DETROIT – There’s always something special about waking up the morning of the first day the Stanley Cup could be awarded.
And what a gloriously sunny morning it is in Detroit.
Strolling along the walking path at the side of the Detroit River, my mind wanders back to just a few years ago when I made this same trek early in the day when the Red Wings polished off the Carolina Hurricanes in five games. And then to last year when I was in Anaheim and watched the Ducks dust the Ottawa Senators in five.
As I often tell people, this sure beats working for a living.
It’s 10 a.m. and I’m the first reporter at the rink, so I take a seat at the south end of the arena prepared to see what will unfold. Gradually the lights start to get brighter and more reporters wander into The Joe. There is a buzz in the air.
Will the Wings win it tonight? Can the Penguins win one and stay alive? Who is the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy? Will Tomas Holmstrom play tonight?
Yessir, this day is a special one.
Mark Hartigan, one of the Red Wings’ black aces, is first on the ice. He dumps a pile of pucks on the ice and then fastens both nets to their moorings. Having watched Hartigan whip around the ice firing lasers into empty nets, I marvel at the Red Wings’ depth. I mean, this guy is a great skater and a dependable veteran and he can’t get into the lineup.
Legendary coach Scott Bowman climbs into the stands and makes his way towards me.
“Great day to win the Stanley Cup, huh Scotty?”
“It sure is, Mike.”
He ought to know.
As an adviser to the Wings, Bowman will have his name etched on the Cup yet again.
Dan Cleary, one of my favorite players because I admire the way he has re-invented himself as a dependable two-way player, scoops a puck up with his stick, does a spin-a-rama and whips it into the net lacrosse style. Man, I’d love to see him pull that move off in a game!
Cleary is trying to become the first native Newfoundlander to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup and the whole province has gone Cleary crazy.
I love watching the Red Wings practice. Everything they do is at full speed and done with a purpose. Veteran defenseman Chris Chelios, 46, hasn’t found his way into the lineup in the final, but works as hard – or harder – than the kids skating with him. Just doesn’t seem right that Andreas Lilja is playing ahead of Chelios.
When the Wings leave the ice, I follow them into their dressing room. If I say locker room, fellow senior writer Ken Campbell will kneecap me. I’m not taking any chances.
The room is full of reporters and after a few minutes, Holmstrom makes his way through the crowd. He is just about to disappear into another room when he stops, looks back and announces, “I’m playing tonight. Just thought you might like to know that. See you later.”
Actor David Boreanaz – of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bones fame – is in the room, too, with his young son. I quickly grab a photographer to snap a shot of me with Boreanaz for my daughter, Blair. She loves the dude.
After a while I return to the stands to watch the Penguins. Dead men skating I think to myself.
My cell phone rings and it’s Chris Pronger.
“Here’s your story,” the Anaheim defenseman says. “It’s all about adversity. The Red Wings faced adversity during the season and the Penguins didn’t. It’s hard when the first adversity you face is in the final.”
Give the Penguins credit. They are full of enthusiasm, apparently honestly believing they still have a shot in this thing. I don’t like their odds, but admire their determination.
Practice ends and so does this story.
THN senior writer Mike Brophy is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read his other entries, click HERE.
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