Patrick Roy tricks Scotty Bowman before the first game

In the spring of 1997—a quarter of a century ago—the Detroit Red Wings embarked on their quest to end a 42-year drought in the Stanley Cup.

The Free Press is celebrating this historic endeavor with a new book: “Stanleytown: The Inside Story of How the Stanley Cup Returned to Motor City After 41 Frustrating Seasons.”

Today 29: 14 May 1997

Drama: On the eve of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Red Wings and Avalanche trained in Denver and then directed praise to their opponents. All but Avs goalkeeper Patrick Roy, who directed a breakpat ball to Wings coach Scotty Bowman. Meanwhile, the NHL has directed each team’s management and coaches to be on their best behavior – on and off the ice.

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Roy talks about his opinion: Roy won three Stanley Cups and a 2.07 goal-to-average, two closing and 0.933 save percentage in the 1997 playoffs, Roy receiving praise from Bowman. “I know what kind of goalkeeper he is, what kind of player he is,” Bowman said. “He’s a great player.” Meanwhile, Roy questioned the merits of Stanley’s six Bowman Cups – five with the Canadians and one with the Penguins. Roy said, “He’s coached a lot of good teams, and it’s a lot easier when you coach all those good teams. I mean, all those years in Montreal, they were unreal teams and they had a lot of talent. In Pittsburgh, he was with Mario Lemieux and all those guys. And in Detroit, he still has a very good team. But it’s a little different – in Detroit he has to coach and maybe that’s why he didn’t have that much success.”

Bateman speaks his mind: In just two years, the rivalry between Wings and Avs Fight Night at The Joe, Colorado coach Mark Crawford, Aaron Ward, Colorado State General Manager Pierre Lacroix, Martin Lapointe, included Claude Lemieux’s cheap shot on Chris Draper and Bowman’s humiliating parking spot. In Lemieux, who was carrying a child, punched Slava Kozlov. Crawford provided the most tender quote: “Scotty is a great thinker, but he often thinks that the board in his head is causing interference with our headphones during a match.” Bowman suffered a head injury while playing junior hockey that effectively ended his career. Keith Gave wrote in the Free Press about the league’s preemptive strike. To his credit, the NHL has written to management and coaches at both teams about cleaning up their work on the series. Commissioner Gary Pittman, through Brian Burke, the NHL’s vice president of hockey operations, warned both teams in a conference call that the league would monitor the series “He’s made it clear to both clubs, in a very nice way, to let the side-show bullshit go away,” Wings vice president Jimmy DeVillano said. And it’s not a group event….and this is an opportunity to improve our game and improve our image.”

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Colorado Avalanche goalkeeper Patrick Roy, left, receives a punch from Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper Mike Vernon during a first period brawl in Detroit on March 26, 1997.

The free press has its say: After analyzing the match, rhythm reporter Jason La Canfora made this prediction: “This should be a series of playoffs. Special teams will be vital. Wings can never retaliate when Claude Lemieux or anyone else incites. The avalanche is hard enough to stop five on Five.Colorado is the deepest team in the NHL, and contributions from Wings like Doug Brown and Kris Draper will be especially important.Wings captain Steve Zerman has only three goals, two of them frustrated, and may need to play a more offensive role.After two or three games, Watch the hate boil, not in stupid penalty kicks but in swipes with the occasional melee. What does Overtime 7 look like? Colorado at seven.” Also for the Free Press, Jeff and Helen St. James chose the wings in seven. Mitch Albom wrote: “Last year, I chose Red Wings because they were my favorite. This year, I chose Wings because they are the underdogs. Sooner or later, I have to be right.”

Detroit Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman after training at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, May 14, 1997, before the start of the Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.

outside the ice: Just for fun, Free Press subjected two of its reporters to hours of abuse, and sent reporter Tim Doran to Denver with instructions to wear Brendan Shanahan’s #14 shirt around town. Meanwhile, reporter Dan Shane donned #22 in Lemieux and paraded it around metro Detroit. The journalists managed, barely, to survive what Shane called “a mission not for the faint of heart.” Doran wrote: “In a Denver sports column, sponsor Brad Heave declared, ‘You can’t drink here! When he saw my shirt Shanahan. His friend Scott warned me to bring my guards if I came back (for Game 1). “Everyone in this city thinks there’s no way for his last name to appear in print for fear of punishment in Detroit,” said Scott, who did not want his last name to appear in print for fear of punishment for someone reading him in Detroit. A way in hell would defeat the Detroit avalanche.” “Detroit has a bunch of hotties who beat people up.” The clerk at the Livonia post office wasn’t giving me stamps until I took off the shirt. He was joking. A Windsor tunnel bus driver scolded me along Washington Street, saying I needed to Losing the shirt “before some blood stained it.” He didn’t seem to be joking. I let him make a left turn before crossing the street. My brain and courage were interrogated several times, and I often heard people shouting “Lemieux!” followed by an act that best describes the performance characteristic For the void that harmonizes with “ducks”.

[ Ref from Wings-Avs brawl reveals why Darren McCarty stayed in game: ‘Paybacks are a bitch’ ]

Claude Lemieux of the Colorado Avalanche speaks with the media before training at McNichols Athletic Field in Denver, May 14, 1997, before the start of the Western Conference Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

famous last words: From Crawford: “I really love their team. The entire management group, Mr. Devilano, Scotty Bowman and Ken Holland, they all came together in regards to having their needs met after last year’s playoffs. And you can’t argue with their success in the playoffs so far.”

Reclaim glory: The Free Press has prepared a 208-page, colorful and illustrated book for collectors with fresh insights and dynamic storytelling on the wings of 1996-97. Its title is “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story on How the Stanley Cup Returns to the Motor City After 41 Frustrating Seasons.” It’s only $29.95 and available at RedWings.PictorialBook.com. (It would make a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift for the wing fanatics in your life!) Custom copies are available via myersgene@comcast.net.

Day 28:The Road to Stanleytown: The Magical Journey of 1997 Mike Vernon’s Playoff Begins

free press book cover, "Stanleytown, 25 years later."

More to read: Another new Wings book arrived in April from Keith Jeff, a longtime Free Press hockey writer in the ’80s and ’90s: “Vlad the Impaler: More Epic Stories from Detroit 97 Stanley Cobb Conquest.” It is available through Amazon and other booksellers, and a portion of the proceeds has been allocated to the Vladimir Konstantinov Fund for Special Needs. (Much of Gav’s prose appears in “Stanleytown 25 Years Later.”)

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