Mike Illitch, owner of Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Tigers has passed away. I could link to a lot of articles, but I think the tweets about Mike Illitch are the most powerful things I’ve seen. Here are some I like and please share your own comments.
Gordie Howe is referred to as simply “Mr. Hockey”. World War II had just ended when he first entered the National Hockey League, and when he played his final NHL season 33 years later, Wayne Gretzky was playing his first. Over those five decades, Howe didn’t just survive, he was dominant – on the scoring lists, in battles in the corners, on game-winning goals and when the year-end awards were handed out. He was a big man, though by modern standards no behemoth, but what set him apart was his incredible strength.
Though other superstars could be deemed somewhat better scorers, tougher fighters or faster skaters, no player has approached Gordie Howe’s sustained level of excellence. Incredibly, Gordie finished in the top 5 in NHL scoring for 20 straight seasons. To endure and excel, Howe needed a unique set of qualities, both physical and mental, and the foundations for his astonishing career were laid in him from an early age.
Howe grew and matured quickly, and when he was 15 he made a bid to play with the New York Rangers, attending the team’s training camp in Winnipeg. He was homesick, however, and before the end of the camp he returned to Saskatchewan. He made a better impression with the Detroit Red Wings the next year, joining a group of Red Wing veterans and untried youngsters to work out in front of Detroit boss Jack Adams. The ambidextrous Howe drew Adams’ attention from the start with a sizzling rush down the left wing and a sharp shot. The next minute he escaped down the right wing, switched his stick to the other side and still with a forehand zipped another shot at the goal.
Howe made his professional debut when he was 18, taking up the right wing for Detroit at the beginning of the 1946-47 season. He was 6′ tall and just over 200 pounds, making him one of the heavier players in the league…
…Apart from his forbidding temperament, Howe’s athletic and savvy playing style also contributed to his longevity. He never wasted energy if he didn’t need to, especially after he cut down on the number of fights he’d take part in early in his career. He was economical with his movements, anticipating when and where the play would intersect with his effortless progress around the ice. He often played 45 minutes of a game when the average total was 25. Observers noticed that when his exhausted line returned to the bench, Howe was the first to recover and raise his head, ready for another shift.
In all, Howe was selected to 21 NHL All-Star squads, 12 times to the First Team. Six times he led the NHL in scoring to capture the Art Ross Trophy and six times he won the Hart as the league’s most valuable player. His Detroit teams won the Stanley Cup four times.
Howe had been in his prime during a defensive era, the 1940s and 1950s, when scoring was difficult and checking was tight. When he was 40, in 1967, the league expanded from six to 12 teams and the number of offensive opportunities grew with it. Howe played the 1968-69 season on a line with Alex Delvecchio and Frank Mahovlich, the mercurial but talented star who had moved to Detroit from Toronto. Mahovlich was big, fast and skilled and Delvecchio was a gifted playmaker. The three were dubbed “the Production Line 3” and Howe’s scoring returned to the levels of his youth and then beyond. He topped 100 points for the first time, scoring 44 goals and adding a career-high 59 assists.
Read on for much more and watch the Legends of Hockey profile of Gordie Howe below.
Wayne T. ‘Tom’ Helfrich shared this photo by longtime Michigan news photographer Ed Noble, then of the Pontiac Press and later of the Oakland Press. Tom writes that Ed had a photo shoot with Gordie and knew he was a big fan and brought him this print. View the photo bigger and see more great old shots in his Detroit Red Wings slideshow.
The Detroit Red Wings open the 2012 NHL playoffs at 8 PM tomorrow night in Nashville. As the game preview on the Red Wings site shows, the two teams finished with just 2 points separating them. The Predators have Pekka Rinne, the NHL’s leader in wins in the net and home ice in the series. The Wings have Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and 2004 and 2008 playoff series victories over Nashville with 2008 resulting in a little thing called Lord Stanley’s Cup. Should be a great series – get more in Five Things you need to know about the Detroit Red Wings on Absolute Michigan.
Seth shot this great shot of Jimmy Howard from his seat in row K after being kicked out from by the glass. He has a better plan next time that involves not wearing the away teams jersey to the game. Check it out bigger and in his short but sweet Detroit slideshow.
Much more Detroit Red Wings action on Michigan in Pictures.
Tonight the Detroit Red Wings open the 2011 NHL Playoffs at home vs the Phoenix Coyotes. Absolute Michigan has the whole story – let the octopi fly!!
I saw a photo of the Joe this morning that made me wonder about the history of the Joe Louis Arena, home of the 11 time Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. Wikipedia’s entry on the Joe Louis Arena says that “The Joe” was:
Completed in 1979 at a cost of $57 million, Joe Louis Arena is named after boxer and former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit. This makes it one of three remaining NHL arenas without a corporate sponsorship name (the others being Madison Square Garden in New York City and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island). It is also the fourth oldest venue in the NHL.
…The Detroit Red Wings played their first game at Joe Louis Arena on December 27, 1979. Later that first season it hosted the 32nd NHL All-Star Game on February 5, 1980, which was played before a then-NHL record crowd of 21,002.
Canadian hockey broadcaster Bob McKenzie has said that perhaps playoff hockey should be renamed “goalie.” If that’s the case, then we better hope that the man above, Red Wings rookie goalie Jimmy Howard – named the NHL’s second star for March – is up for the task. Jimmy Howard finishes the season 4th in the NHL in save percentage and is considered a candidate for Rookie of the Year. ESPN says that beyond that, Howard is playing himself into the Hart Trophy debate:
With each passing day, it becomes crystal clear Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard isn’t just the obvious candidate for rookie of the year, but he has also played himself into consideration for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.
…Now the storyline surrounding the Wings is whether Howard can become the first Red Wings netminder to capture rookie of the year honors since Roger Crozier in 1964-65, and how he will react to the pressures of being a playoff goalie in Detroit.
“He’s a guy that’s done a good job for us. He’s gotten us to the point we’re at. The test of time is what he’s got to survive,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s been lots of goalies that have come into the league and some even won the rookie of the year and then you don’t keep it going. That’s up to him.
The Wings open the 2010 playoffs at Phoenix on Wednesday at 10 PM.
Have aliens come to Michigan corn fields to practice their circular mischief and are they secretly hockey fans? Not this time, as Chris explains:
Pilot Mike took me up for a nice fall color tour. We came across several corn fields and a few corn mazes. Near then end we found what I think is the Ultimate corn maze. Red Wing logo must have taken some time. Very cool
Speaking of corn mazes, there’s still time to find a Michigan corn maze or haunted attraction near you via Absolute Michigan!