Yes, the new banner went up. Yes, Dallas Drake and Dominik Hasek were back in town. And yes, the Stanley Cup made an appearance. But to me, the best part was the eruption that occurred when Steve Yzerman stepped onto the red carpet as the Wings front office was introduced to the sell-out crowd. As former Red Wings great Johnny Wilson told me earlier, “the fans here in Detroit are wonderful; they put all their athletes here on a pedestal.” And if there was a real pedestal to measure with, Yzerman’s would tower right next to all the other greats this city has been fortunate enough to watch over eight decades of Red Wings’ hockey.
Honorable mention goes to Chris Chelios, for skating out, with a broken leg, in his full equipment for the banner ceremony. Talk about toughness; Cheli’s a poster boy for the physical side of hockey. 2. Who’s going to have a breakout season?
It might seem like an obvious choice, but I’m choosing Jiri Hudler
. The 24-year-old was on the starting line up for tonight’s game, skating on the right side with Henrik Zetterberg
and Johan Franzen
. Playing right wing on a line with Hank and the Mule is guaranteed points, but Hudler was poised for a big year either way, after watching his post-season performance last year. The Czech forward had 14 points last spring, and he’s entering only his third full year at the NHL level, which means he’s only going to get better.3. Who spoiled the party?
Credit needs to go to Toronto coach Ron Wilson, whose forechecking strategy forced turnovers deep in the Red Wings’ end. Wilson’s troops also stayed out of the box, keeping Detroit’s offensive attack at bay. With the exception of Jamal Mayer’s delay of game call with 30-seconds left, the Leafs committed only two penalties in 59:30 worth of hockey – impressive for a team on the backend of an all-out attack throughout the game. Tomas Holmstrom
notched both his goals on those two power plays, showing how important it is for teams to stay out of the box against the Wings.