Bernie Smilovitz: What it was like when Red Wings won Stanley Cup in 1997

Bernie and Yzerman in 1997. (WDIV)

Trying to remember what happened 25 years ago is a difficult task. But the Red Wings winning their first Stanley Cup in 42 years feels like it happened 42 minutes ago.

I remember how excited the city was. Simply amazing! And when Darren McCarty scored that gorgeous goal to give the Wings a 2-1 lead, everybody knew the Cup was coming back home. The locker room was about what you would expect.

Mayhem! Pure mayhem! And rightfully so.

These players had carried the curse of 42 years on their backs for a long long time. I remember seeing Steve Yzerman. And how close the Wings came to trading him several years before. Actually it wasn’t that close but it was a heck of a story that the media helped build up.

I remember talking to Yzerman as he stood there in the middle of the locker room with the Stanley cup above his head. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a happier athlete than Steve Yzerman that night. And the rest of the guys were just as happy.

More -- 🔒 Relive the Red Wings 1997 Stanley Cup win with this WDIV archive footage

Brendan Shanahan, always thoughtful, always provocative. And with a wry smile on his face. He had his first Stanley Cup. Little did he know a second would follow one year later.

I remember after that 2nd cup seeing Steve Yzerman in the locker room. He had overcome many injuries that season. But in the playoffs he played like young Steve Yzerman. He was great and I remember asking him how are you able to play so well? His answer “Viagra.” One of the best lines I have ever heard from an athlete.

In closing, the memories of that night 25 years ago are fresh/very fresh. I’m willing to bet they’re also fresh in the minds of every player. And in the minds of all the fans who gave so much and got so much in return. Their Wings had won the Cup. And they saw it.

And let’s not forget the parade. Nearly 2 million people turned out to say thank you. I’m sure if the Wings knew this was going to be this good, they would not have waited 42 years.


About the Author:

Bernie brings sports to Metro Detroit. You can catch him on Local 4 News weekdays at 5, 6 and 11 p.m.