For the first time in 25 years, the Red Wings will not make the playoffs. The last missed postseason for Detroit was in the 1989–90 season, but like all good things, the streak has come to an end. With the last season at Joe Louis Arena coming to a close end as well, its the end of a era for the Red Wings. There are so many iconic moments that have taken part in this building for the past 25 years though.
The streak started in 1991. Wings wouldn’t do much damage in the early years of it. But in the 96 playoffs, that’s when the action really started taking place. When Colorado’s forward Claude Lemieux laid a dangerous, dirty hit on Kris Draper in the Western Conference Final. The Av’s took that series, but its noted that Detroit had a 131 point season, with 61 wins, which is still the most in ever by a NHL team.
Skip to 1997. After 42 years, the Red Wings swept the Flyers and won the Stanley Cup. Colorado and Detroit met again in that conference final, and season later after the Draper hit, one of the biggest hockey brawls of all time took place.
The biggest hit in 1997 was what happened to Vladimir Konstantinov, Viacheslav Fetisov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov. Their limo driver, after a party, lost control of the car and crashed into a tree. Konstantinov would spend weeks in a coma and have head injuries and paralysis. He has never played again and still has troubles speaking and walking.
But 1998 was another year to remember. Washington has only made it to the Cup Final once, in 1998, but the Red Wings swept their way again to another Stanley Cup. They are the last team to win the cup back to back. During the on ice celebration, Konstantinov was wheeled on the ice to join them.
Detroit’s next cup was 2002. They finished with 116 points, and a third cup in 6 seasons. Yes, you’re reading this right: Detroit did the 3 in 6 way before the Hawks were relevant. 2008 was another memorable year, and another Stanley Cup.
With 4 cups in those years, it’s important to recognize the great players who made it happen. Steve Yzerman joined the list of Red Wings greats in 2007. Number 19 was raised after he was the captain of the team for 20 years and lead the team into a revival of 3 Cups. Niklas Lidstrom, with 7 Norris Trophies, had 1,142 points in 1,564 career games. He was a model defense-man for the Wings and the perfect captain to raise the cup in 08, they would retire his No. 5 in 2012.
Wings fans loved Darren McCarty and his physical side, his game winning goal in the 97 Cup Final still is one for the highlight reel. Kris Draper, Slava Fetisov, Chris Chelios, Bob Probert, Igor Larionov, Chris Osgood, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Dominik Hasek, and many others still are remembered fondly in the hearts of Red Wings fans. They all lifted the team to great things during the streak.
There are so memorable things that’s happened. The Russian Five is still a heavy fan favorite. What about Larkin becoming the leagues fastest skater at only 19? Or drafting Pavel Datsyuk (171st overall) in the 1998 NHL Draft, and Henrik Zetterberg in the seventh round (210th overall) the next year.
There’s been up and downs through it all but you can’t deny that this streak is one of the best in professional sports and did a lot for not only Detroit, but the sport of hockey.
But now it ends, and the chapter closes. It’s a bitter taste losing the streak and the Joe at once, plus Datsyuk leaving for the KHL, and the passing of Goride Howe and long time owner Mike Ilitch.
There’s still excitement though: the banners will move to Little Ceasers Arena downtown, a huge boost for the city of Detroit. The Pistons are coming back to the city and now all 4 professional teams will be in Detroit. There are many young players that look to be franchise guys and start new era’s in Hockeytown.
As a Wings fan, I can’t complain. We’ve had it good for a long time. I’ve seen 2 cups in my lifetime and have fond memories, and more coming.