This Red Wings' Fan Is "Okay" if Dan Bylsma's Penguins Win the Cup

Phil HopersbergerCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

RALEIGH, NC - MAY 26:  Head coach Dan Bylsma the Pittsburgh Penguins speaks to the media after Game Four of the Eastern Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center on May 26, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Pittsburgh won the game 4-1 to complete a four game sweep. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I cried when Yzerman lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time.

Most Wings fans did.   

No one deserved that more than Stevie Yzerman. A true gentleman of the greatest sport.

I love the Detroit Red Wings. Let's be clear about that. Ask anyone who knows me. They are my team. Always will be.

But if the Red Wings lose to the Penguins, I'll be okay with it because Dan Bylsma deserves it too. The new coach of the Penguins is the real deal, just like Yzerman.

In a world of selfish, spoiled athletes making all the wrong headlines with arrests, abuses, and drugs, Dan is one guy that all Detroiters should know (and would normally root for...if he wasn't going against their team).

So if we lose, I'm okay with it.  

This one time only. 

Dan Bylsma (Biles-muh) is a regular blue-collar guy, who loves his family, likes to hunt and fish, and has done all the right things to get to a very elite level of hockey that has a membership of only 29 other guys.

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Heck, the most elite club in our country, the United States Senate, has three times as many members! Chicken scratch compared to coaching in the NHL. You must be the best of the best.

And even though you may be the best, that doesn't mean everyone knows who you are...yet.

My "yet" for Dan Bylsma began years ago when I read Dan's book, So Your Son Wants To Play In the NHL. I was unequivocally impressed.  

My son has played travel hockey for 10 years and after reading Dan's book, I signed him up for his hockey camp in Grand Rapids, MI.

A week of driving back and forth to Grand Rapids every day for a week was so worthwhile, we did it five years in a row. Crazy? I don't think so.  

After being around so many bad role models in travel hockey, privileged players and classless coaches, I wanted my son to see someone who got it; that life was more important than fleeting glory on the ice.

At his camp, Dan reinforced all the things I read about in his book. Study hard and get good grades. Respect your parents and do what they say. Play other sports. Go to church. Work hard. Respect your teammates. Don’t cheat. Make a difference.

Great stuff for a young kid to hear from an NHL player who really believed it. 

“Always try to brighten your corner of the locker room,” Dan would say to the kids.  “Make a difference.”

And he did just that with us on more than one occasion, but one stands out. 

Youth hockey can be brutal at the travel level. I don't remember many scores from over 1,000 games from Moose Jaw to Niagara Falls, but I do remember Dan writing a personal letter to my son after he was unfairly cut from his first team.  

That was classy and it brightened our "corner" quite a bit.

If you were playing in the NHL with Wayne Gretzky and Rob Blake, would you bother to let a kid know you were cut unfairly once too? To let him know it was okay?  

I doubt I would, but Dan did and it made a huge difference with my son who didn't quit hockey. My son worked all the harder and played nine more years at a very high level.

Once Detroiters get to know who Dan is, they're gonna' root for him too because he's one of us. The classic guy next door.

Dan is a Michigander who played his youth hockey out of Muskegon, then went to Bowling Green on a hockey scholarship to play with Todd Reirden and Rob Blake, and eventually nine seasons in the NHL with the Kings and Ducks.

And when he retired as a player, he started a new career as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Ducks, then the New York Islanders, and finally with the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins as their head coach.

In February, he got the call. 

With the Pittsburgh Penguins mired in the standings and out of the playoffs, would he take over Crosby and Malkin? 

Dan agreed and promptly went on to win most of their remaining games with an 18-3-4 record and solidly made the playoffs!

After dismissing the Flyers, Capitals, and Hurricanes, they are in the Stanley Cup Finals! Against my Red Wings. What a trip!

Dan has been here before though. In 2003, his Ducks lost to the Devils in seven games when his coach was Mike Babcock, the current Red Wings’ coach.

On Saturday, Dan will play for the Stanley Cup. And should he defeat the Wings, I'll be cheering him because he deserves it, but just this once.

Just once, Dan. Just this once.

Good luck, Cisco!

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