How Chris Osgood built a home in Hockeytown: Detroit Red Wings book excerpt

The following is an excerpt from "The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings," written by Free Press sports journalist Helene St. James and published by Triumph Books. The book will be available online and in bookshops on Tuesday.
Almost four years had passed since he left - years he would later realize were important to his growth as a person and as a goalkeeper. But as he neared meeting his longtime friend and former boss, Chris Osgood only cared about his heart.
Osgood spent the first, best and last part of his 17-year NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings. He won his first Stanley Cup backing Mike Vernon in 1997, his second cup as the team's starter in 1998, and his third as a Reliever starter in 2008. He missed the 2002 Stanley Cup for the Wings because they dropped it that summer previously he waived it because it was dispensable after General Manager Ken Holland had acted for Dominik Hasek.
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"It was devastating when I had to leave," Osgood said in a 2019 interview. "I was always at odds because I thought I could stay there with Dom. I wish I could have stayed, but in retrospect it was better if I left. It made me better. But having a personal relationship with Kenny and knowing in the back of my mind that I would be back one day helped with that. "
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That day came in the summer of 2005 as the NHL prepared to emerge from a labor dispute that had wiped out an entire season. The two men, who were 17 years old but had a relationship that dates back to before the Wings drafted Osgood to 54th overall in 1991, shared the same intention. "I met Ken in this restaurant or lounge on Haggerty Road and he wrote down some numbers," Osgood recalled. “The salary cap, we knew it was coming. Basically, he wrote a contract on a napkin. I didn't care how much I would make or how many years, I just wanted to go back to Detroit. "
There was his heart - where he had met his wife Jenna, where he had celebrated the greatest moments of his career. The mugs. Make a goal. The fight against Patrick Roy - which was pretty much mandatory for a Wings goalkeeper in the late 1990s and early years. This was where Osgood had made lifelong friends, where he had the most fun, faking ticket requests for teammates, tinkering with helmets, and tying an assistant coach's laces to a stool - in front of Scotty Bowman.
"Dave Lewis always wore running shoes on the bench, but he wouldn't pull his shoelaces up," Kirk Maltby said in a 2019 interview. "There was a game, Ozzy sat there tying the shoelaces around the base of the stool. When Lewie left he was dragging the stool. And he had Scotty Bowman right behind him. "
Osgood won 23 games as a rookie in 1993-94, but the lasting memory of that season came in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks. The score was 2-2 late in the third period when Osgood ran off his crease to chase a loose puck. He tried to clear the puck - only to land it on the stick of Sharks striker Jamie Baker. Baker met, the Wings lost, and Osgood, then 21, cried when he spoke to reporters at his booth.
Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood fights tears in the locker room after the Wings lost to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the first round in the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs.
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The wings brought on Mike Vernon, a veteran goalkeeper who had won a trophy, but Osgood remained a significant asset and retained his status as the guy who would ultimately be a big part of her future. After the Wings were defeated in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final with Vernon in goal, Osgood started 47 games in 1995/96. He led the NHL with 39 wins and 2.17 goals against average and was runner-up in 1996 with Jim Carey for the Vezina Trophy. On March 6, 1996, he was only the second goalkeeper in NHL history to score in a game against the Hartford Whalers. Osgood played 15 games in the playoffs, including the Western Conference final against Colorado. Osgood finished 8-7 with a 2.12 goal-against-average and save .898 percent.
Osgood played 47 games between 1996 and 1997, but Scotty Bowman picked Vernon in the playoffs. The wings won the trophy and Vernon was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. However, Holland had seen enough in Osgood to risk trading with Vernon in the summer of 1997.
Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper Mike Vernon, left, listens and laughs at Chris Osgood on January 15, 1996. Osgood signed the pucks in front of him. You are at the Olympia Club at Joe Louis Arena, waiting to speak to high school journalists who were visiting that day.
It was an emotional time for the team and the city as the cheers at the end of a 42-year drought in the Stanley Cup ended six days later as a limo with defenders Vladimir Konstantinov and Slava Fetisov and masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov on Woodward Avenue crashed into a tree in Birmingham. The accident ended the careers of Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov.
The Wings entered the 1997/98 season under intense scrutiny. They were the defending champions, tragedy struck one of their best defenders, and their playoff MVP had been traded. They managed to come out with a 44-23-15 record, finishing third in the NHL behind Dallas and New Jersey. Osgood started 64 games and went 33-20-11 with a GAA of 2.21 and a savings of 0.913 percent. Osgood was firmly anchored in the Colorado rivalry, fought Roy on April 1, 1998. Then he nudged his predecessor good-naturedly. Roy, said Osgood, "is a lot weaker than Vernie said he was."
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Roy, who fought Vernon in the infamous March 26, 1997 game, challenged Osgood with just over seven minutes of play. "I had no intention of fighting Osgood, but when he was in the middle of the ice what the hell," said Roy. "My glove was in the net before I left because I didn't want to make the same mistake I made last year."
Osgood shook off his gloves, opened his helmet, and raised his fists in the deafening cheers of "Ozzy! Ozzy! Ozzy! "echoed from the stands. Roy landed the first punch, a nice right, but Osgood responded with several left hooks and, after getting rid of his jersey, hit Roy until he lost his balance on the bench in Detroit.
"It was Roy trying to show Ozzy," said Kris Draper. “I think he underestimated Ozzy. Ozzy stood up for himself and did a great job. "
Chris Osgood and Colorado's Patrick Roy (33) will fight the ice in the middle in the third round on April 1, 1998 at Joe Louis Arena.
The wings rolled into the playoffs. Osgood drew on the experience he had gained in 1994 in the Sharks series and in 1996 in the 15 playoff games.
“There was a lot of pressure,” he said in 2019. “Vernie had won the Conn Smythe. I was grateful that Ken Holland gave me the opportunity to play. There aren't many times you trade the Conn Smythe [receiver] in the year he wins it. That was a responsibility I took very seriously. I was never nervous about playing in the playoffs. I had great victories and heavy defeats. I was just trying to grab a great opportunity. "
The Phoenix Coyotes were used in six games in Round 1. The Blues were gone after six games in Round 2. The Wings led three games to one game in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against Dallas. The wings were minutes from clinching when Guy Carbonneau hit 1:25 to play in regulation. Forty seconds after extra time, Osgood dropped a terrible goal. Jamie Langenbrunner fired a shot from the red line that passed Nicklas Lidstrom and ricocheted off Osgood's stick. Game over.
Outsiders wondered if Osgood could recover. Insiders didn't think about it. "In my career I haven't played with someone who could let something bad roll off their back so quickly," said Kirk Maltby in 2019. "Like the Langenbrunner goal in the Dallas playoffs - he came back and threw that Joe in the next game to close it. Ozzy never lost track of enjoying the game. I think that's why he could let go of a bad goal or a bad game because he wasn't trapped in that moment. And for a team it makes a difference - if you know you have a goalkeeper back there, there's a good chance he'll close the door afterwards if he gives up a bad goal - that's a huge advantage. "
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The Wings ended the series with a 2-0 win in Game 6 and then returned to another Stanley Cup, this time against the Washington Capitals. On the eve of Game 4, Steve Yzerman was asked who would have his voice as MVP. His answer was Osgood. "He got so much attention on himself," explained Yzerman.
Instead, it was Yzerman who won the Conn Smythe Trophy. But Osgood had silenced the doubters and scored 30 saves when the Capitals tried to hold off the elimination only to see the Wings win game 4 4-1. His father, John Osgood, was one of the people cheering Osgood on at the MCI Center. "He called me almost every night of the playoffs and he talked and I mostly listened," said John Osgood. "He was very frustrated."
Goalkeeper Chris Osgood stopped Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby during the Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 26, 2008. Osgood only allowed 10 goals when the Wings took the series in six games.
Osgood was 28 years old when the Wings renounced him after numerous attempts to trade him. Osgood spent nearly two seasons with the New York Islanders before being brought to St. Louis on March 11, 2003. He was a free agent until summer 2005. The Wings, meanwhile, needed an experienced goalkeeper; The only guy they had in the group was Manny Legace. Nikolai Khabibulin was the biggest name in the free agent market, but the Wings were cautious after the Curtis Joseph experiment went so badly. (Joseph had been called in to replace Hasek after he retired in 2002; even before Hasek decided to return a year later, the wings had pissed Joseph off.)
The next summer the Wings Osgood - and Hasek signed. The two worked together for two seasons. The same temperament that served Osgood so well when he scored a bad goal made him an ideal partner for Hasek. In 2007/08, coach Mike Babcock changed the two in starts. Hasek described his relationship with Osgood, whom he had known since his youth, as "the best I've had with another goalkeeper".
Hasek started the first round against Nashville, but it was Osgood who emerged from the series as the starter, replacing Hasek in Game 4 after Hasek allowed three to one and a half periods. On June 4th, Osgood won the Stanley Cup for the third time.
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"I shouldn't be playing," he said. “But I never doubted myself, I never saw myself as a backup because behind the scenes I knew what I was doing to get better. I will never give up until I finish my last game in Detroit. I will always give my all and this is what I do. I always try to get better and I never give up and that's why I am here. "
Osgood recorded his 400th career win in a game against Colorado on December 27, 2010. He was the 10th goalkeeper in NHL history to reach the milestone. He underwent sports hernia surgery in January, which ended his season. In the summer he announced his resignation. He worked briefly for the Wings as a mentor for their goalkeeping prospects, but began working as a studio analyst for Fox Sports Detroit in 2013.
Osgood had grown up near Edmonton, Alberta, watching the Oilers. He played junior hockey in Medicine Hat, Alberta. It was Holland that Osgood was exploring, but their relationship went beyond scouts and gamblers. They played for the same ball hockey team in the off-season. Osgood was a striker, Holland played defense.
"He was a competitive ball hockey player," recalled Holland. “He was competitive with everything. Relaxed, but very, very driven. “The name of the ball hockey team was - of course - the Red Wings.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (left) poses with former Red Wing Chris Osgood after announcing new Detroit sports license plates as an option to purchase during a press conference at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Monday, April 16, 2019.
Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more about the Detroit Red Wings and subscribe to our Red Wings newsletter. Her book The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings will be published by Triumph Books on October 13th. To order, go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Book it!
What: "The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings."
Author: Helene St. James, who has been reporting on the Red Wings for the Detroit Free Press since 1996. Foreword by Chris Osgood, winner of three Stanley Cups as a Wings goalkeeper.
Publisher: Triumph Books.
Pages: 336 pages (paperback).
Price: $ 16.95.
Availability: Officially published on Tuesday. Now available online at booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as at Available in leading bookstores this week.
About the book: "The Big 50" brings to life the men and moments that made the Red Wings such a dynamic and iconic franchise for nearly a century. The book features never-before-told stories about the greats Howe, Yzerman, Lidstrom and Lindsay, the fan-favorite greats and great memories of Fight Night, the Fabulous Fifties, the Team for the Ages and the Grind Line, The Joe and much more.
Get it signed! For a personalized copy of The Big 50, contact St. James at
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings Book Excerpt: Chris Osgood at home in Hockeytown

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