Twenty-four years ago on Monday, the decades-long wait ended for the Detroit Red Wings and their fans. On that night in 1997 at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings completed their four-game sweep of the Flyers and kicked off the Hockeytown dynasty. The Free Press’ new book — “Stanleytown: 25 Years Later” — tells the behind-the-scenes stories of the Stanley Cup’s return to Detroit, including how the players celebrated that summer. An excerpt from the book:
Steve Yzerman described the days as tiring. Chris Osgood didn’t sleep at all.
And Kirk Maltby went on a cleaning detail in the dead of night.
Each Red Wing got his hands on the Stanley Cup for 48 hours in the summer of 1997 — and jam-packed his special time with as many activities as possible.
Almost everyone threw a big party and shared it with his hometown.
Several took it to hospitals, including Martin Lapointe, who held out the Cup to an old man dying of cancer and getting his final wish.
Three Russians — Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov and Slava Kozlov — took the Cup for its first visit to Mother Russia. Three Swedes — Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and ex-Wing Tomas Sandstrom — took the Cup to their country for only the second time.
ANOTHER BOOK EXCERPT: How the Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup run really began in 1996
Trainer John Wharton made sure it went to William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak to inspire injured teammate Vladimir Konstantinov and masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov. Senior vice president Jimmy Devellano took it to Toronto to share a quiet evening with his parents. General manager Ken Holland took it home to Vernon, British Columbia. Equipment manager Paul Boyer took it back to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he grew up, and to Lake Superior State, right across the St. Marys River, where he went to school.
And youngsters named Guyot, Griffin, Kevin and Adam will someday want to ask their parents about certain pictures of them sitting handsomely in a big silver cup.
This is how Stanley spent his summer vacation:
He took the Stanley Cup to Ville Ste-Pierre, Quebec, near Montreal, where the town had a parade for him. He took the Cup to a hospital to show it to the father of his sister’s friend. Within a week of the visit, the man died of cancer. He had pictures taken of his 16-month-old son, Guyot, “buck naked and sitting in the Cup.”
“For all the time I spent parading it around and holding it above my head in front of hundreds of people, my favorite memory was of a Saturday afternoon in Toronto, when I took it to my father’s grave,” Shanahan said. “For a Saturday afternoon, the place was totally empty. I just sat there with it. That was my favorite moment.” Shanahan’s father, Donal, died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1990. Shanahan also displayed the Cup for hours for fans as part of an Alzheimer’s fundraiser in Dearborn, which included a softball game in which Wings players (and Zamboni driver Al Sobotka) destroyed a media team (with the starting battery of Free Press beat reporter Jason La Canfora on the mound and sports editor Gene Myers behind the dish).
“We did a lot of everything,” he said. “When you have that trophy around, you don’t sleep a whole lot. We had a couple of parties with it. We had it out on Lake St. Clair. I think my favorite part was when we took it to Ottawa to my parents’ home and invited over some of the guys I grew up playing hockey with, some of my coaches on teams I played on when I was 10 and 11 that I haven’t seen in quite a while.”
He took it to a couple of restaurants in Cambridge, Ontario, and had it at his parents’ house for a bit. He also took it to the pediatrics center at a hospital. He then had a party for 300 people. “That night, I slept with it in my bed,” he said. “I had to clean it because it absolutely reeked. I don’t want to tell you what time in the morning it was, but I was there with a little cloth wiping it clean. The guy who takes care of it was in bed long ago, so I had to take care of it on my own. I shined it up.”
He had it for about a day in Lethbridge, Alberta. About 1,500 locals had their pictures taken with the Cup. He threw a party for about 250 people, including his good friend Chris Osgood. At about 5 a.m., Osgood left with the Cup for Medicine Hat, Alberta. “My favorite part,” Pushor said, “was just seeing how friends you went to school with, your family, nephews, how their eyes lighted up when they saw the Cup. It just radiates glory. You see people hold it and touch it, and it just leaves you with an incredible feeling.”
“We had some friends over, we partied all night, and when the sun came up, we went fishing,” he said. His favorite part of having the Cup was sharing it with friends in Michigan — and his beer-league buddies. “Just the chance to have all my friends who’ve lived in Detroit all these years, waiting for a Stanley Cup, to give them a chance to drink out of it, get a picture with it,” Kocur said. “The over-30 team I played with last year at this time, they were all over. We had a team picture taken with the Stanley Cup. The best picture I got was, when you win the Stanley Cup they give you a replica, it’s about 16 to 18 inches high, and my daughter was drinking out of that one and I was drinking out of the main one.”
First off, he claimed he took the Cup to Disney World and on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. Then he claimed he took off with it in the space shuttle. In more down-to-earth adventures, he threw a party in Novi for 300. At night, his son Torrey and daughter Calli slept with the Cup.
He threw a party for the Cup and took it home to show his parents and brought it over to the arena in Leamington, Ontario, where he played while growing up. He took it out with his buddies, who played in a band, and “jammed with it.” He also had a professional photographer take pictures of his son Griffin with the Cup.
He took it to his hometown of Pitea, Sweden, which is close to Lapland. He showed it to friends and family and said it helped make for one of the best summers he had ever had.
He had a public viewing of the Cup in Vasteras, Sweden, where he played hockey before coming to Detroit. Then he took the Cup to a public viewing in his hometown of Avesta, where his parents still lived, and threw a party for the Cup. He posed for pictures with the Cup with sons Kevin and Adam. He then put Adam in the Cup and took pictures.
He went to a professional photographer and had pictures taken with him, his wife and the Cup. He took it to Windsor and had pictures taken with the Renaissance Center and Joe Louis Arena in the background. He also took the Cup to restaurants and the gym where he worked out during the summer. Ward had a big bash at a restaurant, then another at home with about 50 friends. He took the Cup to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. His favorite moment, besides the night the Wings won the title, was after the party, when he and his wife just sat in bed and looked at the Cup.
After arriving in Medicine Hat, Osgood had a big party. He took the Cup to the rink where he played as a youngster. He took it to his parents’ house and showed it to friends. “I had it for two days and got no sleep,” he said. “It was a good time. We had fun.”
“My favorite moment was the excitement of seeing my dad hold the Cup,” he said. “For all the hard work and support your parents give you, to see the excitement they have with it was great. But there was a point in the night that I had to let my dad know that I was the one who won it. He was there for me, but I was the one who won it. I had it next to me in bed, but I didn’t sleep.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.