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The History Of Hockey Town

Aug 29, 2007
In Hockey Town, there's only one team to root for -- the Detroit Red Wings. The team currently resides just a luxury sedan or limo ride away at Joe Louis Arena, located in downtown Detroit. Here are some team historical highlights:

1920s - The Red Wings go all the way 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 NHL's worst record 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 GM 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 into the brand new Olympia Stadium for the 1927-28 season. A Detroit and professional hockey landmark, the Olympia would serve as the home for the franchise through the midway point 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 problems ended when grain millionaire and shipping magnate James Norris Sr. purchased the team. Norris, like Adams, was a Canadian turned American. He had once played hockey for the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association's Winged Wheelers.

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 the Red Wings.

The franchise already had a few 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 slumped to under .500 and missed the play-offs in 1934-35, but came back to win the first Stanley Cup in the franchise's history in 1936, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs three games-to-one in the finals.

The Red Wings went on to repeat as Cup Champions in 1937, winning three games-to-two over the New York Rangers in the finals. The 1936 and 1937 teams featured two of the greatest players ever to wear the winged wheel in Ebbie Goodfellow and Syd Howe.

Detroit's blue line also got an addition in 1938-39 when Jack Stewart was introduced to the NHL. His dark features and physical game earned him the nickname "Black Jack" Stewart and he terrorized opposing forwards with bone-crushing hits and his great 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 both Abel and Stewart from the RCAF, one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history was set in motion. Detroit finished second overall during the 1947-48 regular season, five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the team then ran off a streak of seven-straight first overall finishes from 1948-49 until 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 ice at a hockey game. The eight tentacles represented the eight games that a team needed to win to capture the Stanley Cup.

Detroit didn't return to the Stanley Cup Finals until 1961, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. There was jubilation at the Olympia in1963 when Gordie Howe broke Maurice "Rocket" Richard's record for the most career NHL goals with his 545th against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Wings reached the playoffs four times from 1966-67 until 1985-86, a period that was highlighted by 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 a 50-year old Gordie Howe, who was in his last season with the Hartford Whalers after returning to pro hockey in 1973-74 in the World Hockey Association.

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

Detroit made the playoffs in both 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons but lost in the first round each season. The Red Wings collected only 40 points in 1985-86 to finish last overall in the NHL, but the disappointing campaign would prove as one step backward before Detroit would take several steps in the right direction.

Detroit hired new coach Jacques Demers he made the 21-year-old Yzerman the team's captain. Demers won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year in both 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 milestones for the Red Wings. Yzerman scored goal No. 600, Verbeek tallied No. 500, Shanahan collected No. 400 and Fedorov earned No. 300. Yzerman also recorded his 1,500th point and 900th assist while Verbeek scored his 1,000th point.

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

In 2001, with league-best 116 points, the team won the franchise's 10th Stanley Cup after the Red Wings defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games during the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals.
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