Detroit4lyfe Makes Good On Losing Stanley Cup Bet

When you blog, you meet some good people along the way.  The guys over at Detroit4lyfe and I try to work together by linking to each others stories in hopes of getting an increase in traffic.  Before the cup finals, we started jawing about our hockey teams and ended up betting.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to come out on the right end of the deal.  Being good sports, Detroit4lyfe stuck to the bet and wrote an article about the Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Here is the article:

Before the Red Wings series started with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Paneech came to me seeking a friendly wager regarding the outcome of the Stanley Cup Finals.  After an extensive negotiation process that lasted about 10 seconds, we finally agreed that the loser of the series would have to write a post for the other’s blog explaining why the other’s team won and was deserving of Lord Stanley’s Mug.  Welp, the Red Wings lost so here is me holding up my end of the bargain.

For me it goes back to before this series even started.  The Penguins just swept the Carolina Hurricanes and the Red Wings were trying to take care of a feisty and youthful Chicago Blackhawks.  I had no doubt in my mind it would be the Red Wings representing the Western Conference in this year’s Finals, but I was hoping it would not be the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference.  As everyone knows, the Red Wings took care of the Penguins in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.  In my opinion, I see no benefit of having a Finals rematch for the winning team as bad things always seem to happen for them.   Sure, winning two Stanley Cups in a row against the same team is great for egos and bragging rights, but that could be construed as just being greedy… and mean.  In the end, yes, it’s still a Stanley Cup and, no matter who you play, winning it is unbelievably great; I just think the bad things that can come from a rematch outweigh the positive.

That’s especially the case with the circumstances that surrounded this rematch.  The Penguins were a younger bunch with two of the game’s brightest stars looking to avenge last year’s defeat against a franchise that has been winning Stanley Cups in the past 15 years like it’s easy.  If that weren’t enough motivation for Pittsburgh, one of their best players signed with the Red Wings during the past off-season because he thought it would provide him with the best chance to win a Stanley Cup.  Certainly the move can come off as a slap in the face to Pittsburgh, who traded for him mid-season of 2008 to help them win a Stanley Cup and once that didn’t happen, offered him a long term contract to help the Pens return to the Finals and redeem themselves for years to come.  Hind sight is 20/20, so after seeing the Penguins win this year, which I’m sure felt sweet for people bitter about Hossa unselfishly passing up on much more money to sign for one-year with the historically better Detroit Red Wings, it was still the right move at the time.  Detroit has won 4 Stanley Cups in the last 12 years and had the talent to easily repeat this year, especially with the addition of Hossa.  I don’t think there’s any denying that the Red Wings were the favorites to repeat all season long.  Hossa wanted the best chance to win a Stanley Cup and I think Detroit probably had the best odds coming in to the season and throughout it.  I think Hossa made the right move and I still believe that, even after Lidstrom’s last second chance to tie Game 7 pounded off of Penguins goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury’s chest and assured Pittsburgh the 2009 Stanley Cup.  I digress.  Pittsburgh’s motivation to get back at Detroit for beating them last year and the opportunity to tell Hossa to shove it for turning down their offer was far more motivating and advantageous to them in the rematch than Detroit winning another Stanley Cup against the same team.  I think that’s the type of thing that can swing a series before it even starts. 

Pre-series concerns aside, it wound up being one hell of a Stanley Cup Finals.  When Detroit jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, it looked all but certain that Detroit would repeat and send Pittsburgh into mourning for the second season in a row.  However, behind Mario Lemieux’s calming speeches and the gritty determination of a now experienced Stanley Cup Finals group, the Penguins showed no quit.  After the Pens won both games three and four on their home ice, it was a new series and the Red Wings were on their heels for the first time of the playoffs. 

Game 5 was all Detroit back at the Joe, but not for a minute did Penguins fans or their team believe this series was over.  I certainly didn’t think so, especially since it scared me that everyone, and even their mothers who moved to Egypt to get away from hockey, believed the Red Wings would win this series after the 5-0 Game 5 humping.  In Game 6, Pittsburgh, once again, bounced back to defend their home ice in what was probably the greatest game of the series.  They eked out a 2-1 victory behind solid goaltending from Fleury who shook off being embarrassingly chased from Game 5.

That took us to Game 7, the rarest and greatest games a Championship series could ask for.  Anything can happen in Game 7s to alter the outcome; a simple bounce, bad call, or anything for that matter, can happen in one team’s favor and finish the other team’s long season of hard work with the snap of your fingers.  In this Game 7, the first Finals Game 7 for the Red Wings since 1955, Pittsburgh dominated for the first 30+ minutes and took advantage of a couple Red Wings’ defensive mistakes to put the puck to the back of the net.  The Red Wings responded finally with their patented lengthy ambushes late in the 3rd, however it was just not enough as Fleury resembled the complete opposite of his Game 5 self.  With six seconds remaining, Fleury was able to stave off one last Red Wings attack and what looked like a tying goal off the stick of Nicklas Lidstrom to secure the Penguins the 2009 Stanley Cup.

Ironically, I was in Pittsburgh for Game 7–a trip I planned months ago for the Tigers interleague series with the Pirates. As the game clock struck zeros, I had to watch 15-20 Penguins fans jump up and down together in a small apartment complex while I sat behind the couch in my Wings hat and classic Yzerman jersey with a blank stare directed toward the HD television set where the entire Penguins players celebrated on the Joe Louis Arena Ice.  One Penguins fan ran up to his room and brought down a tin foil Stanley Cup and began passing it around for his yellow and black dressed friends to kiss and raise as high as the ceiling would allow them to. 

It was at that point I exited the room and took my frustration out on a dry wall in the other room (which I will wind up paying for).  With knuckles as red as the sleeves of my jersey, but the pain in my heart much worse than my battered hands, I came to the realization that the Wings put up a valiant effort and lost to a worthy opponent.  I decided to return to the living room, where Pens fans were still rejoicing, to congratulate all my buddy’s friends on their team winning the Cup.

I’m as big of a Detroit fan as there is and despite the frustration and depression that came with this loss, a true sports fan must swallow their pent up emotions and pride, put all the mid-series trash talking aside, and admit defeat.  This series was a lot of fun to watch, write about, and even exchange some friendly smack talk.  In the end, the team most deserving of hoisting the Cup did and that’s that.  End of story.  Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Champions.

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