DETROIT – President Barack Obama take note: Mike Babcock has claimed Michigan for Canada.
“I think Michigan, and Minnesota’s like this too, they’re just parts of Canada that got lost and got put down here,” the Detroit Red Wings coach said Thursday. “These people love hockey, absolutely love hockey.
“And to get to share this with them in these times – people have no idea what it’s like here in Detroit right now.”
The global economic crisis has hit particularly hard in Detroit, where General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection on June 1 and unemployment hit 22.2 per cent in March. Across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ont., unemployment in June hit 13.8 per cent, worst in Canada.
“I know in my neighbourhood, I live in a nice neighbourhood, the foreclosures and the kids in my kids’ schools that have got to move and dads that don’t have jobs and people are helping them – it’s incredible. They don’t get to come to these games. They cost too much. But they watch them on TV and they enjoy it. They get as fired up as us (Canadians).”
Babcock’s players are fully aware of their city’s economic straits and what it would mean to give their fans a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
As veteran forward Kirk Maltby put it: “Us winning the Stanley Cup or getting this far isn’t going to create more jobs or anything like that, but it definitely can put a smile on peoples’ faces and give them something to cheer about and be happy about for a little while.”
TERRIFIC TED – Babcock had a surprise revelation – that (Terrible) Ted Lindsay, a rugged little scoring star for the Red Wings in the 1950s, sits in on the team’s meeting before each playoff series.
“Mr. Lindsay’s always in the opening meeting before each round,” he said. “He sits right in the dressing room in his stall with our team.
“To me, I think that’s a privilege for a coach and a player.”
Babcock said linking the current team to its past is important.
“That Gordie (Howe) comes in after a game or that Steve (Yzerman) comes by, or that these players still care about being a Red Wing – to me those Original Six things are very special.
“But I bet the guys in Pittsburgh are thrilled that Mario (Lemieux) still has a stall in their room and that he’s around there. That’s what history is.”
GAME 7 – The Stanley Cup final has gone to a seventh game 14 times and the home team has won 12 of them. Detroit was involved the first six times – in 1942, 1945, 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964, posting a 3-3 record. But they didn’t play another after that.
The first Game 7 in a final was Detroit’s 3-1 loss in Toronto in 1964. The most recent was Carolina’s 3-1 win over Edmonton in 2006.
Overall, 128 playoff series have gone to a Game 7 since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939. The home team won 80 of them for a .625 winning percentage.
CLUTCH SCORERS – The top scorers in career playoff Game 7s both play for Pittsburgh. Ruslan Fedotenko, whose teams are 3-0 in seventh games, has three goals and an assist. Petr Sykora, whose teams are 2-3, has a goal and three assists. Fourth-liner Pascal Dupuis has three goals in two career Game 7s, while Bill Guerin has three in five games.
For Detroit, Tomas Holmstrom is 2-0 and has two goals in seventh games.
PRE-GAME JITTERS – Fedotenko knows all about Game 7s. His two goals clinched the 2004 Stanley Cup final in Tampa Bay’s Game 7 win over the Calgary Flames in 2004.
“Going into the Game 7, you have nerves, excitement,” the Pittsburgh winger said. “You can’t take a pre-game nap because you’re so excited.
“But you know, it’s still a game. We still need to focus on the game. It’s probably the biggest game of your life, for most people, but it’s still a game.”