Tuesday, June 16, 2009
On Friday, June 13th, 1997 the Detroit Red Wings held a golf tournament and dinner for many of their players and staff six days after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup. Afterwards, Vladimir Konstantinov, team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov and Slava Fetisov were riding in a limousine when the driver, whose license has already been revoked, fell asleep while driving. With the car now out of control, it crossed three lanes of traffic and struck a tree. The accident left Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov each with serious head injuries. Fetisov was also hurt, but his life was not in danger.
It would take five weeks for Konstantinov to emerge from his coma, barely aware of what was going on around him. He faced a long road ahead of him, over the next year relearning basic skills such as recognizing friends and family, eating and operating a wheelchair.
The following season the Red Wings wore a "VK & SM" patch with the word "Believe" in both English and Russian to honor Konstantinov and Mnastsakanov.
The Red Wings started the 1997-98 season 10-1-2 and ended up with a record of 44-23-15, good for second place in the Central Division. They were led by captain Steve Yzerman (69 points), Brendan Shanahan (team leading 28 goals and 57 points), defenseman Nicklas Listrom (59 points) and Larry Murphy (52 points) and the goaltending of Chris Osgood, who had 33 wins.
Detroit started the playoffs by defeating Phoenix, then St. Louis and finally Dallas, all by a 4-2 margin in games. In the finals they were matched up against the Washington Capitals, who they defeated in four straight to claim their second consecutive Stanley Cup, setting off an emotional scene with Konstantinov being brought out onto the ice in his wheelchair to receive the cup from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Yzerman.
Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman jersey as worn by Yzerman as he presented the cup to Konstantinov. The jersey features the "Believe" patch, which was worn on the upper right chest all season long, but moved to the left shoulder during the finals to make way for the 1998 Stanley Cup finals patch.
Of note, the Red Wings are one of the few teams to sew the player names directly to the jerseys without the use of a nameplate.
To this day Konstantinov still needs a walker to assist him in getting around, but he has made remarkable progress from where he once was. His jersey number 16, while not officially retired by the Red Wings, has not been worn since.
Dasherboard: The ratings are in and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was the most watched NHL game in 36 years. Friday night's game averaged 8 million viewers, which was the most since Game 6 in 1973 between the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.
The European Champions Hockey League for next year has been sadly canceled due to Russian engery firm Gazprom pulling out of it's three year sponsorship agreement. The league offered $14 million in prize money, less money as Gazprom makes in a day based on their net profits for the fourth quarter in 2008 of $1.4 billion.
There is a possibility that the league could return for 2010 backed by the NHL. The league had a successful debut this past season with 12 teams from seven countries and was won by the ZSC Lions, who will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second Victoria Cup next September 29th.
Perhaps most importantly, Judge Redfield T. Baum, and what a name that is, rejected the proposed sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to pesky Canadian billionaire Jim "I'll play by my rules" Balsillie, who wants to relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario, regardless of the damage it may do to the Buffalo Sabres.
Judge Baum rejected the sale based on the tight deadline imposed by Balsillie didn't allow enough time to resolve the case. He also went on to reject several points of Balsillie's argument for moving the team concerning antitrust law, giving the NHL a clear victory in the ruling.