Road to Stanleytown: Sergei Fedorov finds stride, 1997 Detroit Red Wings set for Game 2

Detroit Free Press
Gene Myers |  Special to Detroit Free Press

In the spring of 1997 — a quarter-century ago — the Detroit Red Wings embarked on their quest to end a 42-year Stanley Cup drought.

The Free Press has commemorated that historic quest with a new book: “Stanleytown: The Inside Story of How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City After 41 Frustrating Seasons.”

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Day 18: May 3, 1997

The backstory: Although flummoxed by the Mighty Ducks’ trapping, dumping and stalling tactics, the Red Wings managed to win Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on goals by Sergei Fedorov — his first of the playoffs — and Martin Lapointe — 59 seconds into overtime. It wasn’t the prettiest hockey, but the Wings loved the end result. On the off day before Game 2 (a Sunday matinee at Joe Louis Arena) the hot topics were how Fedorov had raised his game for three straight outings, a pair of shoulder injuries for Anaheim and, believe it or not, epic Greek poetry.

Sergei’s saga: The Hart Trophy winner as the league’s MVP three years earlier, Fedorov spent parts of the 1996-97 season injured, on the third line and as a defenseman. Still, he managed 30 goals, including five in a December game, and, at times, dominated as a two-way center. He also endured long goalless stretches, appeared to live in Scotty Bowman’s doghouse and lamented how little the Russian Five played together. He was slated to be a restricted free agent after the season.

On the off day, he told the Los Angeles Times: “It’s an interesting season. I think I can write a book on this one season. But I’m not a psychic. I can’t predict what is next for me. I could call one of those numbers and say, ‘How does my season end?’” Fedorov also said: “They tell you to write a story, and tie your hands behind a chair. How are you going to write it? Nice handcuffs. Let’s put it this way: The season was the toughest season I ever played. As far as hockey … there has been lots of miscommunication between the coach and myself, both ways.”

DAY 17: Surprise hero lifts Red Wings over Ducks in Game 1 OT

DAY 16: Ducks scary matchup for 1997 Wings, but hockey isn’t played on paper

DAY 15: Back on home ice to face the Anaheim Ducks in the conference semifinals

Not ducky:  Anaheim worried that it might play Game 2 without defenseman Dave Karpa and forward Ted Drury. Like the Blues in Round 1, the Ducks liked to use four primary defensemen. Karpa suffered a twisted left shoulder on a takedown by Tomas Sandstrom during a goalmouth scramble. Drury suffered a stinger — usually a mild nerve injury associated with football tackles — in a collision with Vladimir Konstantinov.

Off the ice: Ducks coach Ron Wilson disclosed how he expressed his dissatisfaction to referee Mark Faucette after a series of Anaheim penalties in Game 1. He called over linesman Ray Scapinello and told him to ask Faucette who wrote a pair of ancient Greek poems, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.”

Wilson pointed out that at Providence, alma mater for the coach and the referee, the poems were required reading. Before long, an amused Scapinello returned with Faucette’s correct answer: “Homer.”

Famous last words: Add goalie Mike Vernon to the list of Wings and media lauding Fedorov’s revival. “We expect big things from Sergei,” he said. “No doubt Sergei’s picking it up. It looks like he’s having fun out there again.”

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Relive the glory: The Free Press has crafted a 208-page, full-color, hardcover collector’s book with fresh insights and dynamic storytelling about the 1996-97 Wings. It’s called “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story on How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City after 41 Frustrating Seasons.” It’s only $29.95 and it’s available at (It’ll make a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift for the Wings fanatic in your life!) Personalized copies available via

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More to read: Another new Wings book arrived in April from Keith Gave, a longtime hockey writer for the Free Press in the 1980s and 1990s: “Vlad The Impaler: More Epic Tales from Detroit’s ’97 Stanley Cup Conquest.” It is available through Amazon and other booksellers and a portion of the proceeds is earmarked for the Vladimir Konstantinov Special Needs Trust. (Plenty of Gave’s prose also appears in “Stanleytown 25 Years Later.”)

Even more to read: Red Wings beat reporter Helene St. James, who helped cover the 1997 Stanley Cup run, recently wrote “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Detroit Red Wings.” Featuring numerous tales about the key figures from 1997, “The Big 50” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. (Plenty of St. James’ prose also appears in “Stanleytown 25 Years Later.”)

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