The Redwings won the Stanley Cup Wednesday night. This is the original cup, bought for $50 in 1892, with rings added for additional names. It's been punted into a canal, carried up mountains, left on the side of the road after changing a flat, visited home towns in Russia and been taken into the shower with Steve Yzerman and his wife. Babies have been christened in it. People are reluctant to touch it unless they've actually won it.
This is still an Arthurian game, played for a grail by helmeted knights, each with his own personality. Maybe the freeform nature of the game, unlike the ritual of baseball or the military infrastructure of football, allows more individual character to show through. There are good guys and bad guys, goons that play classical piano, ballet dancers of impossible grace and a shot like a bullet, character guys, actors who take a dive and check for blood, even professional "agitators" like Pat Verbeek, the "Little Ball of Hate", or Sean Avery, who used to be our guy in Detroit but has come into his own bringing life to New York hockey. I'm happy for him, actually; Avery was one of many great players in Detroit, but in the dismal swamp of New York hockey, he stands out more.
Like all proper Arthurian stories, hockey has noblity too. Great souls combined with great skills that never give up, gentle in victory, unyielding in defeat, the kind of guys that make a shot as they're falling down without a thought about catching themselves. These are natural aristocrats, like Yzerman and Gretsky and "The Little Professor", Igor Larionov, that even goons and clowns respect.
Pavel Datsyuk is one of these, my favorite of the young players who have replaced the generation of Steve Yzerman and the Russians, is here embraced by Scotty Bowman, the retired coach of the Redwings and still their scout. Datsyuk has also won the Lady Byng trophy for "the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability'' two years in a row, and is in the running for the prize again this year.