My Little Corner of Canada: Yzerman’s Cup
Most great hockey players win the Stanley cup at least once in their career. Legends like Howe, Orr, Hull, Lafleur, Richard, Lemieux, Gretzky, Robinson, etc., could not be denied their name on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
A smaller number of great hockey players never do get their names on The Cup. Like Marcel Dionne and Daryll Sittler.
After 14 years as one of the top players in the NHL, Steve Yzerman’s place in hockey history was to be decided. Would his name be etched on the Stanley Cup with the likes of Orr and Howe? Or would he follow Dionne and Sittler into the Hockey Hall of Fame without ever winning The Cup?
The disappointing losses to New Jersey and Colorado in 1995 and 1996 were heavy on the minds of the Detroit Red Wings as they prepared to face the Philadelphia Flyers and the Legion of Doom. But Yzerman took control early. he provided the determined leadership necessary for the Wings to jump ahead early. They never looked back.
Yzerman did not do it by itself. It was a great team effort. The Russians were humming. Federov and Larionov were making beautiful plays. Konstantinov was delivering bone crunching body checks. Fetisov played his heart out.
Foot soldiers like Darren McCarty and Martin Lapointe came through with spectacular plays.
Brendan Shanahan seems to have been the final ingredient the Wings needed to finally win it all after 42 long years.
This Stanley cup was especially sweet for Larry Murphy. After being given away by Cliff Fletcher of the Maple Leafs, he was the cool headed experienced defenseman who provided solid strength on the Wings’ blue line.
And of course you need a coach to win. Scotty (Bob Hope) Bowman was, again, a wily old fox. He’s up there now, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Toe Blake in hockey’s coaching history.
Mike Vernon won the Hart Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs and rightly so. He was solid in goal.
But 1997 will be remembered as Yzerman’s Cup. He has had a great career. He has always been a gentleman. He is living proof that nice guys do finish first. Like most hockey greats, his name will be added to the list of legends etched on hockey’s most coveted prize.
Over in the Flyers’ corner, Eric Lindros, a defeated warrior, sits licking his wounds. He will rest awhile. Next month, this wounded warrior will begin training for the run to the Stanley Cup in ’98. He has learned, like Steve Yzerman, that you have to pay your dues before you get to hoist the Stanley Cup.