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Motor City Celebrates The Cup


Hockeytown never looked better -- or redder.

Police estimated that 1.2 millions fans jammed downtown today to honor the Red Wings, who swept the Stanley Cup championship for a second straight year.

A cheering, flag-waving throng in red and white lined both sides of Woodward Avenue as the parade traveled a mile route toward a rally.

Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov, the defenseman and team masseur who were severely injured in a limousine accident six days after last year's Cup victory, drew thunderous applause as their float passed

"The Red Wings to me are all what life is all about," coach Scotty Bowman said. "It's sharing and caring and believing."

At the rally, Konstantinov waved and smiled as he was assisted across the stage. Mnatsakanov, wiping away tears, gave the thumbs-up sign when wheeled into the plaza.

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"I know we all pray that they continue to get better, so that one day they can lead a normal life," general manager Ken Holland said. "But they are special, special people."

Added Mayor Dennis Archer: "You made us believe in finding a way, whatever the odds are."

Goaltender Chris Osgood, wearing a red T-shirt and riding in the back of a red Jeep, carried the Cup and raised it for the crowd. Captain Steve Yzerman hoisted the Conn Smythe trophy he won as the most valuable player of the finals.

Stanley, a giant papier-mache octopus, rode on a flatbed truck. His eight tentacles represent the number of victories it used to take to win a Cup during the days of the six-team league.

Diane Dabish of Fraser took the day off from work after camping along the parade route at 7 p.m. Wednesday - 161/2 hours before the parade's 11:30 a.m. start.

"Last year, I missed it, but this year I wasn't going to miss it," she said.

Howard McLauchlan of Oakland Township arrived at 6 a.m., wearing a 4-foot-high makeshift Stanley Cup on his head and a Red Wings flag as a cape. He shaved his beard to read Red Wing -- he ran out of space for the 's.'

"It's more than a team. It's part of Detroit and everybody's one big happy family," he said.

Last year, for a similar salute after the Red Wings' first championship in 42 years, the crowd reached 1 million.

Today, by 10:30 a.m., fans crammed behind barricades along the parade route were 10-deep in some areas. As they waited for the parade to begin, groups broke into cheers of "Let's Go Red Wings."

Though this year's party in some ways promised to mirror last year's, the Red Wings' route to repeating as champions was far different.

First, thee was the limo accident. Then, during the off-season, Detroit traded goaltender Mike Vernon, the MVP of last year's playoffs. And the club withstood Sergei Fedorov's holdout in which he missed 59 games before agreeing to a six-year, $38 million deal.

"For those who questioned the wisdom of signing Sergei Fedorov," Archer said Wednesday, "I think they clearly understand his value to the team."

The Wings touted their latest title as a tribute to Mnatsakanov and Konstantinov -- once considered among the league's top defensemen before the crash that left him watching Tuesday night's clincher from a wheelchair.

"We built this season around trying to repeat, but also winning it for Vlady and Sergei," Detroit forward Joe Kocur said.

"It is something we will never forget, and to win it in the fashion we did and to have him here and to see that smile on his face, and the improvements he has made in his life since the accident, it's something you can't explain."

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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