The Detroit Red Wings
and Pittsburgh Penguins
have a huge act to follow today after a host of Red Wings legends stole the show at the Stanley Cup Final Sunday.
The NHL has embarked on a new tradition of honoring the game's greats during the Stanley Cup Final. Last year, an array of Montreal Canadiens luminaries were honored in Ottawa and their reminiscences were priceless. Sunday night at the Marriott Detroit at Renaissance Center, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Marcel Pronovost, Alex Delvecchio, Marty Pavelich and Red Kelly proved equally eloquent about the Red Wings' dynasty that won the Stanley Cup in 1950, '52, '54 and '55. Another member of those teams, Johnny Wilson, was unable to attend because of illness.
"When you get to be our age, you look at the great hockey players you played with and you recognize what you accomplished," Lindsay said. "I'm just sorry the guys who probably were principally the reason we are here have passed away or because of health can't be here. It was a wonderful time of our lives. We never realized how good it was."
"I see them occasionally," said Pronovost, who is a scout for the New Jersey Devils. "We have a strong alumni. It's too bad I don't really attend that much, but I see them on the road."
"I think this is just absolutely fantastic," Pavelich said. "I want to thank Gary Bettman. I told him I got his letter a month ago and I can't thank you enough for this. We're in the limelight again and it's really nice."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented each man with a miniature Stanley Cup to commemorate their achievements. It was a priceless moment, as the real Stanley Cup and several other of the League's major trophies sat in the background.
"I haven't seen Marcel and Matty in a while, so this is great," the legendary Gordie Howe told NHL.com. "We look a little older now, but the memories do come back."
"Events like this are great," he said. "There's a lot of rehash. I don't have the chance to see a lot of the guys, like Marty and Red Kelly. It's just great to have an event like this."
One of the key memories mentioned by Bettman was how Lindsay began the tradition of parading the Stanley Cup around the rink for fans to see. Lindsay said he didn't have creating a tradition in mind when he skated over to the crowd at the old Olympia, he just wanted to give back.
"I was well aware who paid my salary and it wasn't Mr. Norris, it was the fans" said Lindsay, still as feisty today as he was during his playing days. "I saw the Cup just sitting there, no one was around it, so I picked it up and brought it to the fans. I wanted to be respectful to the people who paid my salary."
To a man, the Red Wings said that while talent was important for a team that finished in first place for seven consecutive seasons starting in 1948-49, it was the bond among the players that propelled them to greatness.
"It was a unit," Lindsay said. "There are a lot of guys who aren't here today that made it possible for Marty, Alex, Gordie, Marcel, red and myself to enjoy this kind of recognition."
"It was just great fun," Pavelich said. "You have to have that chemistry and we did."
"We all liked being together," Howe said. "We were all taught the same things. Lines were created and left together. We practiced together, rode in the same seats on the planes or trains so we could talk. You would room as pairs. Conversations took place."
The Red Wings would hold informal get-togethers each week with their families and Lindsay said no excuses were accepted for missing out.
"And we used to bowl every week," Pavelich said. "We had our own shirts! The companionship was just great … the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley … God bless us!"
The bond between the players, the team and the city was clearly evident in their remarks. Besides being Stanley Cup winners, the six great Wings clearly loved playing for the fans and the city as much as they enjoyed playing for themselves.
"It's a great city," red Kelly said. "Great fans and a great sports town."
"Just a fantastic town," Pavelich echoed. "I will love Detroit until the day I die."
"A great sports town," Delvecchio said. "And not just for hockey. I'm surprised at how many people remember Alex Delvecchio."
We'll leave the last word on the subject to Lindsay.
"This won't mean a lot to everyone, but I ended up a Red Wing and that means a lot to me."