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Thursday, June 13
Updated: June 14, 1:41 AM ET
Cup brings out best in Red Wings, fans

By Lindsay Berra
ESPN The Magazine

DETROIT -- The "We want the Cup" chant started at Joe Louis Arena with 2:50 left in the second period, the Red Wings up one goal, and hockey's holy grail ready in the narrow tunnel behind Detroit's bench.

Between periods in the downstairs bathroom, Wings' wives chattering in Russian and Swedish and English primped with curling irons and lipstick for the celebration they hoped would come.

At the zero mark of the third period, millions of strips of red and white confetti rained down from the ceiling on the crowd at the Joe. The Wings vaulted the boards, sticks and helmets and gloves flying, and drowned goaltender Dominik Hasek at the top of the goal crease.

"Ain't No Stopping Us Now" pumped out over the loud speaker. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup and the celebration was on.

Detroit winger Luc Robitaille, who finally ended his stretch of 1,360 NHL games without a Stanley Cup, cried as openly on the ice as his wife, Stacia, did in the stands. His young sons carried a sign with "Daddy, you are my hero" painted in big block letters.

Scotty Bowman, the most successful coach in the history of sports, ditched his sport coat, donned his skates and came out onto the ice with his fully equipped healthy scratches for the festivities.

The crates of "Stanley Cup Champions" T-shirts and hats that were delivered to the arena Thursday morning were cracked open.

On came, "Oh What a Night."

Wings pest Sean Avery clicked on his video camera in time to catch Vladimir Konstantinov, the Wings defenseman injured in a car accident following Detroit's 1997 Stanley Cup victory over the Flyers, being helped onto the ice.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (yes, he was booed) walked onto the red carpet to present the Conn Smythe Trophy to elated defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who raised the trophy above his head with a wide, shiny smile splitting his scraggly goatee.

The most famous trophy in sports was carried onto the red carpet by two black-coated, white-gloved attendants and placed on the table next to Bettman to the tune of "Whoop, There It Is." Yes, slightly cheesy, but the crowd at the Joe went wild. They finally had what they'd been asking.

Wings captain Steve Yzerman accepted the trophy with his wide-eyed, terrified daughter in tow. Before raising the Cup over his own head, Yzerman passed it respectfully to Bowman, who raised the Cup for the ninth time in his career.

On came "We Are the Champions."

Bowman passed the Cup to Hasek, who pumped it skyward and jumped up and down. He'd won a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal, but it was Hasek's first Stanley Cup.

"I was always compared to Patrick (Roy) and other goalies, and now I can say that at least once, I raised the Cup also," Hasek said. "There is nothing missing anymore. I cannot describe the feeling."

Next came Robitaille, Steve Duchesne and Fredrik Olausson, all veterans kissing the Cup in turn for the first time in their careers.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to be a part of a Stanley Cup team, and those guys could never really understand," said Detroit RW Brett Hull, who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. "Now, they understand."

Then Chris Chelios. Then Jiri Slegr, who dressed for the first time in the finals in Game 5, and Jiri Fischer, the suspended man whom he replaced.

On came "It's a Wonderful World."

Boyd Devereaux, Mathieu Dandenault, Pavel Datsyuk, Manny Legace, and Jason Williams all took their spins.

Then the veterans, Brendan Shanahan and Brett Hull, each with a few Cups already under their belt. Then the Grind Line of Kris Draper, Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby. Then quiet Igor Larionov, sniper Tomas Holmstrom and superstar Sergei Fedorov, who was the only Wing to gather up some speed and take a full lap around the ice with the Cup over his head.

Even as the celebration continued on the ice, another started in the locker room. As the players trickled in, music was turned on, cases of Miller Lite were passed out and the champagne corks were popped.

Chelios did an interview for SportsCenter as a bottle of Veuve Clicquot was dumped over his head.

"The first two times were great, but my kids weren't born yet, so now it's even more special," said Chelios as the champagne soaked his hair and ran into his eyes. "This is too perfect, too good to be true, and oh, my eyes are burning!"

In the back room at the row of sinks, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman shaved off their playoff goatees. Jason Williams trimmed Kris Drapers beard. Even Al the Zamboni guy broke out a razor.

"Winning is always part exhilaration and part relief," said Shanahan.

Chelios held the cup as Hull and Coach Bowman sipped from it. Devereaux and Duchesne did the same.

"It tasted unbelievable," said Devereaux. "I'm so flustered right now. This is just so great."

Flashbulb after flashbulb went off. Wives and children and fathers and mothers and friends and reporters and cameramen and sponsors packed the Wings room as the temperature rose. Champagne sprayed as the Cup was passes overhead. Two hours after the game ended, the players were still in their skates and shoulder pads, to excited and too busy to take them off.

"I have to take my skates off. My feet hurt so bad right now," said Robitaille. "But it's worth it, everything is worth it. This is the best feeling in the world."

Of course it is. It is the Stanley Cup.


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Frozen Moment: Isn't it ironic?

Engblom: The end of the Bowman era

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