Wings, Pens set to make history
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.”