Detroit Has Party for Red Wings
DETROIT (AP) _ Jubilant hockey fans played hooky today, crowding into downtown for a parade and rally to honor their beloved Detroit Red Wings and a second straight Stanley Cup sweep.
Diane Dabish of Fraser took the day off from work after camping out along the parade route at 7 p.m. Wednesday _ 16 1/2 hours before the parade’s 11:30 a.m. start.
``Last year, I missed it, but this year I wasn’t going to miss it,″ she explained.
She said her boss thought she was crazy for going out so early.
``I said, `Yes, I’m going to spend the night out here. I want to be the first person out here.‴
Howard McLauchlan of Oakland Township arrived at 6 a.m., wearing a 4-foot-high makeshift Stanley Cup on his head and a Red Wings flag as a cape.
He shaved his beard to read Red Wing _ he ran out of space to get the `s’ on.
``It’s more than a team. It’s part of Detroit and everybody’s one big happy family,″ he said.
Mayor Dennis Archer, wearing a Red Wings jersey, said Wednesday that today’s throng could surpass 1 million, the estimated turnout last year for a similar salute after the Red Wings’ first championship in 42 years.
Call this year’s sweep a victory for ``Vlady,″ grounds for a city’s celebration that the Red Wings’ Darren McCarty looked forward to moments after helping clinch another Stanley Cup.
``We’re bringing it home, baby,″ he mugged for a TV camera. ``And there ain’t no party like a Detroit party!″
Though this year’s party in some ways promised to mirror last year’s, the Red Wings’ route to repeating as champions was far different.
Six days after the 1997 celebration began, it ended when a limousine crash left defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov with severe head injuries.
During the offseason, Detroit traded goaltender Mike Vernon _ the MVP of last year’s playoffs. And the club withstood Sergei Fedorov’s holdout that had him miss 59 games last season before the center agreed to a six-year, $38 million deal.
``For those who questioned the wisdom of signing Sergei Fedorov,″ Archer said Wednesday, ``I think they clearly understand his value to the team.″
The Wings touted their latest title as a tribute to Mnatsakanov and Konstantinov _ once considered among the league’s top defensemen before the crash that left him watching Tuesday night’s clincher from a wheelchair.
``We built this season around trying to repeat, but also winning it for Vlady and Sergei,″ Detroit forward Joe Kocur said.
``It is something we will never forget, and to win it in the fashion we did and to have him here and to see that smile on his face, and the improvements he has made in his life since the accident, it’s something you can’t explain.″