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"lifelong redwings fan"
Malkin wants to be The Man, ON • Canada • -1 Years Old • Male
It was 22 years ago when the Red Wings ended their 42 year Stanley Cup drought. Sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers it looked to be the beginning of a Red Wings Dynasty. A week later one of their best defensemen, Vladimir Konstantinov's career ended abruptly due to a terrible limousine accident.

Like all Red Wings fans, I was in shock. I couldn't believe this happened. The selfish Red Wings fan part of me wondered, who's going to replace #16 on defense? "Vladdy" was 30 years old and just entering his prime. His best years may have still been ahead of him. At the time, Vladdy was the Red Wings #1 defenseman.

Nick Lidstrom would go on to be, well, the legendary Nick Lidstrom. One of the best defenseman of all time. But it was Konstantinov who drove that 1997 Red Wings Cup Winning team. Now he was gone. The Red Wings dedicated the next season to their fallen comrade. He was missed both on the ice and in the dressing room.

Drafted 221st overall in 1989 when it was hard to get players out of Russia, Vladdy was a leader. Skilled. Tough as nails. I recall hearing the story of Vladdy telling his injured Russian teammate Sergei Fedorov to "get his a$$ back out there. You're giving Russians a bad name" during the intermission of a game versus Colorado in the Western Conference Final the series before.

Vladdy was a part of that infamous Brawl at the 1987 World Junior Championship versus Canada when both teams were kicked out of the tournament. He was basically smuggled into Detroit by Mike Ilitch. The Red Wings knew he was good but had no idea he was even better than they thought. There wasn't anything Vladdy couldn't do on the ice.

He did everything well. He could skate, pass, shoot and even had great hands. He could dish out devastating, bone crunching hits. Play shutdown defense. Play a key cog in the Russian 5. He couldn't be intimidated. Vladdy was one of my favourite Red Wings. With Vladdy and Lidstrom anchoring the Red Wings blue line, I wondered how many Cups could the Red Wings win? It was not to be of course.

The Red Wings did go on to win 3 more Cups but I still believe they would've won more with #16 in the lineup. Red Wings fans like me who were there in the 90s remember how great of a player Vladdy really was. But most other fans don't remember him. It's a shame. It's not anyone's fault. That's just the way it is in sports.

I truly believe Vladimir Konstantinov would've been a sure fire Hall of famer had he been able to play his full career. He really was that good. 22 years later and I still miss watching #16 playing for the Red Wings. It saddens me when I think of what happened to him. His career taken away from him through no fault of his own. I still tear up when I watch my old VHS tape of the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup the next year against the Capitals.

Stevie Y handing the Cup first to Vladdy sitting in his wheel chair as the "I believe I can fly" song played in the background. It was truly a special moment in Red Wings history. It was also one of my favourite moments as a Red Wings fan. It's happy and sad.

If you watch a Red Wings home game now, you'll see an older Vladdy Konstantinov sitting up in the owners box. I'd like for you to remember that this man was once a great hockey player who gave his heart and soul to the Detroit Red Wings. He'll always be loved by Red Wings fans for the tremendous player he was and for the great person he is. I miss you Vladdy. #16 for the Red Wings.
August 30, 2019 2:03 PM ET | Delete
Beautifully written. One of my wife and my favorite moments was going in through the side entrance at the Joe (someone left us tickets with the parking attendants). I knew someone was behind me so i held the door. It was Vladdy. He was using his walker. The man fought for every step and did his best “thank you” as he went through. Even now he fights for every inch, he never gave up. God bless you, Vladdy.
August 30, 2019 2:24 PM ET | Delete
I always admired how Vladdy kept a positive attitude despite the tragedy which happened to him. I give his wife credit for sticking by his side as well. I'm always happy to see Vladdy but then am sad when I think of what happened to him.
August 30, 2019 2:27 PM ET | Delete
I thought that playoff year was going to be the first time in a long time when a 'defensive' defenseman won the Conn Smyth. He was outstanding. I agree that his play may have been enough to bring a couple more cups back to Detroit if not cut short by a drinking driver. Great anecdote with Fedorov and well conceived/written article.
August 30, 2019 2:30 PM ET | Delete
I recall an irate Marc Crawford saying "That SOB could get a penalty each time he's on the ice!" 😂 He was referencing Vladdy. Konstantinov was a beauty alright. ☺
August 30, 2019 3:39 PM ET | Delete
Well written. I remember all of these events vividly and have similar emotions. It also had a significant impact on the other players. Fetisov struggled with guilt that he escaped without serious injury. He planned to retire after the 1997 Cup but came back in 1998 just for him. I spoke with Slava Kozlov in 1998 and asked how Vladdie was doing. He started to tear up. He was a quiet guy and Vladdie was like his big brother always looking out for him. Kozlov himself was in a serious accident as a teenager in which his best friend died and he suffered a brain injury. Kozlov obviously recovered, but I suspect he struggled to understand how one friend had died and another was disabled while he was fine.
August 30, 2019 3:49 PM ET | Delete
Solid info there. Thanks. Papa Bear Fetisov paired with Vladdy and they were very close. I recall wondering how Fetisov walked away unscathed when both Vladdy and Mnatsakonov (trainer) were badly injured. It's just so unfortunate that happened.
August 30, 2019 4:23 PM ET | Delete
It sucks the amount of guilt some people have to carry. I love the Wings for keeping Vladdy in the fold. I know Ken Holland has his faults, but when I hear he’s “too loyal” i shake my head. Loyalty is a forgotten value and yeah, it sucks when the team gets older. But, these guys still have a home and a place to turn to.
August 30, 2019 4:32 PM ET | Delete
That's one of the things I like about the Ilitch family. They take care of their own. While Holland was guilty of being "too loyal" to certain players, it's still a good thing to have.
August 30, 2019 5:59 PM ET | Delete
Well said. Mike Ilitch paid for Rosa Park’s apartment and no one really knew til recently. He didn’t need a pat on the back.
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