The Essentials: Detroit Red Wings Edition
(This month, Puck Daddy asked bloggers for every NHL team to tell us The Essentials for their franchises — everything from the defining player and trade, to the indispensable fan traditions. Here's Chris M. and Nightmare on Helm Street, giving us The Essentials for the Detroit Red Wings.)
By Chris M.
I have to pre-warn that this list is going to be heavily slanted towards the modern era, as you'd sort of expect. None of us were around when Detroit was winning Cups in the 50's, so while that era was just as impressive, if not more impressive as the current run, it doesn't live in the hearts of current hockey fans like the latest run.
So, with that said, here goes:
Player: Steve Yzerman
The Captain is now a proper noun in Detroit's lingo. Yzerman is epitome of class, skills, dedication, and toughness, a quiet confidence lost on some hockey fans, but not the players. He defines what it means to be a Red Wing today. It's hard not to give this to Gordie Howe, possibly the greatest all-around player in history, but no one has meant as much to Detroit in the modern era as Yzerman has.
Hon. Mention — Gordie Howe; Nick Lidstrom.
This season combined Detroit's first cup in 42 years, the Brawl in Hockeytown, Mike Vernon's redemption, Yzerman's leadership, Lemieux's comeuppance, the emergence of the grind line and McCarty's place in Ron Hextall's nightmares. I can still remember where I was for almost every key moment of that season and is one of those I'll be able to tell my kids about.
Hon. Mention: 1997-98 (Our Cup celebration was cut tragically short due to the accident involving Fetisov, Mnatsakanov, and Konstantinov. The "Do It For Vladdy" campaign is something that I will never forget.); 2007-08.
Game: March 26, 1997 — Red Wings 6 Avalanche 5 OT - "The Brawl in Hockeytown."
Unbelievably, for a team with as many playoff appearances as Detroit, I have to go with a regular season game. I didn't even have to look the date up, it's a day that will live forever in Wings' fans hearts. This is the game that Detroit went from being a good team that could never win an important game (aka, the San Jose Sharks) to team that has been the greatest franchise in sports for the past 20 or so years and exposed the puke Lemieux for the turtle he was.
Hon. Mention: 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4 vs. the Flyers 2-1 win; 2002 Western Conference Finals, Game 7 vs. the Avalanche 7-0 win.
Goal: Steve Yzerman's Blast vs. the Blues, 1996, Game 7.
The sheer beauty of the full wind-up slapshot, the perfect placement above Hasek's blocker, who actually dressed up as Jon Casey for that series, Jon Casey's blocker, the overly jubilant celebration by the greatest captain to play the game, together with the fact that Yzerman stole the puck from Wayne Gretzky right before he ripped that shot, all combine to make this the greatest goal in modern Detroit history, possibly modern hockey history.
Hon. Mention: Darren McCarty, 1997 Stanley Cup Finals; Igor Larionov, 2002 Stanley Cup Finals
Trade: Paul Coffey and Keith Primeau for Brendan Shanahan.
Ah, remember back when trades were awesome? Unlike today where teams are afraid of giving up anything in return, teams back then took chances. *cough*(listen up Kenny)*cough* Anyways, this was a turning point for sure - the established defensemen and the failed protégé for one of the biggest fan favorites in Red Wing history. Shanny was a huge contributor and that extra piece needed for us to make our Cup runs in 1997, 1998, and 2002
Hon. Mention: Kris Draper for $1; Larry Murphy for a case of whiskey and some smokes.
Unsung Hero: Kris Draper
As much as Lidstrom and Yzerman were reasons why Detroit has been a complete success over the years, Draper was right there with them. He instilled a legendary work ethic into the entire team's mentality. Plus, he was a true good guy who was respected in the locker room. That kind of player is as important to have as any superstar and the loss of that alone hurt Detroit badly this past season. Luckily, I think Kenny Holland has been in touch with the dark side, as I think we have a clone of Draper named Darren Helm.
Hon. Mention: Chris Osgood; Larry Murphy (unbelievably).
Franchise Villain: Claude Lemieux and Patrick Roy.
The easy (and probably correct) player is Claude Lemieux. As my co-writer put it: "I'll never hate a player more than I hate Claude Lemieux. He had the arrogance to match his dirty play too." For straight up hate, I'll go with Lemieux and his pure lack of class/near murder of Kris Draper's front teeth. But just as close is Patrick Roy, for being both a Wing Killer, wife-beater, complete asshole, and one hell of a goaltender. I can remember ripping up every Roy card I had back in 1996 in order to voodoo jinx him in some way. Didn't work and I lost at least $300 in fake Beckett money, which is at least $4 bucks in today's money. But, thank god, both of these two got what was coming to them. I already mentioned Lemieux's legendary turtle, but Roy's blowup was more embarrassing and important to his team and has been become hockey legend. I give you, the great Statute of Liberty play:
Hon. Mention: Sidney Crosby; Chris Pronger; Gary Bettman
Fight: Probert vs. Domi — Dec 2, 1992; Probert vs. McSorley — Feb 4, 1994.
This is tough. The best brawl has got to be either "Fight Night" Round 1 or 2. But the best fight? Probert has got to win this, there's never been a fighter quite like him. But which fight? It's a tough call between his bout with Domi or McSorley, so I went with them both.
And we can't forget Osgood's bout with Roy. Roy threw more punches and landed more punches and pretty much won, no doubt. But given his size advantage and his bully-mentality, for Osgood to agree to fight him, hold his own and ultimately take Roy down, that's pretty impressive. This fight made him a fan-favorite for years to come.
Hon. Mention: Vernon vs. Roy.
Coach: Scotty Bowman
He's the greatest coach of all time and mind-f'cked the Wings (and notably Sergei Fedorov) towards three Stanley Cups. Can't really argue with that.
Hon. Mention: Mike Babcock
Broadcaster: Mickey Redmond
If you aren't a Wings fan or even used to Mickey, you probably hate him and his relaxed style of commentating, but watching the Wings on FS Detroit is like watching a game with your Grandpa at your local pub. Sure you got to put up with stories about the good old days and those dagnabbit composite sticks, but it's comfortable and enjoyable. It feels like home watching with Mickey and that's a great thing.
Hon. Mention: Ken Kal; Ken Daniels
Arena Behavior/Tradition/Trend: The Legend of the Octopus.
Detroit's greatest tradition has to be throwing the Octopus. I mean, it's called "The Legend of the Octopus" on the Wikipedia page — that's a freaking awesome name. It's been going on for more than 50 years and become an accepted part of team lore. There's entire websites devoted on how to cook and throw an octopus. Can any other team match that? Sure it pisses off little Gary to no end and he's doing whatever he can to stop it, but seeing the eight legged creature whipped around by Al Sobotka is just one of the greatest things there is.
Hon. Mention: Fans Singing Journey; Pissing in Troughs
Arena Food: Little Caesar's Pizza.
It's certainly not $5, but it's hot and way better at the Joe than anywhere else. Yeah, it is terrible pizza, but you just pissed in a trough, who are you to complain? A close second is the Molson XXX served in 32 oz. cans for 8 bucks. What other place is going to offer you a chance to wake up alone in a gutter for so cheap?
Hon. Mention: Molson XXX
Swag (jersey, hat, shirt, gear, etc.): Classic Dark Wings Jersey (preferably of a member of the Grind Line or Yzerman) with a Tigers classic Old English D cap.
You can't beat Detroit's Jersey, home or away. It has been virtually unchanged since its inception and is just a classic. But like the greatness of the jersey, the best hat in sports is the Detroit Tiger's cap with the Old English D. The Tigers cap has come to symbolize more than just the Tigers. It's become a symbol for the city of Detroit and the state itself. These two together are a classic combo that Wings fans wear with pride.
Hon. Mention: Winter Classic Jersey w/Lidstrom or Datsyuk.