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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wings, Pens set to make history

DETROIT – Mike Babcock gave Marian Hossa a quick quiz. Who scored the goals for Detroit when the Red Wings clinched the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh in 2008?

Hossa played for the Penguins that night. Babcock coached the Red Wings.

Neither, however, could come up with a single name … and that was Babcock’s point.

“He didn't know, and neither did I,” said Babcock. “That's the facts. But I knew we won. Doesn't matter who scores the goals, none of that matters. What matters is do your part and allow the team to win.”

So as the Red Wings and Penguins approach tonight’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m., Ch. 4 and Ch. 9), the victors will forever be remembered as champions. Individual accomplishments will not be remembered as much as team accomplishments.

Tomas Holmstrom has won four Stanley Cups. But not even the greatest Red Wings fan could tell you what he did in clinching games. Kris Draper has the same number of rings, but was he centering the third line, second line or fourth line on the night that the Wings won in Washington in 1998?

What people remember is the lifting of the Stanley Cup by the champions, both people who watch the games and people who play the games.

“I think every kid's image, every player's image, they have an image of someone with the Stanley Cup,” said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. “I have several images, not just one person or one player. You know, I remember Scotty Bowman when he went out with his skates on and grabbed the Cup (in 2002 with Detroit). I remember Ray Bourque grabbing the Cup, and that kind of culmination of his career and the trade in that situation. It was something I remember. You know, there are other ones, other ones to remember. Certainly the one in '03 when we had to watch another team do it is certainly a memory that I'd like to but I won't forget.”

Bylsma was a player with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003, coached by Babcock, when they lost a Game 7 in New Jersey.

On the New Jersey Devils that spring was Brian Rafalski, who’s now on the Red Wings’ top defense tandem alongside Nicklas Lidstrom. Babcock called on Rafalski to speak about his Game 7 experience at the Red Wings’ Thursday morning meeting. Rafalski is the lone Red Wing to have played in a Stanley Cup final Game 7.

“He had some thoughts to share with the guys,” said Babcock. “But I think any kind of thing that's going to keep you poised and allow you to execute is a great thing. We'll see tomorrow (Friday).”

Babcock also tried to revisit great Stanley Cup clinching games of the past with his players, but ran into a bit of a generation gap.

“I talked about the '72 Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup,” said Babcock. “Then I said to Helmer (Darren Helm), ‘What year were you born?’ He said, ‘'87.’ I said, ‘Okay.’”

Despite the age difference, most everyone in the Red Wings’ locker room can relate this Game 7 to a previous championship experience.

Some like Helm and Kris Draper have played a one-game championship at the World Junior Championships. Others like Nicklas Lidstrom and Mikael Samuelsson have played a one-game championship at the Olympics. Justin Abdelkader was in a one-game championship for NCAA hockey.

“What a great thing,” said Babcock. “Is it any different than the gold medal game in the Olympics, or the gold medal game in the World Championships? Or even for a kid like Abby (Abdelkader), the gold medal game at the NCAA championships. Or for me when I coached in the CIU Championships or the World Junior? They're all one-and-done. So I think everybody's experienced this.

“In saying that though, I'm still a big believer that the greatest prize in hockey … and I haven't been to the Olympics, so I don't know ... but the greatest prize in hockey is the Stanley Cup. It's an unbelievable trophy. And just like they say at the start about winning the Stanley Cup, there are lots of people out here where I'm looking, guys covering the game that have won. To me, outside your family, it's the greatest thrill you'll ever have in your life.”


Blogger Jeffrey said...

Oh come on...he doesn't remember Fleury dropping his ass on a puck and pushing it into the net? Zetterberg's goal!

June 12, 2009 at 10:23 AM 
Blogger Bruce MacLeod said...

Wow Jeffrey. You read that posting before I finished hitting the upload button. You are fast.

June 12, 2009 at 10:25 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GO WINGS! Hope to see them with a quick start and play hard the full 60 minutes. I sure would like to see cindy in tears this year.

June 12, 2009 at 11:46 AM 
Blogger John said...

I have been there.I have won. I have lost in the 1 and done finals.

The desperation that ensues makes the victory so amazing and if you play your best, it leaves a loss not so bad... because you can't help but applaud the team that was truly better than yours.

I have forgotten the details of the three finals I have lost.

I have forgotten who scored in the final we won, or how we got there.

I will never forget jumping over the boards. I will never forget the team photos and how we felt after those games. I will never forget the smiles on the teams we lost to.

Championships change people. The winners and the losers.

My current team has members of teams I have won with, members of teams I have beaten in championships, and members of teams I have lost to. And that is why it is so fun to be on this team. Because we all know what it means to be there when the final buzzer goes. Win or lose it's over for you and the other team. And the couple guys who are new to the game (they have never really had a chance to play for it yet) will find out in 7 weeks what it is like... and after that, they will relax a bit more in the regular season. They will care a bit more about taking short shifts. They will spend a bit more of their free time with other members of the team. Hockey final games are much like combat. You enter as team mates and you leave as family.

Any one who has not played hockey should do so with the sole aspiration of making it to a championship some day. It will not happen overnight. You will find out it is a hard fought road even in adult novice leagues. Even in roller hockey or floor hockey.

I will never forget my floor hockey team from Ferris State. We only lost two games. One, because everyone, even the goalie and the girl were drunk. We lost 10-3. We faced that team in the semi-finals and won 4-0 or 6-0 or something like that. But. We only had a five minute break between the semi-final and the final. We lost to the tennis team 2-1 or 3-2 because we were all simply too tired to stand up. Even our subs. After the game, we just laid down and tried to breathe. But every player on our team was smiling. We could not have done what we did with anyone else. That is not a feeling that has been recreated by any other sport i have played or watched. I still talk to one teammate who is now in California. The members of that team were all red wings fans. One from Little Ceaser's juniors, one assistant trainer on campus, one from McDonald's juniors, one from Phi Sig's, four male cheerleaders (including me and our mascot) and two guys who just loved hockey and didn't care who they played with as long as they got to play. I don't remember the other floor hockey team i played on at all.

Game 7. All you can do is your best. Bruce, other readers, Red Wings, equipment managers, fans, ticket ushers and little ceaser's vendors: do your jobs the best you can tonight and you will remember it forever.

June 12, 2009 at 12:40 PM 
Blogger John said...

And as a side-note, it wasn't until I re-read this last post that I even remembered that I was the captain of that floor hockey team. I have been the captain of a losing team in roller. And hopefully soon on the winning team on ice.

Wow do I love this game.

June 12, 2009 at 2:24 PM 

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