The Detroit Red Wings hoisted a ninth Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena Friday night in a loud and emotional ceremony before their home opener against the St. Louis Blues.
"We showed American how to celebrate when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup," Detroit mayor Dennis Archer told a crowd of nearly 20,000.
Cheers continued as the players were introduced. A huge roar went up when injured defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov was wheeled onto the ice, right behind No. 96, Tomas Holmstrom.
The biggest cheer of the night went up when coach Scotty Bowman stepped through the tunnel, behind assistants Dave Lewis and Barry Smith.
It was the first time since mid-June that the players had seen Bowman, who is recovering from heart and knee surgery. Bowman, looking much thinner, smiled and made a small wave.
Bowman had spent the day at Beaumont Hospital undergoing a stress checkup. Results of those tests will determine whether he returns to coach again. Bowman wasn't behind the bench when the game started.
Bowman, who turned 65 Sept. 18, has said in recent interviews that he is leaning toward returning for a shot at an unprecedented ninth Cup championship. That would break a record he shares with his mentor, Toe Blake.
Bowman also would earn $970,000 to coach, not including a $200,000 bonus should he win another title. The alternative would be $250,000 for an unspecified front-office position.
It was a special moment for Konstantinov, who was on the ice with his teammates, enjoying what he missed a year ago because of brain sem injuries received in a limousine crash six days after the Red Wings had clinched their first Cup in 42 years.
Team masseur Sergei Mnatsakonov, left partially paralyzed in the same crash, also was on hand for the ceremonies. The Red Wings had both their names engraved on the Cup as part of the 1998 team.
The two injured men were always on the minds of the players who dedicated the 1997-98 season to them.
After the Stanley Cup was unveiled at center ice, team captain Steve Yzerman hoisted it over his head and led the players -- plus the two men in wheelchairs -- toward the north end of the stadium.
There, they watched as team owner Mike Ilitch, who missed last year's ceremony because of pneumonia, pulled a protective sheet off the banner. Ilitch, the Little Caesar's pizza magnate who also owns baseball's Detroit Tigers, applauded like everyone else as the banner went skyward amid deafening cheers.
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