The Red Wings Return To Glory Began 25 Years Ago Tonight
On June 7, 1997, the Detroit Red Wings ended a Stanley Cup drought 25 years ago, ushering in the age of "Hockeytown".
The 1997 Cup Hoisting Ended 42 Years Of Futility
The Red Wings had fallen on hard times since the 1950s, when "The Production Line" of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel won seven straight regular season titles and four Stanley Cups, the last coming in 1955. At that time it was the longest Cup drought in NHL history.
Long sloughed off in the local media as the "Dead Wings", the team moved into a new riverfront arena, named after boxing legend Joe Louis in 1980, and drafted center Steve Yzerman three years later to begin to provide some hope for beleaguered fans.
The team began appearing in the playoffs regularly again in the mid-80s, but couldn't get over the hump, until management began looking overseas for help, most notably Russia, where several members of the feared Russian National Team showed interest in playing in the NHL.
One by one, what became know as the "Russian Five" joined the team in the 1990s and the Wings became a serious Cup contender. They made it to the 1995 finals, but lost to New Jersey. In 1996, the team won a league record 62 games, only to fall to eventual champion Colorado in the playoffs, setting the stage for their Cup winning glory in 1997.
The Cup Winning Year Began Slowly
After making some major adjustments, most notably picking up Brendan Shanahan in the off season, the Wings got off to a slow start and won only 38 games in the regular season, landing the third seed in the Western Conference.
The team picked up momentum in the playoffs and after knocking off St. Louis and Anaheim, the team faced their old agitators again, the Colorado Avalanche.
In a brutal, physical series, the Wings finally defeated the demons from Denver, 4 games to 2 to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup finals.
The rivalry was so intense, there is a documentary about it coming later this month to ESPN. In it, several players from both teams admitted they still hate each other.
The Red Wings Swept The Flyers To Take The Cup On Home Ice
Eric Lindross led the powerful East champion Philadelphia Flyer into the Finals, only to meet a well motivated Wings squad, intent on ending the drought.
The Red Wings, behind red hot goalie Mike Vernon, swept four straight games from the overwhelmed Flyers to clinch the Cup on home ice at Joe Louis Arena, where the scene was nothing short of bedlam.
The win began what is known as the Hockeytown era in Detroit, where they would go on to win the Cup again in 1998, and then again in 2001. After Scottie Bowman retired, the Wings continued to be a dominant force, but failed to get back to the Cup Finals until 2008, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins for their fourth Cup in 11 seasons.
The Wings Remained Contenders Until 2017
The Red Wings went to the NHL Playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons before the streak ended in 2017. They have not been back since, although a newer younger roster has fans hopeful once again.
Celebrating The 25th Anniversary Of The Red Wings Stanley Cup Victory