June 13th, 1997. I still remember standing in line at the Meijer in Canton when I first heard that several Red Wings players were involved in a car accident, and things went downhill from there as we found out that Vladimir Konstantinov, Sergei Mnatsakanov and Slava Fetisov were all injured in the accident…
Seven days after the Wings won their first Stanley Cup in 42 years, the celebration was over, and a summer of prayer and hoping against hope began. This morning, the Free Press published part of Keith Gave’s The Russian Five novel, and today’s excerpt discusses the crash that paralyzed Mnatsakanov and ended Konstantinov’s playing career:
The last of the golfers had come off the course at about 8:30 p.m., including athletic therapist John Wharton, who with assistant trainer Tim Abbott had spent the day escorting the Stanley Cup around the course. Stanley was the hit of the party. At some holes, players poured cold beer into the bowl and quenched their thirst. At others, the trophy was laid gently on the green, giving putters a much-needed bigger target.
Inside the club, dinner dishes were being cleared and plans made for the rest of the evening. Darren McCarty made a phone call to a tattoo artist. He was leading a group that included teammate Aaron Ward, Wharton, Abbott and a few others. They were all going to get their flesh decorated with the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings logo. Some players were staying behind to play cards and catch up with the group later. For these newly minted Stanley Cup champions, the hours in one last memorable night together celebrating a lifelong brotherhood etched in silver were just beginning. They were relaxed, relieved, radiant.
Then Sergei Fedorov’s cell phone rang. It was shortly before 10 p.m.
“All of a sudden, Sergei handed his phone to Steve (Yzerman),” Shanahan said. “Sergei looked like a ghost.”
The others grew quiet, their faces a mixture of confusion and anguish. Several teammates asked Fedorov at the same time: “What’s going on?”
The excerpt continues at length…