DETROIT -- As part of the celebration of the final season of Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings staged a star-studded pregame ceremony Tuesday night in honor of the 20th anniversary of their 1997 Stanley Cup champions.
The Cup triumph snapped the franchise's 42-year drought and Detroit then went back-to-back the next year with a four-game sweep of Washington. It remains the last time a team has won consecutive Cups. The Wings then went on to win two more, in 2002 with Dominik Hasek in goal and in 2008 over Pittsburgh.
The Red Wings were coached by former Sabres bench boss and general manager Scotty Bowman, who addressed the crowd on behalf of the club.
"We had as solid a team as you could have," said Bowman, the 83-year-old Williamsville resident who works as a consultant for his son and Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. "This is a team that's for the ages. It's a team that meshed together."
The '97 Red Wings only had a 94-point regular season, going 38-26-18 and finishing 10 points behind Dallas in the Central Division. They beat St. Louis in six games in the first round, then swept Anaheim in a second-round series that saw three games go to overtime. The Wings beat Colorado in a six-game grudge match for the Western Conference championship, then swept Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup final. Detroit held the Eric Lindros-led Flyers -- coached by current Buffalo assistant Terry Murray -- to six goals in the four games.
Roughly 30 players and coaches from the club were on hand, with huge cheers going to Hall of Famers Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman, the team's captain. The first standing ovation was accorded to former Detroit defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, who was brought to center ice in a wheelchair. Konstantinov has been paralyzed since being injured in a limousine crash just six days after the Cup clincher against the Flyers.
Owners Mike and Marian Ilitch, both in their 80s, were unable to attend the ceremony but were also part of Bowman's remarks.
"The owner wanted to win so badly and that goes down through the ranks of the players," Bowman said.
As a head coach, Bowman has won a record nine Stanley Cups; five in Montreal, three in Detroit and one with Pittsburgh. Buffalo and St. Louis were the two stops he didn't win and Buffalo was the only one where his teams never got to the Cup final.
Tuesday's game marked the Sabres' next-to-last trip to Joe Louis Arena, which will be replaced next year by the new Little Caesars Arena. That is being built about a mile uptown and is a couple blocks from Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers. The Sabres play their final game here on March 20.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, are in a stretch where they play 10 of 11 games on the road. They head to Ottawa for a game Thursday that opens a seven-game road trip and meet the Toronto Maple Leafs outdoors at BMO Field Sunday in the Centennial Classic. Cameras and extra boom microphones from the EPIX network are following the Wings for the NHL's "Road to the Outdoor Classics" series and were prevalent during Tuesday's morning skate.
The Sabres played without defenseman Cody Franson, who missed his third straight game with an undisclosed injury. Justin Falk stayed in the lineup in Franson's place. With Ryan O'Reilly's illness, the Sabres did not have any extra forwards. Nicolas Deslauriers, who was the healthy scratch Friday in Brooklyn, was back in the lineup Tuesday.