My earliest memory of a hockey game or at least the earliest one I remember was not a happy one. It was a first round play off Game 7 loss to San Jose Sharks in 1993-94. In those days I naively thought that the better hockey team always won. That year, the Wings were acknowledged to be in a league of their own whereas Sharks were the new kid on the block.
The next year was even more tragic. The Wings advanced to Cup finals and lost to a bunch of goons and thugs, euphemistically called the New Jersey Devils. As you can see almost 15 years and several cup victories later the bitterness has not left the palate.
The following year, in 1995-96, the Wings sprinted through the regular season setting a NHL record 62-12-8 record!! They seemed to run out of gas by the time the playoffs started. They muddled through two rounds of playoff and even endured a scare when St Louis Blues, led by the tandem of the great Gretzky and Hull, nearly upset them. Then in the conference they ran into another up and coming team, the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs only beat the Wings, Clod Lemeiux rearranged Kris Draper's face.
Then comes my favorite moment ahead of almost all the cup victories. On March 26, 1997 of the following season when Avs and Wings met during a regular season game, a fight broke out that would have ramification for the next decade. Darren McCarty pummeled Clod and then to rub salt in the wound scored the winning goal in overtime!! The Wings would never look back. As expected the Wings and Avs met again in the conference finals and this time the score was reversed. The cup final was an anti-climax with the Wings crushing the Philadelphia Flyers.
Within a week came the worst moment in franchise history. Vladimir Konstantinov's career ended in an auto-accident. This cut short the career of what could have been one of the greatest D-man in hockey. His nickname was Vladinator and during the pre-game warmups, JLA used to frequently show videos spoofing the Terminator.
The Wings are arguably one of the best managed teams in pro-sports. I say this not as a fan, please read what sports writers regularly say about the team management in CNNSI and ESPN. By the end of the 1990s they had been to the Stanley Cup Finals several time winning it all twice. Over all in the past ten years they have won the Cup 4 times!!
In summary, I have had the benefit of watching them
- Win 4 Stanley Cups
- Appear in 5 Stanley Cup finals
- Appear in 8 Western Conference Finals (including this year)
- Win 6 President's Trophy for the best regular season. In the years that they do not win the Trophy they are in the hunt and usually in the top 3 teams.
- Appear in playoffs for the past 18 straight years, the longest current streak of any professional league in the US
Note 1: The Wings have won several more Stanley Cups, appeared in several finals, what I have here is a snapshot of the past 2 decades when hockey was relevant in my life.
Note 2: The playoffs for this year is still in progress. Based on the results this blog could be updated.