Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Night The Celebration Stopped

Has it really been 10 years?

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was in our dining room playing IndyCar Racing 2 when our phone rang. I didn't pay much attention as I was lapping my car around one of the fantasy tracks that someone with more computer knowledge than myself had come up with. A couple of minutes later, my dad appeared in the doorway. He had tears in his eyes. He informed me that that was a relative on the phone. A family friend of theirs worked in the ER at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital. He had just called their house to break the news. My dad told me, "There was a limo crash with some of the Red Wings inside. Two of them are in surgery and they're not sure if they're going to make it. One of them is Konstantinov. The other one is so bad they're not sure who it is."

My IndyCar went straight up into the wall.

An hour or so later, the story broke on the news and Metro Detroit came to a halt. What was looking to be a fun summer filled with celebrations, appearances by the Cup at every random party/concert/event suddenly was put on hold. When less than a week before we were crying tears of joy over our Red Wings' first Stanley Cup in 42 years, we were now crying tears of sorrow and sending up prayers by the thousands for our "Broken Wings".

Woodward Avenue--the sight of the accident--was suddenly filled with teddy bears, photos, flowers, cards, in a makeshift memorial for the men involved. Though the tree that they crashed into is no longer there, I can't help but think of them every time I drive by the street sign near the sight.

There's still a hockey stick in my basement which--through the dirt and dust of 10 years--you can still dimly read "16" and "SM" written in black pen on the knob. I still look at the Championship Banner Raising poster that's hanging in my bedroom back in Michigan. There's a collage of pictures from the previous season and one of them is Konstantinov, dressed as the Vladinator, at the Championship rally. It's hard to look at that photo, knowing that less than a week later he would be near death, and his life would never be the same again. It's hard to watch that clinching game of the Stanley Cup Finals, knowing that it was the last time Konstantinov would ever lay out an opponent.

The next season there was no way that team was going to be denied. With "Believe, VK/SM" patches on their jerseys (and with those patches selling like hotcakes around Detroit--I've got them on my Doug Brown and Tomas Holmstrom jerseys), the Wings weren't simply on a quest to defend their title. They were on a mission to win it for their fallen comrades.

Who could ever forget that championship run? The incredible ovation the first time Konstantinov was spotted at a Wings game after the accident? And let me tell you, it got really dusty in Metro Detroit when Steve Yzerman took the Stanley Cup and placed it on the lap of Vladimir Konstantinov, in his wheel chair, the next June.

10 years. It's hard to believe.

In honor of Vladdy, I present the following video clips. Try not to cry when you watch the first one. I dare you:


Anonymous said...

Nice stuff there Packer. I always thought our own JMFJ compared very closely to the Vladinator in his game.

Can you imagine if he'd been playing the last 10 years?

Packer487 said...

I completely agree with that. People forget that Vladdy chipped in pretty well on the offensive end as well (he usually had between 30 and 40 points a year--not as much as I expect Johnson will have, but still he could make a nice pass).

It would've been sick to have Vladdy these last ten years. I doubt we would've made that trade for Chelios (or maybe not for Schneider?), but still...we would've had probably the two best defensemen in the league on our blueline, who play completely contrasting styles. Seemed to work pretty well for Anaheim this year.

I don't doubt for a second that we'd have at least one more Cup with a healthy Konstantinov. He was that good....

Schavey ES said...

Did you guys here about the new tax they are planning to put on all tickets? Check out this Detroit free press article about it NEWS
All I know is that as a poor college student I don't want to be paying more money for the football, basketball and hockey tickets I'm already purchasing.
For more info or to voice your malcontent i suggest going to