In honor of the Red Wings making the Stanley Cup Final.
Detroit Red Wings
National Hockey League, Western Conference, Central Division
Arena: Joe Louis Arena
Stanley Cups: 1935-36, 1936-37, 1942-43, 1949-50, 1951-52, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1996-97, 1997-98, 2001-02
Conference Championships: 1994-95, 1996-97, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2007-08
Division Championships: 1933-34, 1935-36, 1936-37, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1991-92, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08
One of the Original Six teams - along with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks - of the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings has enjoyed immense success in the NHL and is arguably the most popular team in the league (although many Canadian fans would dispute that). The Red Wings have won ten Stanley Cup championships, which is the most in the NHL for a non-Canadian team (Montreal has 24 and Toronto has 13). Currently, the Red Wings have made the playoffs in 23 of the last 25 seasons and presently 17 in a row, including this season, which is the longest current streak in American professional sports history.
The Red Wings started in 1926 as the Detroit Cougars, left, which was created from the defunct Western Hockey League team Victoria Cougars, winners of the Stanley Cup the season before. With no arena available in Detroit at the time, the team played in Windsor, Ontario, at the Border Cities Arena (now the Windsor Arena). They would move into the Detroit Olympia, right, (aka Olympia Stadium) the following season. The Detroit team would call that home until December 15, 1979.
The Cougars reached the playoffs for the first time in 1929 but lost to the Maple Leafs. In 1930, the Cougars were renamed to the Detroit Falcons. The Falcons did not do well, finishing in the bottom of the standings most of the years, despite making the playoffs again once in 1932.
With the team unsuccessful, in 1932 it was sold off to James Norris, who named them the Red Wings, after Norris' early career as a player on the Montreal HC, nicknamed the Winged Wheelers. The new Red Wings immediately enjoyed success, starting a string of playoff success where, between 1933-34 and 1965-66, the team missed the playoffs only four times.
The Red Wings reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 1934, where they were beat by the Chicago Blackhawks. In 1936, the Red Wings would return and win their first of ten Stanley Cup titles by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs and then repeated as champions against the New York Rangers the following year. The Red Wings would reach the Stanley Cup Final three years in a row, from 1941-43, but only won one Stanley Cup, in 1943.
1946 saw the introduction of a young Gordie Howe, left, who would go on to become one of the greatest players ever in the NHL and lead the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups and seven consecutive playoff appearances from 1948-49 to 1955-56. The “Production Line”, right, was created in 1947 when Howe was teamed up with Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay to form the greatest line in NHL history. The name of the line had a double meaning, both for the production the three players created and for Detroit’s automobile assembly production lines. In 1952, the Red Wings would go undefeated in the playoffs, the first time in 17 years a team had done that.
With the death of James Norris in December of 1952, his daughter Marguerite became the first woman to head up an NHL franchise. Her reign didn’t last very long as a power struggle in the family caused the team’s control to shift over to her brother Bruce. The late 50s was a time of shakiness for the Red Wings due to odd trades made by general manager Jack Adams, right. 1959 would mark the first time the Red Wings failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. The Red Wings would rebound in the early 60s, making the playoffs four out of six years between 1961 and 1966 but could not win any Stanley Cups. In 1963, after 36 years as general manager for the team, Jack Adams was fired.
The next few decades would not be kind for the Red Wings.
From 1967 to 1983, the Red Wings were referred to as the “Dead Wings.” The team finished dead last only a year after making the playoffs. Detroit would make the playoffs only twice in this timespan and won only one series. The coaching situation was in a state of turmoil as 14 coaches would head the team, not even counting interim coaches.
Detroit superstars Frank Mahovlich, left with the Canadiens, acquired during the 1967-68 season, and Gordie Howe could not pull this team from the basement. Mahovlich tenure with the Red Wings was short lived as he was traded to Montreal in 1970. The make matters worse, Howe retired after the 1970-71 season.
This dark era did see the Red Wings moving from Olympia Stadium to the famous Joe Louis Arena, right, during the 1979-80 season.
The Dead Wings era effectively ended in 1983 when the Red Wings drafted Steve Yzerman, left, and led the team in scoring his first year, dragging the Red Wings up from rock bottom. Detroit made the playoffs that season, the first time in six years. In 1987, the Red Wings made the semifinals for the first time in the modern era of the NHL (starting in 1967) but lost to the Edmonton Oilers. Detroit won its first division title since 1965 the following year but again lost to the Oilers in the semifinals. Scoring 65 goals, Yzerman led the Red Wings to another playoff appearance in 1989 but exited after the first round. Despite scoring 62 more goals in 1989, the Red Wings failed to make the playoffs in 1990. It would be the last time the Red Wings would fail to make the playoffs.
Although constant playoff contenders, the Red Wings could not win a Stanley Cup. It wasn’t until the 1996-97 season with the additions of Brendan Shanahan and Larry Murphy that the Red Wings scored their first Stanley Cup in 43 years, the league’s longest streak at the time.
Six days after their win, Konstantinov suffered a brain injury in a limo accident, which ended his career. The following season was dedicated to Konstantinov which saw the team defending its championship by winning another Stanley Cup. Konstantinov, right, was on the ice the day the Red Wings won it and was able to hold Lord Stanley's Cup.
Chris Chelios was added to the team for the next season, hoping to three-peat as champions but lost to the Colorado Avalance in the semifinals. This would be the beginning of a rivalry with the Avalanche that would play out over several years.
The 2001-02 season introduced goalie Dominik Hasek, left, to the team as well as Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Pavel Datsyuk. The Red Wings would win the Stanley Cup that season but saw the loss of Hasek with his retirement. The following season Henrik Zetterberg joined the team. In that playoffs that year, the Red Wings were upset by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now the Anaheim Ducks) when they swept Detroit in the first round.
For the 2003-04 season, Fedorov left the Red Wings to join the Ducks while Hasek came out of retirement to play for the Red Wings. However, Hasek’s playtime was cut short after 14 games with a groin injury. Robert Lang was acquired at the trade deadline that saw the Red Wings reach another playoff. However, in the second round of playoffs against the Calgary Flames, Yzerman was sidelined for the rest of the playoffs when he was hit in the eye with a puck, right. The Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs in the next game.
The 2004-05 season was lost due to the NHL lockout. Brett Hull left the team to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes.
The end of the lockout signaled a new era for the NHL. Goalie Chris Osgood returned to the Red Wings. The Red Wings started the new era with a playoff appearance but were eliminated by the scrappy Edmonton Oilers in the first round.
After the 2005-06 season, Brendan Shanahan left the team for the New York Rangers but, for the third time, Dominik Hasek returned to pay for the Red Wings. The most shocking news, however, came with Steve Yzerman’s retirement, a Red Wings player for 23 season and the longest tenured captain in NHL history. His number was retired the next season and Yzerman passed the captain torch to Nicklas Lidstrom, left. Yet again, the Red Wings made the playoffs but could still not reach the Stanley Cup Final.
For the 2007-08 season, Detroit easily dominated in its conference and had no trouble advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2002. They will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup starting May 24.
Fun Fact: The Legend of the Octopus started in 1952 when an owner of a local fish market threw an octopus onto the ice. The eight legs symbolized the eight games needed to win the Stanley Cup at the time. Since then it has become an unofficial mascot of the Red Wings. Joe Louis Arena is normally adorned with giant octopus during the playoffs. The octopus is named Al, after the head ice manager Al Sobotka, twirling an octopus at right. The NHL has tried desperately to end the octopus throwing tradition but fans have learned how to get around the rules, especially with the help of other fans. And, yes, real octopi are thrown onto the ice.
Historical Fact: On November 21,
2005, Detroit player Jiri Fischer, left, suffered a seizure which caused the
postponement of the game. His heart had stopped but was successfully
resuscitated. It was the first time in NHL history a game had been postponed
due to an injury.
~ Chris, guest blogger