweet vindication. In 1997, Osgood was backup goalie to Mike Vernon, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy. In 1998, Osgood was front and center. But for the cup-winning season in 2002, Osgood was no longer a Red Wing, having been replaced by Dominik Hasek. So by a strange twist of fate, Osgood was back this year and had the best season of his career along with co-starting goalie Hasek. And when Hasek performed poorly in Round I of the playoffs, Osgood got the call and was brilliant. Had Detroit won Game 5 at home, Osgood might have been the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player of the playoffs in lieu of Henrik Zetterberg. But in Game 6, Chris did what he had to and hoisted his third Stanley Cup Trophy over his head and drank champagned out of the bowl.
One Goal. For Henrik Zetterberg, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the goal he prevented on a Pittsburgh 5-on-3 Power Play and the goal he almost scored shorthanded on the same Power Play in Game 5 was an MVP winning performance. Having scored the most points for Detroit in the playoff run, for his brilliant offense, for his stellar defensive play which has him up for the Selke Award as the NHL's best defensive forward along with linemate Pavel Datsyuk, and for matching up against the Penguins Sydney Crosby almost every shift, Zetterberg not only demonstrated his leadership, he put on a clinic. When Nicklas Lidstrom retires in the not too distant future, Zetterberg is a top candidate to replace him as Captain of the Red Wings.
One Goal. For Nicklas Lidstrom--the man his team mates call "The Perfect Human," he simply wants to be the best. Quiet, even-keeled, a gentleman and a master of consistency and one of the best work ethics in hockey. The hardware has stacked up. An Olympic Gold Medal for Sweden in Hockey, a Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Playoffs' Most Valuable Player, Five Norris Trophies as the Best Defenseman in the League (and he's a lock for his Sixth this year), Four Stanley Cup Championship Trophies, and the Captain of the Storied Detroit Red Wings. One day, there will be made-for-television movies about Nicklas Lidstrom.
One Goal. For Mike and Marion Ilitch, the founders of Little Caesar's Pizza and the owner of the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, it's excellence and a pursuit of excellence and unfailing support for the City of Detroit. They have built their businesses, and their sports teams, around solid principles and good people. In professional sports these days, you either produce as a player or you get traded somewhere else. The Detroit Red Wings, however, are built around character. They're built around they're people. If you fit with the team, if you add good chemistry to the team. If you're a good person, you can be a Detroit Red Wing. That's how role players such as Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty have stayed with the Red Wings or come back to the Red Wings after so long. Performing and what a player brings to the ice is important for the Red Wings, but even more important is what the player brings off the ice and in the locker room.
One Goal. For the city of Detroit, long weary of its battles with negative labels imposed on it by the media and unfair one-liners tossed at it by comedians and citizens around the country almost every single day; for the city of Detroit, long weary of its struggling economy and the woes of the auto-industry; for the city of Detroit, long weary of its own internal divides and the corruption of its Mayor and city coucil, and police force a Stanley Cup Championship is a cause to celebrate and put on a parade. For the city of Detroit, a Stanley Cup Championship is a rallying cry. It's a call to unite. It's a time when five million people can all share in the glory and bask in the limelight and be happy and proud and, for just a few short-lived days, to feel like winners and forget the problems of every day life.
One Goal. For this ex-patriot Detroiter living in the Mountains of North Carolina--where few people understand hockey and look on in amusement when I wear my Steve Yzerman Sweater on Game Days--it's a connection with the hometown I haven't lived in for almost a decade and the same hometown that made me who I am. Last night, as the seconds were ticking away and the Penguins were driving on a 6 on 4 powerplay with Fluery out of the net and on the bench, my heart was beating in my ears as I screamed at the television: "Not Again!" and "No! No! NO!" And then for the final 90 seconds as I watched the Red Wings maintain their composure, but a Penguins team refusing to give up with a near miss as the puck rolled behind Osgood across the crease just in front of the goal line even as the final buzzer sounded. Those final seconds were an eternity as the possibility of Pittsburgh tying the game and another shocking loss was replaced by the boiling excitement of the win that erupted along with the Red Wings' cheers like champagne erupting out of its bottle immediately after being freed from its cork.
One Goal. For this Detroiter who has lived in the enemy territory of Columbus, Ohio and the Ohio State Buckeyes, who has lived in the cornfields of Indiana, who has lived along the banks of the Ohio River and who now lives in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains, it's a time to stand up a little straighter, it's a time to smile a little more. It's a time share in the glory and bask in the limelight and be happy and proud and, for just a few short-lived days, to feel like a winner and forget the problems of every day life.
Thanks for reading.
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