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Detroit Red Wings Need To Learn from the Top

DETROIT - JUNE 12:  Brad Stuart #23, second from left, and Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings look on dejectedly after Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. The Penguins defeated the Red Wings 2-1 in the seventh game to win the Stanley Cup Finals series 4 games to 3. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tim KingCorrespondent IJune 16, 2009

As the final horn sounded at Joe Louis Arena Friday night, and ended the Detroit Red Wings chances to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, Steve Yzerman took it like a man. 

Yzerman, who has seen more than his fair share of upsets in his career, took a second or two to gather himself and began seeking out members of the Pittsburgh Penguins traveling party in the press box.

Without fail, from General Manager Ray Shero down to the assistant PR folks, Yzerman's actions were the same. He looked each of them in the eye, shook their hand and said "Congratulations." He even stopped by the Penguins radio booth to shake hands with broadcaster Mike Lange and Phil Bourque while they were still on the air. 

If only some of his players followed his lead.

The Cup hadn't left Detroit yet before Kris Draper starting shooting his mouth off about how classless Sidney Crosby was for not shaking the hand of Nicklas Lidstrom in the postgame line. 

Then came the same sour grapes from Henrik Zetterberg less than 24 hours later.  When Lidstrom himself checked in on the matter over the weekend, the bitterness was only slightly masked. 

Here's a clue fellows: You lost. You didn't think it was possible, but you lost a one-goal game at home with the season on the line to a team that you didn't think had it in them. You and your coach had dismissed the Penguins and were ready to repeat last summer's joy.

One problem: The team you thought couldn't possibly beat you took four of the last five games and the Cup.

Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes you don't get the breaks and sometimes fate has determined it just isn't your day. Sometimes the opponent you underestimated is better than you thought.

None of the above is an excuse for boorish behavior, not for players and not for fans.

Crosby missed a couple of people in the handshake line because he was dealing with CBC, NBC, and a handful of people who wanted to make sure they had the correct cell phone number so that the Prime Minister of Canada could call him before he left the ice. 

Crosby is the face of the new NHL. TV ratings in the states were not through the roof because the Red Wings have a mortal lock on the sports world. The numbers were up to see if the next anointed one had a date with destiny.

Crosby holds more endorsement contracts than the entire Wings organization and the demands on his time pass extraordinary on a daily basis. Under the weight of all of that, he did what he could at the moment. If you can't understand that, it's your problem, not his.

The Red Wings' reputation as a first-class organization has taken a hit this weekend.  It didn't have to. It didn't start at the top.

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