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    Detroit Red Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup still means so much after 25 years


    The 2021-22 season marks the 25th anniversary of the Detroit Red Wings’ 1996-97 season, in which they snapped a Stanley Cup drought of more than four decades. To commemorate the anniversary — for one of the most-beloved championship teams in the history of Detroit sports — the Free Press has crafted a new hardcover book, “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story of How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City after 41 Frustrating Seasons.” “Stanleytown 25 Years Later” costs $39.95, but you can save $10 by preordering at RedWings.PictorialBook.com. The book will ship Sept. 24. The following is an excerpt from that book: 

    In the end it wasn’t close. It couldn’t have been. Not after what the Red Wings had been through the previous two seasons. Not after what the fans had been through the previous 41.

    A sweep?

    Of course.

    It had to be that way. And when the final seconds ticked off in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and captain Steve Yzerman leaped into the arms of goalie Mike Vernon, and the Wings finally — FINALLY! — had won the Cup, it felt like relief.

    But also joy.

    Unadulterated. Boundless. Liberating.

    The kind of joy only felt when a franchise and those who loved it slip out from four-plus decades of … well, misery? Heartache? How about history? Even now, 25 seasons later, the rumble from old Joe Louis Arena reverberates.

    [ How to order new book commemorating Red Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup ]

    Red Wings forward Darren McCarty raises the Stanley Cup after Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup final at Joe Louis Arena, on June 7, 1997.

    The elation lasted for days, weeks, heck, throughout that summer of 1997. You could hear it on the streets, where cars blared their horns. You could see it there, too, as drivers festooned their windows with flags of the Winged Wheel, flapping in the breeze, a red-and-white rainbow that stretched from the

    Ambassador Bridge to the Mackinac Bridge and back.

    Hockey might not have the broad appeal of football or even baseball, and we can debate where basketball falls into the mix. But on the June night the Wings clinched the Cup, after all the pain and disappointment and the finals sweep at the hands of the New Jersey Devils two seasons before, after all that, the Wings grabbed the hearts of everyone.

    And made them whole again.

    No wonder folks crammed, jammed and stuffed themselves onto Woodward Avenue to celebrate, whooping and howling and serenading Yzerman and Vernon and Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov and Kris Draper and Igor Larionov and Darren

    McCarty, who scored the put-away goal in Game 4 on a slick crossover that’s still talked about today.

    A million people showed up at the parade that day. A million more would tell you they were there. That’s how it goes when you make history, and everyone wants a piece of it.

    The team photo from the 1997 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on June 7, 1997, after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers. Captain Steve Yzerman is center.

    And that’s how it goes for the 1996-97 Wings, who scuffled a bit through the regular season, who looked, at times, as if they’d missed their window when they lost in consecutive playoffs after blistering opponents both winters, who couldn’t quite shake the questions about toughness and grit and, let’s just say it: heart.

    Not that those questions were fair. Hockey is like that. Puck luck and all that.

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