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An original six franchise in the NHL and the most decorated American club in the league, Detroit’s hockey team was founded in 1926. Taking the iconic Red Wings moniker in 1932, this organization has 11 Stanley Cup titles to their credit to go along with incredible playoff appearance numbers including a 25 year streak which is the longest in North American professional sports. The motor city loves their local hockey team with a passion that is unmatched around the league. In fact, their infatuation with this team is so epic that Detroit is known as Hockeytown.
After a few years of struggles, the Red Wings built themselves into a perennial playoff contender, competing (with a lot less competition at that time) for the Stanley Cup. Their first victory came in 1936 over the Toronto Maple Leafs and they repeated as champions in 1937. A third Cup would come in 1943. Coming into the fold in 1946 was a young skater named Gordie Howe. Developing into a major star, Howe was the centerpiece of the team until his NHL retirement in 1971. He would finish his career with 801 goals, the all-time scoring leader at the time. Passed only by Wayne Gretzky, Howe is considered one of the best to ever play the game. He served as the team captain for several years and was a part of four Stanley Cup winning campaigns. Along with teammates Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, Howe was a member of the famous “Production Line” which churned out goals for the Red Wings game after game.
The good times in Detroit took a dip in the last years of Howe’s tenure and following his exit. While the offensive side of the game was never a problem, defense and goaltending issues plagued the club. The Red Wings only made the playoffs twice between 1967 and 1983. However, the 1983 first round draft choice, a young centerman named Steve Yzerman, would catapult the team back into the limelight. Climbing back into the playoff picture, the Red Wings began to add pieces that would prove pivotal in their sustained competitive successes.
By the mid-90s, the Red Wings had constructed a strong team, captained by Yzerman and featuring players such as Sergei Fedorov, Ray Sheppard, Paul Coffey, Darren McCarty, Vladimir Konstatinov, Niklas Lidstrom, Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Mike Vernon, Chris Osgood, and more. Coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman, their efforts culminated in a Stanley Cup victory in 1996 over the Colorado Avalanche and a sweep of the Flyers in the finals the next season. Hockeytown was officially back on the map as champions.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Detroit was a highly sought-after destination for stars around the league. The Red Wings acquired Brendan Shanahan, Larry Murphy, Chris Chelios, Ulf Samuelsson, Wendel Clark, Dominic Hasek, Luc Robitaille, and Brett Hull to go along with draft pick Pavel Datsyuk. Bowman was at the helm for another Cup following the 2002 season, his last as the Red Wings coach.
Another highly touted draft pick, Henrik Zetterberg, joined the club the following year and immediately found success at the NHL level. He would be the MVP for the most recent Stanley Cup won by the Detroit Red Wings which came at the end of the 2007-08 season. The Red Wings would continue to be a perennial contender, striving to reach that highest plateau again, qualifying for the playoffs year after year, but have not accomplished this goal just yet.
Last season saw another regression for the Red Wings, with Detroit missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, following 25 years of playoff berths. Devastated by this new and unwanted streak, current head coach Jeff Blashill will work to bring his team back to the tournament next year with a renewed hunger for winning. Zetterberg, the captain of the team, will lead his players to that end. Skating alongside him are teammates Justin Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Mike Green, and goaltender Jimmy Howard. Bringing over Trevor Daley from the champion Pittsburgh Penguins will help solidify the defensive units. Young stars Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha represent the future for this historic franchise. Thomas Vanek returns to Detroit to bring a veteran presence with him and Jonathan Bernier joins from Colorado on a three year deal to compete with Howard to be the starting goalie.
An incredible number of amazing players have worn the iconic Red Wings sweater over the years. Among the best to ever play in Detroit are Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Sid Abel, Terry Sawchuk, Ted Lindsay, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Brendan Shanahan. To learn more about the Detroit Red Wings organization and its history click here.