The Detroit Red Wings captured their first Cup in 42 years in 1997.
Around the holidays it’s customary to gather and reminisce about the good old days; reaching back into the archives of one’s memory to relive the nostalgic eras of yore.
The same can be replicated for great moments in hockey, only it’s more acceptable year-round. Detroit Red Wings fans possess a cornucopia of moments to recall, some of which take Hockeytown back to the notable days of Presidents’ Trophies, Stanley Cup championships and heated rivalries unlike any other.
Some of the most memorable and heart-warming moments in Red Wings history resurface in the form of glorious goals, prodigious plays and the subsequent celebration. The fiery battles with bitter adversaries, accompanied by tear-jerking moments that transcend the game, contribute to a list that can easily stretch beyond these five allotted slots.
Following is a collection of five specific moments that dive deep into the hearts and memories of Red Wing faithful. A collection of some of the fan-favorite junctures in team history that trigger the wistful desire to relive the hockey epochs they covet.
Here are the five moments that make every Detroit Red Wings fan nostalgic.
In Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Final, Darren McCarty scored a goal that would make highlight reels everywhere, and last in the minds of Red Wings fans forever.
At 13:01 of the second period and Detroit leading 1-0, McCarty received a pass from Tomas Sandstrom in the neutral zone. McCarty undressed Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Janne Niinimaa and proceeded to deke Ron Hextall into oblivion for what stood as the game-winning and cup-clinching goal.
The Red Wings would win Game 4, 2-1, and complete the series sweep to earn their first Stanley Cup in 42 years.
Part of the spectacle that was McCarty’s goal was the offensive prowess he showed as an enforcer. McCarty was not known for his ability with the puck, but as history would have it, he produced big games in the postseason more than once.
Detroit has won four Stanley Cups since the 1996-97 season, but a fan’s memory of experiencing the first title in their lifetime is something to cherish.
Detroit trailed Colorado 3-2 in the 2002 Western Conference Finals when it experienced a turning point that would become a legendary blunder in recent NHL history.
In the second period of a scoreless Game 6 in Colorado, Steve Yzerman had a scoring opportunity all alone in front of the net when Patrick Roy made a diving save. Roy, thinking he had control of the puck, raised his glove to the sky to signify he had possession. The puck sat in the crease until Brendan Shanahan poked it into the gaping net to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.
The Wings would win the game 2-0 and force a decisive Game 7 back home. Colorado never recovered from Roy’s gaffe, and Detroit shutout the Avalanche again in Game 7, 7-0. Detroit would go on to win its third Stanley Cup in six seasons, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in five games.
Not only was it a testament to the poise of a team with its back against the wall, but it was an embarrassing error by a polarizing player on a hated rival. The play symbolizes the best of both worlds for Hockeytown and stands as a culminating moment for Detroit fans in their rivalry with Colorado.
Chasing Patrick Roy in Game 7 was another moment fans love to remember, but Roy’s “statue of liberty” play on his own home ice in an elimination game was the rallying point for Detroit’s entire Stanley Cup run.
After suffering a sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final the year before, the Detroit Red Wings rebounded nicely in the 1995-96 regular season.
After setting an NHL record with 62 wins, the Red Wings took to the playoffs looking to avenge their Finals defeat. In Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the St. Louis Blues, goaltenders Jon Casey and Chris Osgood stood tall for over 80 minutes of a scoreless game.
At 1:15 of the second overtime, Steve Yzerman picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone. As Yzerman hit the blue line he let a slap shot go that eluded goaltender Jon Casey for the series-clinching goal.
The Red Wings won the first two games of the series, lost three straight, and then won Game 6 in St. Louis to force the decisive seventh game. Yzerman’s winner vaulted Detroit to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season, where they would fall in six games to the Colorado Avalanche—birthing their storied rivalry.
Yzerman’s goal was a remarkable shot but also provided Detroit tremendous momentum heading into a tough series with Colorado. The immensity of his unassisted tally was capped off by recognition of the player who initially turned the puck over—Wayne Gretzky.
March 26, 1997 marks the date of one of hockey’s most notorious incidents. Stemming from a single hit, the rivalry between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche blossomed into a glorious bouquet of unadulterated hockey hatred.
During Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, Colorado Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux hit Detroit forward Kris Draper in the back, breaking Draper’s nose, jaw and cheekbone on the dasher. Draper also suffered lacerations, a concussion and nerve damage. Detroit lost the best-of-seven series 4-2.
The following season, Colorado visited Joe Louis Arena and the abundance of animosity erupted into a brawl involving every player on the ice. Peter Forsberg and Igor Larionov began the festivities before Darren McCarty broke free from an official’s grasp and sucker-punched Lemieux. In defense, Lemieux “turtled” as McCarty relentlessly threw punch after punch.
Brendan Shanahan and Adam Foote paired off in a fight of their own while goaltenders Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon stole the show at center ice. Roy and Lemieux would need treatment to repair cuts and Forsberg would not return to the game.
Detroit came away with a dramatic 6-5 overtime win, appropriately concluding with Darren McCarty scoring the overtime winner. The Red Wings would meet Colorado again in the conference finals and emerge victorious in six games. Detroit would advance to sweep the Philadelphia Flyers for the franchise’s eighth Stanley Cup.
The brawl put the rivalry on even footing, avenging teammate Kris Draper and earning Detroit respect as a serious contender.
Less than a week after winning their first Stanley Cup since 1955, the Detroit Red Wings were struck by tragedy.
A limousine transporting Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov crashed, causing severe injury to all three passengers. The driver, Richard Gnida, was operating the vehicle with a suspended license for drunk driving and told police he had blacked out behind the wheel. Konstantinov spent multiple weeks in a coma while Mnatsakanov was paralyzed from the waist down. Fetisov suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung.
The Red Wings dedicated the following season to Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov while sporting patches displaying “believe” in English and Russian, as well as their initials.
Detroit completed its four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals, and once the final horn sounded, Vladimir Konstantinov was brought on the ice in a wheel chair to celebrate with his teammates. After hoisting the Cup for a brief moment, Steve Yzerman immediately placed it in the lap of Konstantinov.
The moment touched the hearts of the hockey world and signified the purity of the game, while measuring the importance of life outside of sport. It brought the catastrophe full circle, emanating the wholesome connotation of team, family and community.
This moment defines Hockeytown as so much more than fanhood, but an involved relationship between a franchise, the city it epitomizes and the character of the family it shares.