There no words to describe the feeling of winning a game in overtime for your team regardless of what sport you are playing. On May 16 1996, Steve Yzerman gave an entire city an opportunity to experience those feelings with a goal that has now become one of the most famous goal and celebration combinations in the history of the NHL.
It is a goal that is still debated by many outside the city of Detroit as being a mere lucky shot that any NHL goalie should be able to stop. I mean it is hard to argue that a clear view slap shot from the blue line should be something that goaltenders nowadays can easily save. As Red Wings fans it is difficult to look at this goal objectively but I believe that it was a perfect shot absolutely ripped past Jon Casey off the bar and in. For Detroit, it was more than just about the quality of the goal, it was a captain feeling the pressure of potentially blowing a massively favored series after going down 3-2 and not only guaranteeing a win on the road in game 6 but delivering their ticket into the next round with a blast off his stick in double overtime of game 7.
When you break down the play there are so many factors into why this goal is played continuously in highlight reels. Throughout Yzerman’s career he had battled many injuries in previous playoff runs but at that point had never been able to lead his team to end the streak without a Stanley cup in Detroit since 1955. Some had begun to label the team as “chokers” after being swept in 1995 in the Stanley Cup finals by New Jersey. Now the Wings were in a situation where they had again dominated the regular season compiling a massive 62 victories but were struggling to perform in the playoffs going to game 7 against a St Louis Blues team that was supposed to be easy to defeat. Yzerman took the puck after the greatest player in the history of hockey Wayne Gretzky coughed it up and would not let him have a chance to redeem himself as the series ended 5 seconds later with a booming slap shot. It is unfortunate that 1996 was not the year that the Red Wings could end their Stanley Cup streak as they rode the momentum of that memorable goal but it does not take away from the significance of the moment in the big picture. The following season Detroit focused only on the playoffs and sacrificed the record setting regular season pace they had been playing at for several seasons to look at the big picture which is to perform in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.
There are many famous play by play calls from the Yzerman goal but as a Red Wings fan you have to love the home announcing crew’s version from Dave Strader and Mickey Redmond.
“That’s it, there it is! Oh my… 60 footer! Bingo! Oh Baby! Oh My!”, “Steve Yzerman wins it with a bullet!” “60 foot slap shot by the captain! And the Red Wings are going to the conference final!”
Mickey Redmond could not contain his excitement and delivered one of the best calls on a goal I have ever heard in my life.
Another amazing part about this goal is the reaction by Scotty Bowman. Already one of the greatest coaches of all time with previous Stanley Cups and decades of coaching under his belt, Scotty watched from the tips of his toes on the bench over the towering Red Wings players in front of him and the moment he saw the puck go in immediately bolted to go join his boys in the celebration.
I was 5 years old when Yzerman scored this goal and as a Wings fan, I am truly jealous of anyone who was old enough to appreciate how immense of a moment this was for the city. It was the moment that Hockeytown was lifted collectively as one from their seats, by their captain, the moment that they truly could believe that the Stanley Cup would soon be in their grasp. The look on Yzerman’s face after he scores says everything you need to know about a moment like this for a hockey player. There are no words to describe this type of moment, how can you place a word on an emotion that so few people will ever get to experience? When his shot hit the top corner, Steve Yzerman gave all of Hockeytown a chance to feel like they had a piece of this moment and I am sure for many fans it felt like they were in the dog pile along the boards themselves.