-- Undoubtedly, winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate feeling for any player in the National Hockey League.
But the feelings within each player are different.
Emotions ran high on the Mellon Arena ice Wednesday night, just moments after the Detroit Red Wings
won their fourth championship in 11 seasons with a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins
For players such as Nicklas Lidstrom
, Kris Draper
, Darren McCarty
, Kirk Maltby
and Tomas Holmstrom
, it was the fourth time they've hoisted the most prestigious trophy in sports over their heads.
Meanwhile, Darren Helm
, a 21-year-old rookie, was wondering how the heck he was able to be a part of something so special during his first NHL season.
"I thought it was pretty heavy," Helm said of the Stanley Cup. "I wasn't expecting it to be that heavy. I almost tripped. I didn't want to fall. Besides that, it was unbelievable to hold it up. It was a dream come true."
Celebrating alongside Helm was Chris Chelios
, who is 25 years his elder and was in the midst of his fourth NHL season when the first-year center was born. Naturally, the first question he was asked revolved around how much longer he wanted to play.
"I'm going to see where the party is for starters … that's all I'm worried about right now,” Chelios said amid stints toting the Stanley Cup around a boisterous dressing room. "This is awesome."
It's also a moment nobody on that ice will ever soon forget, regardless of their date of birth, their cultural background or their marital status.
"Everyone is different," Maltby told NHL.com. "For me, I wasn't married or didn't have a daughter (in 1997). Now I have twins coming in the summer. For me, it's all about my family and enjoying it with them. We've got some guys who have been in the situation before with four Cups, and we have first Cups. Dan Cleary
's the first Newfoundlander to win the Cup. There's so many stories within the whole process. When it's all over, everyone's going to take a big breath and relax and just enjoy it."
The victory marked the first Stanley Cup celebration for Dallas Drake
, who has played 14 seasons in the NHL. Just as some media members were about to ask him what was going on inside his head, his wife gave him her cell phone.
Drake's mother was on the line.
"I'm very emotional," said Drake, who was handed the Cup immediately after Lidstrom, the Wings' captain. "I really don't have a word that I can use. I'm very thankful to be given an opportunity to play for such a great organization."
Just like Maltby, the opportunity to stand on the ice with his family was the icing on the cake for Drake, who began his career with the Red Wings but was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 1994. He skated with that organization for another six full seasons before heading to St. Louis, where he played for the Blues from 2000 until 2006-07.
Being on the ice with his family just minutes after his team won the Stanley Cup certainly made the wait worthwhile.
"Unreal," Drake said. "Mr. Ilitch flew them all in. To have them on the ice with us right now, it's just a dream come true for me and for them."
It's one his teammates were well aware of. After winning the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Stars
, Detroit goalie Chris Osgood
-- Drake's good buddy -- spoke at length about how important it was to him and some of his teammates that the team win a championship for Drake. After eliminating the Penguins and winning the Cup, Osgood brought up Drake's name again with the media.
"It's not about me," said Osgood, who's won three with the Wings. "It's about guys like Dallas Drake
that hadn't lifted it yet. It's about guys who hadn't won to see how excited they are.
"I think everybody's happy for everybody. It's awesome. It's tough … really, really tough. It took everything we had to pull it off."
Several players who had never won the Stanley Cup before had the same emotions. Jiri Hudler
-- who scored the game-winning goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final -- remembers watching the Final as a child in his native Czech Republic. On Wednesday night, he was in Pittsburgh, living the dream.
"Fifteen years ago, I was sitting on the couch, watching," Hudler said. "I always watched the Stanley Cup Final. You look at the TV and you're like, 'Oh ... it'd be great to be on the ice one day.' It's such an honor to be here with this team and this organization. It's unbelievable."
The Stanley Cup championship was also the first for Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who guided the Anaheim Ducks
within one victory of a title in 2003. His team fell short in Game 7 that year to the New Jersey Devils
. Five years later, everything came to fruition.
Standing outside his team's dressing room while sipping on an adult beverage, Babcock was asked what it's like to be the coach of a Stanley Cup champion.
"Until you let it all sink in, how do you know?" he responded. "To share it with these players and to share it with my family and with the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan, it's phenomenal."
Moments later, Steve Yzerman
-- the since-retired captain who played on the first last three championship teams -- walked by and gave Babcock a great big hug.
"To share it with these players and to share it with my family and with the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan, it's phenomenal." - Mike Babcock on what it's like to be the coach of a Stanley Cup champion.
"Let's win a few more," he told the coach.
You just can't make this stuff up.
"Stevie's like Z (Henrik Zetterberg), like Nick (Lidstrom) … they're beyond competitive," Babcock said. "Yzerman and (Scotty) Bowman and (Ken) Holland and (Jim) Nill and these people … they're all part of it. The thing about this group here is everybody does their job. Everybody's there to offer their opinions. We think we've got a heck of a franchise and we want to keep getting better."
Moments earlier, Babcock took his first sip out of Lord Stanley's chalice. Holding the trophy for him was Chelios -- a healthy scratch throughout the Final.
Talk about being a team player.
"To have Chelli holding that Cup, and to drink out of that … it's beyond special," Babcock said.
"Ted Lindsay was in every single meeting at the start of each round. Ted Lindsay put a suit on and was down at the meetings, sitting in his stall. He never said a word. He was there every time to find out what the game plan was for the next series. Pretty impressive."
Almost as impressive as what the Red Wings have been able to accomplish year in and year out for close to two decades.
And they're not showing any signs of slowing down.
"You're a Stanley Cup champion," Babcock said. "Some of our guys are four-time Stanley Cup champions. I'm a first-time Stanley Cup champion -- but we're going to do everything we can to get more."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.