Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 04

The Detroit Red Wings celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Final.
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The National Hockey League's regular season serves to separate the pretenders from the contenders, and after 1,230 games, the filter had eliminated fourteen franchises. The first round dropped eight more; the second round, another four. After three intense and exciting rounds, only two teams remained standing — the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings.

The battle for Lord Stanley's Cup had begun.

The beauty of hockey is simply that you can never be certain of the final outcome. As Game 5's Pittsburgh victory showed, there isn't a reality TV show that compares to a well-played hockey game, and on the night of June 4, 2008, that's exactly what was witnessed.

In 1952, when fishmonger Pete Cusimano first snuck an octopus into the old Olympia Stadium and heaved it from his seats onto the ice, initiating a 56-year tradition in Detroit, it took eight playoff wins in one spring for a team to earn a Stanley Cup championship. Eight wins — eight tentacles. These days, it takes sixteen bitterly-fought wins to claim the Cup. Seems so simple, so easy, yet anyone who has participated in the quest will tell you that it's the hardest task they've ever known. Sixteen games, played against the most skilled hockey players in the world. Sixteen games, fought against opponents who want nothing more than your soul.

Henrik Zetterberg proudly hoists the Conn Smythe trophy which is awarded annually to the MVP of the playoffs.
(Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The Red Wings prevailed. They won four of six versus the Nashville Predators, four consecutively against the Colorado Avalanche, four of six in a battle with the Dallas Stars, and finally, four of six against the much-heralded Pittsburgh Penguins.

The location of Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup final was Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Both teams were prepared for a fight — the Penguins in order to live to fight another day and the Red Wings to cap a glorious season.

With every seat inside the arena filled, the Penguins mounted a gigantic screen outside the rink so that fans who had not been fortunate enough to find tickets could still watch the game in the environs of their heroes.

Detroit defenceman Brian Rafalski opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 5:03 of the first period. His hard wristshot from the faceoff circle landed behind Marc-Andre Fleury after glancing off Hal Gill, gave the Red Wings a powerplay goal and a 1-0 lead.

Valtteri Filppula put Detroit up 2-0 early in the second when he picked up Mikael Samuelsson's rebound and tucked it through Fleury's five-hole. But Pittsburgh wasn't about to roll over. With Pavel Datsyuk in the penalty box, Evgeni Malkin blasted a shot from the blueline that found a path through the legs of Chris Osgood to reduce Detroit's lead.

Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European Captain to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup after his club defeated the Penguins in game six. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
In the third period, with the clock ticking ominously, Henrik Zetterberg's shot looked as though it had been frozen by Fleury, but as the Pittsburgh netminder leaned back, he knocked the puck across the line for a goal.

Although there wasn't much time, there was plenty of fight left in the Penguins. Twenty seconds into a powerplay, after Jiri Hudler took a holding call, Sergei Gonchar of the Penguins fired from the blueline. The puck seemed to be tipped by Marian Hossa, changing the puck's trajectory enough to find the back of the net. 3-2, still in Detroit's favour.

The play was frantic and furious, and with their goaltender on the bench in favour of an additional skater, a Pittsburgh flurry with seconds to play saw the puck roll across the goal line with but a second left. But it was not to be, and the game concluded with the Detroit Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup!

This victory is the eleventh for the Detroit Red Wings, who can now add a championship in 2008 to victories in 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998 sand 2002. Eleven Cup celebrations give Detroit the second-most in NHL history; behind the Montreal Canadiens and tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom skates the Stanley Cup over to his ecstatic teammates. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Stanley Cup was, of course, in Detroit for Game 5. Polished and preened, all was in readiness for a presentation at the Joe Louis Arena that night, but Petr Sykora's goal at 9:57 of the third overtime changed those plans.

Game 6, on Wednesday, June 4, returned to Pittsburgh. Surreptitiously, the Stanley Cup was snuck into the Mellon Arena midway through the first period, and after taking a path through back hallways, was ensconced in the officials' room out of sight of either team or the fans. There, Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell, senior managers of the Hockey Hall of Fame, polished Lord Stanley's legacy to a glorious shine, as they have each spring since 1998 when they first walked the Stanley Cup out onto the ice for its presentation.

When the game concluded, the Red Wings poured over the boards and descended on Chris Osgood in the corner to the right of his crease. Stanley Cup veterans Kris Draper, Niklas Lidstrom and Kirk Maltby were every bit as excited as first-time winners Dan Cleary, Dallas Drake and Johan Franzen. Those who slugged through six gruelling contests mingled excitedly with teammates who played sparingly, or didn't see the ice at all during the Pittsburgh series.

The Penguins looked on, maybe a little frustrated, perhaps a little envious, from their end of the rink. After heartfelt handshakes with the Red Wings, the Penguins saluted their fans and exited the ice surface. For that evening, it was all Detroit's.

The Detroit Red Wings gather for the classic on ice team photo with the Stanley Cup. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
As it turns out, both of the Pittsburgh Penguin Stanley Cup championships (1991 and 1992) were won on the road, so as peculiar as it sounds, this 2008 championship is the first time the Stanley Cup has been presented in Pittsburgh. The fans, clearly disappointed, were nonetheless magnanimous, and applauded the Red Wings' win heartily. In fact, an hour after the game ended, there were still fans in their seats gazing down at the Detroit players and their families who were enjoying their well-earned championship.

The Conn Smythe Trophy was carried out by Craig Campbell and placed on a table at centre ice.

If there was any justice, the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable contribution to the playoffs should have been presented to Hakan Andersson, the Detroit Red Wings' European scout. Since joining the franchise in 1989, he has contributed to securing a sensational team based on European draft picks: Nicklas Lidstrom with pick number 53 in 1989; Tomas Holmstrom with the 257th selection in 1994; Pavel Datsyuk in 1998 with the 171st pick; Henrik Zetterberg with the 210th choice in the 1999 draft; Niklas Kronwall with the 29th pick in 2000, Jiri Hudler with selection number 58 and Valterri Filppula with pick number 95 in 2002 and Johan Franzen, 2004's 97th selection. Incredible.

Instead, the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoff's most valuable performer was given to Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, who had an extraordinary playoff. Henrik tied Sidney Crosby in playoff scoring with 27 points, and his 13 goals were tied for playoff-best with teammate Johan Franzen. Zetterberg proved that, although he is a proficient scorer and an outstanding defensive forward, by combining excellence at both ends of the ice, he is not only well deserving of the playoff honour, but deserves recognition as one of the finest players in the game today.

Pritchard and Campbell, attired in Hockey Hall of Fame blazers and the requisite white gloves, then walked the Stanley Cup up the red carpet to centre ice, where it was placed on a table. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman then addressed the crowd: "Detroit, my congratulations on a great series between two great teams. To Mike and Marian Ilitch, Jimmy Devellano, Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Mike Babcock and the entire Detroit Red Wing organization, congratulations! Nicklas Lidstrom, come get the Stanley Cup! It's yours to take back to Hockeytown!"

Lidstrom, the NHL's first European captain ever to accept Hockey's greatest prize, skated forward, and sporting his omnipresent smile, shook Mr. Bettman's hand, took the Stanley Cup and, in a pose specific to hockey excellence, hoisted the trophy over his head in triumph.

The ageless wonder Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate with the Stanley Cup in the dressing room. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Although not new to Stanley Cup championships, Lidstrom is a first-time Stanley Cup captain, and will go down in the pantheon of Red Wings captains who preceded him in winning hockey's big prize. Doug Young twice captained a Red Wings champion, Sid Abel captained three Stanley Cup winners, Ted Lindsay was captain for two Cup wins and Steve Yzerman wore the 'C' for the previous three Red Wing Cup wins.

After a brief skate clutching the Cup, Lidstrom passed the silver chalice to Dallas Drake. There clearly was a distinct pecking order in which the Cup was passed. After Drake, it was Dan Cleary, then Chris Chelios, Henrik Zetterberg, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Pavel Datsyuk and on and on until all players, coaches and trainers had enjoyed the elation of lifting the Stanley Cup high over their head.

After the Ilitches had cradled the Cup, the team captain orchestrated the on-ice team photo, with players, management and coaches spilling around the newly-won Cup.

As the Stanley Cup made its way from the ice to the dressing room, there stood two NHL veterans, giggling like little boys as they shouted and jumped up and down. Except, these weren't little boys — it was 46-year-old Chris Chelios, a Stanley Cup champion with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986 and with Detroit in 2002, and Dominik Hasek, 43-years-old and a Cup winner with Detroit in 2002. Neither played in the final this year, and who knows how long either of them will continue to play, but they were certainly savouring this victory, and sported the same excitement winning this Stanley Cup as they did their first.

Kris Draper and his son Keenan, who is a little too young to drink the contents in the bowl of the Stanley Cup, party in the dressing room. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The celebration went on well into the evening. The smallish visitors' dressing room at Mellon Arena was liberally sprayed with champagne as the Red Wings enjoyed this win with their families. Parents and children lapped up the elation with the players. And many stayed ion the ice, taking photos and enjoying every moment. It was almost 90 minutes after the final buzzer sounded that the ice was finally cleared.

The victorious Detroit Red Wings continued their party as they flew home to Detroit late Wednesday night. In what is evolving into a tradition, the team captain was given the honour of being the first player to take the Stanley Cup home for the night. Representatives of the Hockey Hall of Fame and NHL met Nicklas Lidstrom at his home just past noon on June 5 to discuss the Red Wings' plans for the summer. Each player, coach and executive will have the privilege of spending a day with the Stanley Cup, and although it's far too premature to know who will have the Cup when and where, the premise will be discussed.

Every Tuesday and Friday through the summer, the Stanley Cup Journal will chronicle all the activities of hockey's greatest trophy, and will give readers exciting and exclusive peaks into the players' activities with the Cup. The Journal will no doubt travel to Newfoundland with Dan Cleary, the first native of that province to win a Stanley Cup championship, and spend a good chunk of time in Sweden being passed between Holmstrom, Kronwall, Lidstrom, Lilja, Samuelsson and Zetterberg. But no matter where the Stanley Cup goes, excitement follows, and so does the Stanley Cup Journal.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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Stanley Cup Final
Game Six
2 min 56 sec

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Dressing Room
2 min 4 sec

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Cup Celebration
& Parade
4 min 10 sec

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Team Photo
Shoot 1 min 11 sec

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