Sports

It’s finally time to party with the Stanley Cup!


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

The Free Press has commemorated that historic quest with a new book: “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story of How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City After 41 Frustrating Seasons.

Day 54: June 8, 1997

The backstory: The Red Wings’ 42-year Stanley Cup drought ended at 10:50 on a Saturday night. Steve Yzerman touched the Cup for the first time 10 minutes later. And then the party really started. The players celebrated in the locker room until Yzerman crammed the Cup into the back of his Porsche at 3:15 a.m. Sunday. The team’s afterglow came at a restaurant in West Bloomfield. The Ilitches celebrated in their suite at Joe Louis Arena. Fans celebrated in bars and homes across the state. Thousands more packed downtown Detroit from Jefferson Avenue to Greektown. Sandwiched in the that crowd was Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara. “It was bedlam,” he said, “but it was wonderful.” Another 20,000 fans poured into the streets of downtown Royal Oak. For the day after, there were untold stories that needed to be told — and plenty of planning for the next round of civic celebrations.

Lowered from a helicopter and secured by Barton Malow workers, a 25-foot Stanley Cup made its debut on the Wayne County Building the morning after Game 4.

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Spirit of Detroit: Besides being wildly happy with the Wings’ eighth Stanley Cup, the massive crowds were remarkably peaceful. The Free Press reported on what it termed an “enthusiastic — and law-abiding — celebration”: “Indeed, it was comparatively calm when stacked up against the Tigers’ 1984 World Series victory and the Pistons’ basketball crowns. The world gasped at a burning police car and downtown murder after the World Series. Scattered vandalism and related accidental deaths followed the Pistons’ titles in 1989 and ’90. But on Saturday, the scenes were of happy celebrations and street-partying, with a mere handful of arrests.” Detroit Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon said there 17 disorderly conduct arrests and three more for other minor offenses. “Considering the size of the crowd,” McKinnon said, “it was minuscule.” Festivities were to resume Monday, when the Wings planned a team celebration for season-ticket holders at Joe Louis Arena, to be televised around the state. On Tuesday, the championship parade would start at the Fox Theatre and head down Woodward to Hart Plaza, also to be televised around the state.



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