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  Detroit Wins Cup for Injured Comrades
By Benjamin Jennings Correspondent
Web Posted: Thursday, June 18, 1998; 11:30 p.m. EDT

Limo Crash
This limousine crash that severely injured Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov was Detroit's inspiration this year.
(File Photo)

While the champagne was poured on heads, cigar smoke wafted to the ceiling and delirium set in Detroit's locker room after it beat Washington 4-1 Tuesday to win the Stanley Cup for the second straight year by a sweep, wheelchair-bound teammate Vladimir Konstantinov and paralyzed masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov were on the mind of every Red Wing.

"Everything we did all season we did with them in our hearts," said Detroit forward Joey Kocur. "To win it with a smile on their face is the most satisfying thing. Sergei and Vladdy were always in our hearts."

The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in Washington and Kocur said the Capitals' fans were unbelievable in their support for Konstantinov, who was flown in from Detroit so he could watch the game from a second-deck luxury suite.

"Washington fans are the class of the league and the city of Washington," said Kocur. "We were up 4-1 [in Tuesday's game] and they showed compassion by cheering for Vladdy. To hear that from their fans was incredible."

Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said Vladdy's inspiration emanates from the Red Wings' locker room at the Joe Louis Arena.

"Vladdy's gear was in the locker room all year," said Lidstrom, "and there wasn't a day when people haven't looked at Vladdy's jersey. This Cup is for the team and the organization, but for Vladdy and Sergei, too."

Red Wings forward Kris Draper and defenseman Bob Rouse, in the midst of drinking champagne and hooting to teammates across the room, said they're ready to celebrate the right way this year.

"It's huge to win the Cup before Vladdy, and it's even better that he's making progress," said Rouse. "Vladdy and Sergei are our inspiration. Last year, our celebration was cut short and we're looking forward to partying right this year."

Draper agreed, saying: "God willing, it's not going to happen again."

© Copyright 1998

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