The history of the hockey city

In Hockey Town, there’s only one team to root for: the Detroit Red Wings. The team currently resides just a luxury sedan or limousine away from the Joe Louis Arena, located in downtown Detroit. Here are some historical highlights of the team:

The Red Wings date back to the old Western Hockey League, when the Victoria (British Columbia) Cougars were sold to a group from Detroit on September 25, 1926. The team played its home games in Windsor, Ontario. The Victoria Cougars had won the Stanley Cup in 1925 and were Cup finalists in 1926, but the Detroit Cougars finished 12-28-4; the worst record in the NHL for the 1926-27 season.

Help came in 1928, in the form of Jack Adams as the team’s coach and general manager. Adam’s tenure as coach and general manager would last until the 1962-63 season, when Sid Abel took over. With Adams at the helm, the team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

The team also moved to the new Olympia Stadium for the 1927-28 season. A Detroit and professional hockey landmark, the Olympia would serve as the franchise’s home through the middle of the 1979-80 season.
Willing to try anything, Jack Adams changed the name for the 1930-31 season to the Detroit Falcons.

In 1932, the financial troubles ended when grain millionaire and shipping magnate James Norris Sr. bought the team. Norris, like Adams, was a Canadian-turned-American. He had once played hockey for the Winged Wheelers of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.

When the two men met, Norris and Adams agreed that the team’s new logo would be a winged wheel, and the club’s nickname changed to Red Wings.

The franchise already had some players who would contribute to the team’s first two Stanley Cups in 1936 and 1937, such as Ebbie Goodfellow, Larry Aurie, Herbie Lewis, Hec Kilrea, and John Sorrell. Detroit fell to below .500 and missed the play-offs in 1934-35, but won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history again in 1936, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs three games to one in the final.

The Red Wings repeated as Cup champions in 1937, winning three games to two over the New York Rangers in the final. The 1936 and 1937 teams featured two of the greatest players to ever use the winged wheel in Ebbie Goodfellow and Syd Howe.

Detroit’s blue line was also added in 1938-39 when Jack Stewart was introduced to the NHL. His dark features and physicality earned him the nickname “Black Jack” Stewart and he terrified opposing forwards with gut-wrenching punches and his sheer strength.

The Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1941 and 1942, losing to the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the Red Wings got their revenge on the Bruins and Brimsek by winning the third Stanley Cup in team history in a four-game sweep of Boston in 1943.

With the promotions of Ted Lindsay (1944-45), Gordie Howe (1946-47), Red Kelly (1947-48) and Terry Sawchuk (1949-50) to the NHL and the return of Abel and Stewart from the RCAF, one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history was launched. Detroit finished second overall during the 1947-48 regular season, five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the team then rode a streak of seven consecutive first overall finishes from 1948-49 through 1954-55 and won four Stanley Cups (1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955).

The 1950 Stanley Cup was also the first appearance of an octopus on Detroit’s ice in a hockey game. The eight tentacles represented the eight games a team needed to win to capture the Stanley Cup.

Detroit did not return to the Stanley Cup Finals until 1961, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. There was jubilation at the Olympia in 1963 when Gordie Howe broke Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s record for most career NHL goals with his 545th against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Wings made the playoffs four times from 1966-67 to 1985-86, a period that highlighted the veteran line of Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Frank Mahovlich during the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons.

The team moved to Joe Louis Arena in December 1979. The arena hosted the NHL All-Star Game in January 1980. The game featured 50-year-old Gordie Howe, who was in his final season with the Hartford Whalers after returning to professional hockey in 1973-74 in the World Hockey Association.

The Norrises sold Red Wings in 1982 to Mike and Marian Ilitch, owners of Little Caesars Pizza. One of his first hires was Jimmy Devellano as the team’s general manager and he selected an 18-year-old center named Steve Yzerman with the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NHL Draft.

Detroit reached the playoffs in the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons, but lost in the first round of each season. The Red Wings collected just 40 points in 1985-86 to finish last overall in the NHL, but the disappointing campaign turned out to be a step back before Detroit took several steps in the right direction.

Detroit hired new coach Jacques Demers and made the 21-year-old Yzerman team captain. Demers won the Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year in 1986-87 and 1987-88. In 1988-89, Yzerman set team records for goals, assists, and points with 65 goals, 90 assists, and 155 points, which is the highest point total in NHL history for a player not named Gretzky or Lemieux.

Young players like Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, Keith Primeau, Martin Lapointe, Darren McCarty and Chris Osgood and veterans like Dino Ciccarelli, Paul Coffey and Ray Sheppard were acquired via trade. All but Primeau, Ciccarelli, Coffey and Sheppard contributed to the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup victories in 1997 and 1998.

The 1999-2000 season was one of the milestones for the Red Wings. Yzerman scored his 600th goal, Verbeek scored his 500th, Shanahan scored his 400th, and Fedorov scored his 300th. Yzerman also recorded his 1,500th point and 900th assist, while Verbeek scored his 1,000th point.

The Red Wings finished with the second-best record in the league in 2000-01, but were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings during the first round of the 2001 playoffs. After finishing second in voting for the Norris Trophy three years in a row, Lidstrom finally won his first Norris as the NHL’s best defenseman.

In 2001, with a league-high 116 points, the team won the franchise’s tenth Stanley Cup after the Red Wings defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games during the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals.

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