By: Tom Millikan
The Detroit Red Wings do not play another home game until March 6 against the Avalanche. With five road games on the front and back end of the Olympic break, Wings fans will be jonesing for some hometown hockey.
The next home game on March 6 is a blockbuster. The Wings are retiring Nicklas Lidstrom’s #5 that night. Couple that with Avs coach Patrick Roy being in the Joe, it should be a high octane night. I say let’s raise the decibel one more level. The Red Wings should surprise everybody by also retiring Vladimir Konstantinov’s #16 that night.
Konstantinov was a fan favorite as the Wings finally broke their 42-year Stanley Cup drought. He was the hard-hitting bruiser that protected Nicklas Lidstrom. Six days after winning the Cup in 1997, Konstantinov’s career tragically ended in a limousine crash.
Former Red Wings Russian Five teammate Viacheslov Fetisov told Channel 4’s Devin Scillian recently that he thinks limo driver Richard Gnida intentionally crashed the limo that permanently injured Konstantinov. Fetisov also said that the Wings did not handle the situation very well.
I call BS on Fetisov’s claims. Why would Gnida intentionally hurt two people? He was just a drugged out loser. And as far as the Wings go, they made sure Vlady was in Washington on the ice in 1998 when they repeated as champs. They also recognized him at the recent Alumni Game on New Year’s Eve.
I’m not sure where Fetisov’s resentment comes from. After hearing his comments and listening to his tone, I truly believe he still hasn’t accepted what happened to Vlady. He is still asking ‘Why’?
Most of us Wings fans have moved on. We moved on relatively quickly. The limo accident was a horrible night, but life goes on. However, Fetisov’s rhetoric shows us all how hard it is to deal with tragedy and loss when it hits home. Maybe the Wings should try to mend that wound one more time.
I believe the Red Wings should retire Vladimir Konstantinov’s #16. And they should do it on Nicklas Lidstrom night on March 6. It won’t steal Lidstrom’s thunder. It will put to rest a tragedy that affected all of us; especially every person on the ice on March 6.
Imagine Lidstrom closing his speech by saying I have one more thing to say on this ice: “The Detroit Red Wings would like to honor the legacy of Vladimir Konstantinov by retiring his #16.” There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.
Does Konstantinov deserve to have his jersey retired based on his career? No!
Is it the right thing to do? Yes!