Detroit Wins Third Stanley Cup

Friday, June 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ Winning more Stanley Cups than any other coach never changed Scotty Bowman.

No matter the team, no matter the times, no matter the players, Scotty Bowman was the same _ confident but aloof, intelligent yet guarded, a very private man in a very public profession.

Then, on the very last night of his thousands of nights as a coach, a Stanley Cup champion for the ninth and final time, Scotty Bowman's personality suddenly changed.

After the Detroit Red Wings beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 Thursday night to win their third NHL championship in six years, Bowman took off his sport coat, put on a smile _ Flash! Scotty Bowman really can smile _ and skated with the Stanley Cup as if he were the No. 1 star.

Which, of course, he was.

On this night of nights, on this team of teams, his place in history assured and his career wrapped up in the best possible way, Bowman just wanted to be one of the guys.

``I wanted to do it again,'' said Bowman, who skated triumphantly with the Cup minutes after announcing his retirement. ``I enjoy being with the guys. ... That's what I'm thinking about. The guys who hadn't won.''

One year after the now-retired Ray Bourque won the Cup after spending his whole career chasing it, two more future Hall of Famers did the same, goalie Dominik Hasek and forward Luc Robitaille.

Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was the Conn Smythe winner as the playoffs MVP. But Hasek easily could have won the trophy after limiting Carolina to one goal in the final nine periods, including the three overtimes in Detroit's pivotal 3-2 victory in Game 3.

With Carolina about to go up 2-1 in the series, Brett Hull scored with just more than a minute left in the third period to force overtime. From that point, Detroit outscored Carolina 8-1, with Brendan Shanahan scoring twice in the decisive Game 5 and Tomas Holmstrom getting the other goal.

``I thought, for the most part, we played with them,'' said captain Ron Francis, whose Hurricanes were a surprise finalist after having only the 15th best record of the 16 playoff teams. ``If we had a couple of breaks early in the series, it might have been a different outcome.''

Not the way Hasek was playing, shutting out the Hurricanes for 166-plus consecutive minutes while holding Carolina to four goals in the final four games.

Now, it could be Hasek, a six-time goalie of the year, who could follow Bowman into retirement. The 37-year-old Hasek has an $8 million contract option for next season, but says it's 50-50 that he may quit now that he's finally won his first Cup.

``For me, the biggest dream was to win the Stanley Cup, and now I have done it,'' said Hasek, who plans to decide within a week. ``There's no better feeling than to raise the silver Stanley Cup. Now I've won the Cup, and there is nothing missing.''

Hasek asked Buffalo to trade him last summer so he would have a better chance at winning a title, and acquiring him instantly made Detroit the preseason favorite.

The Red Wings responded by being the best team from start to finish, going 22-3-1 in their first 26 games and never letting up until Bowman rested some players just before the playoffs.

Now, even if Hasek and the other seven or eight Hall of Fame-bound Red Wings return, it will be different without Bowman. He retires as only the third coach to win nine titles in any of the four major pro sports, joining the Lakers' Phil Jackson _ who won his ninth only the night before _ and Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics.

``He made this team and he taught us how to win,'' said captain Steve Yzerman, who accepted the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman and promptly handed it to Bowman. ``I learned so much from him. What a great way to start retirement.''

These Red Wings were the best of the three titles teams, according to Yzerman. They won in 1997, when Bowman also skated with the Cup, and 1998.

``Everyone played so well. We got stronger with every round,'' Yzerman said. ``I know we have won three, but this win is the best so far.''

Bowman wouldn't say if it was the best of his nine, but he seemed calm and comfortable all season despite coaching a roster of all-stars accustomed to getting considerable attention, playing time and ego-stroking.

``To go from the first game of the season, win the Presidents' Trophy and win the Stanley Cup is not an easy chore,'' Bowman said. ``One of the regrets you have as a coach is you never get a chance to tell those guys how good they are.

``These guys know how I feel about them _ it's a wonderful feeling for the players that have won before, but a very special feeling for the ones that have not won.''