My favorite moment was watching Chris Osgood go down to stop the final shot in Game 6, then leap to his feet in celebration. The difference between those two postures – and the barely two seconds between them – say everything about the impossibly narrow margin needed for capturing the Cup. And Ozzie, more than most, really threw a weight off his shoulders with that final horn. A great sports snapshot.
Probably hearing Chris Osgood talk about how much the parade meant to him. He said he felt like he finally came home, that his status with Wings fans had reached a sort of permanence. In the age of free agency and big money, a lot of players don’t even care about that stuff – and very few would be so determined to achieve it after getting shipped out of town. Osgood is as down-to-earth as a big-time athlete can get. No wonder he fits in here.
Though they lost Game 5, I would have to say it was one of the most thrilling games I’ve ever seen. The audience was so hungry and wild, the air felt electric. And while shooting the Red Wings, playing soccer on breaks and having to kick the ball a couple of times with them.
My favorite memory of the Stanley Cup finals was Niklas Kronwall’s open-ice hit on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Ryan Malone in Game 1. Both players were impressive in the series.
Malone was the first Pittsburgh native to represent the Penguins in the Cup finals and had his nose broken twice in the first five games of the finals, thanks to Kronwall’s hit in Game 1 and after being hit by a slap shot by teammate Hal Gill in Game 5.
The hit on Malone was one of several highlight-reel collisions dished out by Kronwall during the playoffs. You knew if he could just stay healthy in the playoffs he’d be a key contributor. He was disciplined, making the big hits when they came to him and a key cog offensively, leading the team with 15 assists in the playoffs.
Deep in the belly of Mellon Arena early Thursday morning, long after the Wings had clinched the Stanley Cup, players began filtering out of the locker room and headed for the bus. By then, they had showered and washed off two hours of champagne spray. They were still clutching beers.
Brian Rafalski, Johan Franzen and Chris Chelios were the first to emerge. They were pushing a rickety, metal grocery cart. In the cart was a case of beer. On top of the beer was the Stanley Cup, glistening.
The players pushed for a few minutes until Franzen had to drop back for a second. Suddenly, Darren Helm appeared, all wide-eyed.
“I’ll help push,” said the 21-year-old.
“Jump in here,” said Chelios, 46.
And off went Helm, a couple of months removed from the minor leagues, wheeling Lord Stanley back to Detroit, walking in stride with a Hall of Fame defenseman old enough to be his father.
HELEN ST. JAMES
This was the fourth Stanley Cup I’ve covered, and the first time the NHL chose to have the media go on the ice after the game. It was very neat getting the perspective of being on the ice, so different from looking down from the press box and certainly easier to interview players than being packed into a cramped dressing room.
The image of Steve Yzerman just popping his head into the dressing room and watching the players celebrate. He just smiled and went back outside. He wanted to make sure that he didn’t intrude upon a special moment for his players. It’s a sign he has accepted the fact his playing days are done.