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1996-97: Triumph And Tragedy

The Three Stars:

Triumph and Tragedy In Hockeytown - The Detroit Red Wings sweep Eric Lindros and the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1955. The joy is short-lived, however. Six days later a limousine accident leaves defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov with debilitating brain injuries. Defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov also suffers minor injuries.

Graham James Found Guilty - The Hockey world was shocked when Graham James, a notable Canadian junior coach, is convicted on charges of sexually assaulting two players. NHLer Sheldon Kennedy reveals he was one of the two victims. James is sentenced to 3 and 1/2 years in prison for committing 350 offenses against the two players.

Mario Lemieux Retires - Mario Lemieux scores 50 goals and leads the league with 122 points, winning his sixth Art Ross Trophy. At the age of 31 he promptly retires. He would return 3 years later and play parts of five more seasons.

Season Highlights:
  • A year after the purchase and heartbreaking news, the Winnipeg Jets move to Phoenix to become the Coyotes.
  • Backed by the great goaltending of Mike Richter, Team USA downs Canada 2 games to 1 in the first ever World Cup of Hockey.
  • Unrestricted Free Agent Wayne Gretzky chooses to sign with the New York Rangers, reuniting with Mark Messier. Gretzky later passes the 3000 career points mark (including playoffs).
  • Patrick Lalime of Pittsburgh starts his NHL career with an undefeated record in his first 16 games. (14-0-2)
  • Brett Hull joins his father Bobby Hull in the 500 goal club.
  • Pat Lafontaine, one the NHL's most exciting players, is knocked out for the season after just 13 games, suffering a severe concussion.
  • Buffalo remains a threat thanks to Dominik Hasek who wins the Hart, Vezina and Pearson trophies.
  • Eric Lindros has a fantastic playoffs in leading the Flyers past Mario Lemieux's Penguins and Wayne Gretzky's Rangers. The Flyers ran out of gas in the final vs. Brendan Shanahan and the Detroit Red Wings.


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