|Decade later, Red Wings reflect on Konstantinov's accident|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2007 15:00|
It's a bittersweet accomplishment for the former Detroit defenseman, who almost lost his life in a limousine crash a decade go.
``It's hard to explain how it feels when you see Vladdy now,'' former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman said Wednesday, the 10-year anniversary of the accident. ``He is alive, first of all. But we all know what kind of athlete and personality he was.
``That night is still pretty vivid and all the guys think about it regularly, especially when they see Vladdy.''
Six days after the star defenseman helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1997 - their first in 42 years - a night of celebration was shaken with a sobering crash.
Konstantinov, teammate Slava Fetisov and masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov got into a limo driven by Richard Gnida, whose license had been revoked because of repeated violations, after a team party at a golf course.
Traveling about 50 mph through the suburb of Birmingham shortly before dusk, the limo veered across several lanes, jumped a curb and slammed into a tree. The brakes were never applied, police said.
Fetisov escaped with relatively minor injuries and was able to help the Red Wings repeat as champions the next season.
Konstantinov, who was comatose for more than five weeks following the wreck, and Mnatsakanov both came away with brain injuries.
``The long-term prognosis for this is impossible to tell,'' Dr. James Robbins, a trauma surgeon at William Beaumont Hospital, said on June 14, 1997.
Gnida ended up spending time in jail.
Mnatsakanov is still in a wheelchair. Konstantinov has made slow, steady progress over the years.
``I'm thrilled Vladdy can get around with a walker. That pleases me to no end,'' Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said. ``His mind is still pretty sharp, too. He understands when you talk to him and he's able to engage you in light conversation.
``We take all of this as a bit of a blessing because obviously, it could've been worse.''
The Red Wings have contributed more than $1 million to the Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov families' foundations, assisting both with their full-time medical needs.