June 16, 1998: The Detroit Red Wings dominance of the hockey world continues as they raised the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year! No other team was able to repeat as Stanley Cup champions until the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2017.
The previous season saw the Red Wings end 42 years of futility. Their 1997 Stanley Cup victory was one for the ages and saw an entire city rally behind them. But Hockeytown’s jubilation soon turned to sorrow and heartbreak, as defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and Slava Fetisov (as well as a team masseuse) were injured in a limousine accident a mere six days after the historic victory.
Fortunately, Fetisov escaped the accident with only minor injuries and came back to play the next season, but Konstantinov’s playing career was over. For a time, it appeared his life itself was in serious danger. He spent several weeks in a coma and suffered paralysis and head injuries.
The Red Wings had to move on without the bruising blue liner, who was just starting to emerge as one of the NHL’s best. Konstantinov would eventually pull through, and though his days of playing hockey were finished (as well as living a normal life), he became the driving inspiration behind Detroit’s quest to repeat as champions.
When it was all over and the Red Wings had swept the Washington Capitals to secure their second consecutive Stanley Cup win, Konstantinov was wheeled onto the ice at MCI Center (now Capital One Arena) in Washington D.C. in his wheelchair. After Steve Yzerman received the Stanley Cup and raised it in celebration, he immediately placed the Cup on Konstantinov’s lap as the entire team gathered around in one of the most unforgettable moments in hockey history.