The 1997 Detroit Red Wings team will be honored this evening. Big D Energy and several fans share their experiences from when they clinched the cup
Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, hockey was a part of my everyday life. Granted, I never played the game on ice, but I was one hell of a goalie in street hockey. My high school won back to back hockey titles in 1994 and 1995. Our school hosted players from the Plymouth Whalers. We all knew people who were playing in the various leagues across Metro Detroit. Hockey surrounded everyone. But if there was one consistent variable that united everyone was the Detroit Red Wings.
Tonight and throughout the weekend, the Red Wings are honoring both the 1997 and 1998 teams, as it has been 25 years since winning the Stanley Cup. Per the Detroit Red Wings.com, in addition to pregame ceremonies, special vintage merchandise items will be sold in the Team Store, and fans will be able to take photos with the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of his team during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Campbell Bowl, given to the Western Conference Champions each season.
So one of our fans, the crew at Big D Energy and a few other Woodward Sports members look back at the night the Wings won the Stanley Cup.
The Detroit Red Wings were getting closer
The crescendo was building towards the night of June 6th, 1997. The fans were witnessing a building of a dynasty. The work of Jim Devellano and the talent he collected was starting to pay off. After back to back conference finals losses to one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the Edmonton Oilers in 1987 and 1988, the Wings entered the 1990s still looking for an identity.
The hiring of Bryan Murray in 1990 would spark a run of 25 consecutive seasons in making the NHL playoffs. However, after falling short to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993, Murray was relieved of his duties as head coach. Scotty Bowman, two years removed from winning the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, took over.
Bryan Murray 27 May 1993, Thu Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com
In his first season behind the bench, Sergei Fedorov would win the league’s Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. However, Detroit would lose in seven against the San Jose Sharks, who were the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Goalie Bob Essensa, who was picked up at the trade deadline from the Winnipeg Jets, was not much a factor in the playoffs. Arturs Irbe out dueled him and rookie goaltender Chris Osgood.
In the strike-shorten season of 1994-95, the Wings reached their first Stanley Cup final since 1966. They ran into a New Jersey Devils team that was bigger defensively and were able to keep everyone but Fedorov from scoring. But Detroit pressed on. They were involved in one of the greatest hockey rivalries of all time with the Colorado Avalanche and added a few pieces that put them over the hump.
Fast forward to the Red Wings raising the cup
Here are some thoughts from our staff and fans about their memories of the 1997 team.
Woodward Sports Director/ Ermanni and Edwards and Maz host: Tom Mazawey:
I was lucky enough to be part of the Red Wings radio broadcast team during their championship run. 1997 was amazing to see those guys celebrate like they did with their Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman. I was lucky enough to be able to hold the Cup as it came off the ice, get my picture taken and be one of the first reporters in the locker room to start the interviews, it was wild. In 1998 they won it on the road in Washington and again I was lucky enough to be there. Obviously to see them celebrate with Vladdy was something I’ll never forget. Squeezing in that small visitors locker room was a challenge but well worth it!
Red Wings fan Tammy C, Hartland, MI:
Finally, after 42 years, the Detroit Red Wings returned the Stanley Cup to Hockeytown! My favorite memories of the year included the Darren McCarty payback to Claude Lemieux for the cheap shot against Kris Draper, Darren scoring the winning goal in game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers, and being at the Stanley Cup Parade in downtown Detroit.
Darren McCarty, Red Wings forward, 1997 squad:
One of the things that I remember the most is the day in between game 3 and 4 of Finals was that the re occurring feeling of winning the Cup the next day
I’ve never felt more confident not cocky that what we had worked so hard for. We would not be denied
Joey Kocur and I continued our tradition of playing golf the day between games (side note we were 17-1 over the 97/98 playoffs when we golfed)
Scotty was superstitious so it worked out well
Coming to rink nothing changed the day of game. Just that feeling of not being denied a lifetime goal
You could feel it in the city the building on the highways, EVERYWHERE
Lidstrom scoring end of first and my goal (only beat 1 guy 1 on 1. It’s all timing) making it 2-0
It was the most confidence yet excited playing 3rd period. And yes Eric Limdeos and the Legion of Doom finally scored under 20 seconds left in the 3rd made my goal the Stanley Cup Clinching Goal
25 years later it’s still that way
I bring this up because my favourite Joe Louis 1997 memory was being on the ice for the final buzzer
Lidstrom, Konstantinov, Shanahan, Yzerman, and Darren McCarty. The kid from Leamington Ont.
When the buzzer went. The steamers out the roof. The fans on their feet. The boys off the bench
I was near the redline and for 7 seconds it was so Loud. It was Silent
Thank you Winged Wheeled Nation
With eternal Love and Gratitude to you all
Enjoy this celebration. It’s never been yours or mine. It’s always been OURS
Woodward Sports Utility Man Stick:
“I can remember being at a High School house party in Commerce Michigan when the Wings Secured the cup in 97. I wasn’t the biggest hockey fan at the time but the excitement for that Stanley Cup was off the charts. 30 high school kids partying and going nuts when the scoreboard read 00:00. Outside of the Pistons I had never seen a championship in Detroit. I was on 8 and 9 when the Bad Boys won. Now I was 16 and really able to understand just how big of a moment it was. Afterwards, I went to the parade and just enjoyed the biggest party in the city. Parades are special, Championships are special. At that time it seemed as if they were going to come every year. Looking back I’m just happy the city was able to celebrate together.”
The voice of Detroit City FC, Oakland University Men’s Basketball and co-host of Big D Energy Neal Ruhl:
Question 1: What were your first thoughts when you saw them clinch the cup?
Question 2: What did you observe from the fans around the city when it happened?
1. It’s kind of funny because after all the heartbreaks, I started to think they weren’t gonna be able to do it. They had all that talent and hadn’t won. I have actually come clean to Dmac about that take lol. He forgave me. When they finally won, I just remember thinking to myself “finally”. It was a lil deeper for me because I would listen to every game on the radio every night and remember how fired up I got when their game was on tv on “UPN 50”. So it was a long grinding road. I was actually happiest for Steve Yzerman. He did everything the right way, and was rewarded for it. Plus I’m a Sergei Fedorov slappy!
2. What I noticed around the city was the same as everyone else. I think deep down, a lot of people felt the same way I did, that it might never happen. I think that explains why everyone was so excited.
What the Detroit Red Wings did that summer
What that Stanley Cup did for most fans was provided relief for the city. The Detroit Lions were about to start the Bobby Ross era. The Pistons, under head coach Doug Collins, lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks. Mike Ilitch’s other team, the Detroit Tigers, were 26-31 but in 1996, gave up the second most runs by a starting pitching in MLB history and posted a team ERA of 6.38.
The mixture of homegrown talent and the trades for Brendan Shanahan, Mike Vernon, Kris Draper and Igor Larionov helped the Wings get over the top. All of those talents became engrained into Detroit with a quickness. So if you have the chance to relive that 1997 or 1998 feeling all over again, you have two opportunities to do so.