Best of Times, Worst of Times: 21 Years Ago When Red Wings Won The Stanley Cup
June 7th, 1997. I'm pretty sure any Red Wings die-hard remembers that date like it was yesterday. It was the night the Red Wings finally won the Stanley Cup, after a 42 year drought of, at times, epic proportion.
Whether it's good or bad doesn't matter, but many find joy and even basic happiness in the performance of their favorite sports teams. And the Detroit victory that night brought such a collective outpouring of joy and excitement, one rarely seen in this state. Seconds after the game, grown men cheering with tears rolling down their cheeks, as the frustration of some or all of 42 years of failure melted away. Everywhere you went, you'd see Red Wing flags attached to car windows waving proudly in the wind. Even in the middle of summer, proper attire was shorts, flip flops or gym shoes, but definitely a Red Wings sweater, or at the very least, a Stanley Cup t-shirt or ball cap. (Merchandising revenue must've gone through the roof.)
Then there was the parade on June 10th. Several million die-hards and even casual fans looking to be a part of something very special, filing into downtown Detroit for an epic celebration. Talk about being on top of the world.
And then came the tragedy of June 13th. Less than a week removed from reaching their collective professional apex, the team suffered a devastating loss.
Following a private party on June 13, 1997, celebrating the Red Wings' Stanley Cup triumph, Konstantinov, along with Russian hockey legend Viacheslav Fetisov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov, hired a limousine to drive them home. The driver, Richard Gnida, whose license was suspended at the time for drunk driving, lost control of the limousine and hit a tree on the median of Woodward Avenue, in Birmingham, Michigan. Konstantinov spent several weeks in a coma before finally pulling through. He also suffered from serious head injuries and paralysis while Fetisov escaped with relatively minor injuries and was able to play the following season. Mnatsakanov sustained heavy head injuries and also spent some time in a coma; he has had a considerably more difficult recovery. -wikipedia entry on Vladimir Konstantinov
The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup the following year, and the celebration was filled with tears and emotion, as "The Captain" Steve Yzerman placed the Cup on Konstantinov's lap, and "Vladdy" was wheeled around with The Cup.
May the lesson to be learn here is cherish and enjoy every moment, because it can be gone and taken away from you in the blink of an eye.
To quote from another Michigan legend, Bob Seger in his song "Like a Rock":
Twenty years, where'd they go?
Twenty years, I don't know.