Tag Archives: Detroit Red Wings


by Ron Spence

This season’s Winter Classic promises to be the best so far.

The Central Division’s top team – the Red Wings who have 51 points – will be facing the club snapping at their heals.

Chicago, which has won 9 straight games – and has 47 points with 2 games in hand – will be challenging the Stanley Cup champs.

The two teams will be facing off tomorrow in Detroit – a prelude to the Classic two days later.

But, this particular extravaganza means more than just a division title.

It will give hockey and non-hockey fans the opportunity to see the NHL’s hottest team challenging the reigning champs.

It should become the benchmark for Winter Classics to come.


courtesy of chicagotribune.com

Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, writes about the surging Hawks:

Win streak has Blackhawks reassessing their potential

As Hawks go for record 9th straight win, goals changing

“The Blackhawks are beginning to amaze even themselves.

During Friday night’s triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers [followed by a win over Minnesota], their franchise-record-tying eighth consecutive victory, Patrick Kane allowed himself to take in his surroundings.

“I was on the bench thinking, ‘Is our team really this good that we’re beating a team like Philly, who was as hot as us, 5-1?’ ” the second-year winger said.

Kane knew the answer after the Hawks finished off the Flyers by that score, and he knew it after Saturday’s practice in Bensenville.

“We’re really confident right now,” said Kane, who leads the Hawks in scoring with 16 goals and 25 assists. “Who knows how far this team can go? We have to keep it up. We have to keep going. A lot of things are going right right now, and hopefully we can keep it up.”

The Hawks have set their sights on breaking the record they share with the 1971-72 and ’80-81 teams when they face the Wild on Sunday night in Minnesota.

“If we win, we’re pretty much alone in history for the Blackhawks,” Kane said. “That’s pretty special for an Original Six team.

“It would be nice to get that one and give ourselves some confidence as a team that we are pretty good and maybe one of the best in Blackhawks history.”

The Hawks have raised expectations among fans and themselves with their play in December, during which they have at least one point in 10 consecutive games (9-0-1). The goal of reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season has morphed into a bit more.

“Playoffs at the start of the season was our goal, and I think now we can do more damage than that,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We just have to stay consistent with ourselves, and we’ll find a way. Definitely our goal is to finish first in our division and go from there.”
“If you look at San Jose and Detroit, the two top teams in the [Western] conference, we wanted to position ourselves to close that gap,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We still feel like there’s a big pack that’s [behind them] but there’s a little room there now, so let’s try to push ahead and try to accomplish the next goal. Right now, all of a sudden, it’s a different objective than it was.”

For now, the Hawks are concentrating on keeping an even keel during their December to remember.

“It’s tough to find a weakness in our team game right now,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “That’s a good sign. The best thing about this whole eight games is that the team has stayed pretty mellow. We’re enjoying the ride, but we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. It has been a lot of fun.”


Detroit will be ready for the Windy City upstarts, but they’re having some PK problems.

Plus, Chris Osgood won’t be playing and Nick Lidstrom is injured.


From Mike Smith’s Blog:

“The organization that epitomizes experience at the upper management level is Detroit. The Red Wings have clearly been the dominant franchise over the last 20 years. Four Stanley Cups, in ‘97, ‘98, ‘02 and ’08, and 18-straight playoff years reflect their success.


smith_mike031024courtesy of cbc.ca
Mike and Marian Ilitch bought the Red Wings in June of 1982. Not only have they built a franchise that looked for and kept experienced people, they have also placed emphasis on stability. The NHL, like other major leagues, all too often makes changes prematurely, often in a panic.

Let’s look at the Red Wings’ combination of experience and stability:

• Jim Devellano was the first GM hired by the Ilitch family in 1982. Twenty-seven years later, he’s still there. This is his 42nd year in the NHL. He played a major role in the construction of the New York Islanders dynasty in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

• Ken Holland is starting his 12th season as GM and his 26th in the organization. A former American League goaltender, he began his post-playing career as an amateur scout, progressed to director of scouting, then assistant GM and, in 1998, GM.

• Jim Nill is entering his 11th season as assistant GM and 15th with the Red Wings. He has a background both as an amateur and pro scout and also served as GM of Team Canada at the 2004 world championships.

• Steve Yzerman, beginning his third season as vice-president. This is his 26th year with the club. He has twice served as GM of Team Canada at the world championships.

• Scotty Bowman, though now with the Chicago Blackhawks, joined the Red Wings in 1993 as coach. His NHL coaching career began in 1967 with the St. Louis Blues and he’s won 12 Stanley Cups in his career. He stayed on as a consultant with the Wings following his retirement from coaching in 2002.

The critical fact is all of these men had jobs in which they had to make crucial decisions.

Being a coach, a director of scouting or a GM of a national team requires decision-making. Mistakes are made. But to grow, you need to learn from the mistakes. Nothing will happen during the season this management group has not seen before. Their years of experience have brought them sound judgment.

Not all ownerships follow the Detroit path. I like the Detroit model, but the new ownerships in Tampa Bay and Vancouver have looked to player agents – Brian Lawton and Mike Gillis – to be their hockey leaders. Both have limited, if any, team management experience. This is not to say they will not be successful. After all, it is hard to criticize the job Pierre Lacroix – a former agent – did with the Colorado Rockies.”

Mike Smith is a former GM with the Blackhawks and Jets and associate GM with the Maple Leafs. He also served as GM for Team USA at the ’81, ’94 and ’95 IIHF World Championship. His Insider Blog will appear regularly only on THN.com.


by Ron Spence

Peter McNab is this big, friendly guy with many hockey contacts and all sorts of hockey moxie.

He played in the NHL for such teams as the Canucks and Bruins, and his father, Max was a hockey icon. He played with the Red Wings on one Stanley Cup team, and finished his playing career with the New Westminster Bruins of the old Western Hockey League. Later, he was the GM with the Capitals and Devils.

Peter’s brother, David, is also a hockey man – Brian Burke’s Assistant General Manager in Anaheim.

Peter is now the color analyst on the Avs’ Altitude telecasts.

courtesy of dallasdedicated.blogspot.com

Max McNab had passed away a year ago in September, and Peter was having supper with dad’s old teammate, Gordie Howe – during the 2008 playoffs.

They were talking about life in general, hockey in particular, and then the conversation focused on Sean Avery’s behaviour in front of Martin Brodeur.

“If I was playing,” Gordie said flatly, “he wouldn’t be standing there.”

McNab told the Denver Post’s Jim Armstrong: “That’s all. There was no threat like, ‘OK, I’m going to get this guy.’ It was just, ‘If I was playing, he wouldn’t be standing there.’ ”

Myself, I’d put my money on the eighty-year-old Howe dumping the Dallas imposter on his ass today.


by Ron Spence

The desertdawg referred to Howie Meeker in his previous blog.

Knowing that there will be a few readers who won’t know Howie, I have dug up a short piece which I wrote on him a decade ago:


Howie Meeker is hockey’s Renaissance Man. In his eight (plus) decades he has been: a soldier, a politician, a writer, a media personality, and of course a distinguished athlete.

Meeker played Junior B for Kitchener and Stratford in the Ontario Hockey Association. He led the league in scoring and later played for Brantford before enlisting in 1944. After two years in uniform – and a serious injury – Meeker left the service, and after recovering, played Senior A hockey for Stratford.

Meeker signed with the Leafs as a free agent and beat out Detroit’s Gordie Howe for the Calder Trophy. He played for eight NHL seasons, before a back injury shortened his career. In that short time, Howie played in three All-Star games and had his name engraved on four Stanley Cups.



Meeker went on to coach in the American Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Hornets. He was in Pennsylvania for two seasons before replacing King Clancy behind the Maple Leafs’ bench.

He was named the Leafs’ GM the next season, before moving to Canada’s right coast for a dozen years.

While playing hockey, Meeker had noted a void in hockey.

He wrote: “I was thirty years of age [had played at many levels of hockey] and no one ever attempted to improve my skating, passing, shooting, puck carrying, or my thinking skills. It was an accepted fact, back then, that you either had the skills or you didn’t.”

This resulted in the Howie Meeker Hockey School.

When the school was featured on CBC, Meeker was invited to hold his camps in many areas across Canada.

Then in 1976 after coming to Parksville, Howie and his wife bought a property in British Columbia and moved out a year later.

While Howie was in Montreal in 1968, he was asked to do colour work on a Hockey Night in Canada game between Montreal and Chicago.

Howie writes about his so-called “once only” effort: ”Knowing that it was a one-shot deal, I had fun with it. I was very critical on some plays and tremendously excited about others. Game over, show over, that was it – or so I thought.”

He was working fairly regularly by the 1969-70 season, then returning to the Rock.

“I’d watch my own video screen and, with an engineer, select the thirty or forty seconds I wanted, package it with a replay, and then describe what was happening or wasn’t happening, while the film rolled for TV audiences.”

Then he saw the technology being used in football.

“Thank God for the telestrator,” he said. “The second I saw it used in a Canadian Football League game, I said, ’That thing’s for hockey.’”

Next, he was asked to work on the 1972 Summit Series.

He loved the Russians – how they skated, handled the puck, etc., and “talked about nothing but Soviets.”

But, sometimes his love of the game annoyed people.

Next he was offered a job as a CBC TV sports director.

When he moved west, he started working with Jim Robson and BCTV, and later in 1985 with the Sports Network.

Then Howie entered the field where he would have his greatest impact on hockey, and result in his nomination for the Foster Hewitt Award – selected by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.

He worked on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, and later for TSN before retiring in 1998 – his telestrator in hand.


by Ron Spence

Joe Pelletier has a great series of photos on his website: Greatest Hockey Legends.

My favourite picture doesn’t concern any one event, however, but a relationship between a player and his adopted city.

It’s cold outside, but there’s a lot of love on the side of that building.

courtesy of letsgoredwings blog


by Ron Spence

Vancouver wasn’t always a hockey hotbed.

A quarter of a century after hockey was highly popular in eastern Canada, many Vancouver fans still hadn’t see a game.

“Most of [opening night fans] had never seen a hockey game before, but they became ardent enthusiasts long before the finish,”The Province wrote in 1912.

Vancouver supporters remained enthusiastic as the Millionaires (later called the Maroons) became a winning team. They took the PCHA titles in 1915, 1919, 1921 and 1923, and played for the Stanley Cup in 1915, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1924.

They won Lord Stanley their first try, in 1915, but never again.



Vancouver fans were deprived of great hockey when the coast league folded in 1926, but the semi-pro PCHL circuit (which was renamed the North West Hockey League in 1933, and re-renamed the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1936) premiered two years later. The new Vancouver Lions won five titles in thirteen years, before folding in 1941 (The Vancouver Forum was built prior to the 1934-35 season, but had only 3500 seats. When the Denman Arena burnt down in 1936, it became Vancouver’s premier rink.).

A new team, the Canucks started playing after the War. Continuing the tradition of the Millionaires and Lions, the Canucks won the PCHL Championship their second season in the league. In 1953, the PCHL and the Western Canada Senior Hockey Leagues merged and formed the Western Hockey League. The Canucks won the championship Lester Patrick Cup in 1958, 1960, 1969 and 1970.

Vancouver fans supported their minor league Canucks, but still wanted a Big Tent team of their own. They were disappointed when the NHL doubled in 1967, without including a Vancouver franchise.

But, they optimistically built the 16,000-seat Pacific Coliseum, which housed the WHL’s Canucks for two and one-half years.


THE PACIFIC COLISEUM - courtesy of http://www.vancouver2010.com

Finally, Vancouver along with Buffalo, were admitted to the NHL in 1970 for a $6 million fee. Norman “Bud” Poile was named the Canucks’ first GM, and Hal Laycoe their inaugural coach.

Vancouver’s first NHL game was held on October 9, 1970 against the L.A. Kings. The game was broadcast on the CBC and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Premier W.A.C. Bennett, and NHL President Clarence Campbell attended. The NHL Canucks lost their first contest 3-1, but beat Toronto 5-3 two nights later.

Vancouver finished their first season with 24 wins and 56 points, placing them ahead of California and Detroit in the standings. As would be the case for most of the franchise’s history, Vancouver finished near the bottom of the league, but never low enough to take that year’s best draft picks. Montreal had traded for California’s pick, and took Guy Lafleur, while Detroit selected Marcel Dionne. Vancouver would take Jocelyn Guevremont.

Their second season, the Canucks finished with only 20 wins and 48 points, a franchise low. The team continued to falter, and by 1981 the Canucks had yet to win more than one playoff game in a series, let alone a series.



But then things changed in 1982. With players like goalie Richard Brodeur, Tiger Williams, Thomas Gradin, Stan Smyl and Ivan Boldirev the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup finals, before being swept by the New York Islanders.

Vancouver had beaten Calgary, Los Angeles and Chicago to get a sniff of the Cup.

During the Blackhawks’ series, Vancouver coach Roger Neilson waved a white towel at referee Bob Myers, after a bad call. Tiger Williams and other Canucks then hoisted towels on their sticks, and further taunted the ref. Thus, towel power was created, and Vancouver fans have since waved white flags in support of their team.

Following the series, 100,000 fans lined Vancouver’s streets to salute their parading Canucks. It was twelve years before another parade, however.

Then, led by the offense of Russian-born Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning and Gus Adams, and the goaltending of Kirk McLean, the Canucks came back from a three to one deficit, to win three overtime games against the Calgary Flames. Next they beat Minnesota and Toronto, to represent the west in the finals.

The Canucks pushed the highly favoured Rangers to seven games, before New York ended their fifty-four year drought to win the Cup. The final 1994 game came down to a faceoff to the right of Mike Richter, with 1.6 seconds left to play.

The Canucks returned to Vancouver at 5:40 the following morning, to tens of thousands of fans.

They were every bit as ardent as the Millionaires’ supporters had been eight decades before.


The above was written for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame


by Ron Spence

Sports were all the rage by the ‘90s – the 1890s.

Americans were spending some $150 million per year – the players’ salaries for three NHL teams today – on recreation, and by 1909, $1 billion on recreation and travel combined.

People had discovered this new-fangled thing called leisure, as their work weeks were shrinking – from 60 to 44 1/2 hours a week, during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century.

In 1910, Americans were dropping $73 million, just on sports, and businessmen were investing $105 million in sporting enterprises.

“…sports had been enjoyed mainly by the rich,” Walter Lord wrote in The Good Years, “Suddenly [the general public] were becoming part of the American scene … The World Series gate at one game was only six thousand … By 1910 (the next five-game series) attendance was double the 1908 figures, and the pattern of the future was set … the general public was eagerly moving into an area that had previously been monopolized by the rich. Big stadiums began blossoming over the land [Two large steel and concrete baseball stadiums were built in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in 1909, and by 1916 there were seven more.] … poor boys started taking up tennis … the seeds were planted for [The Golden Age of Sports].”

“North Americans were on the move,” Ron Smith added, in The Sporting News: Chronicle of 20th Century Sport, “as the decade opened and the agrarianism of the early 1900s was giving way to a new urban industrial society – wealthier, more mobile and interested in expanding its sports and entertainment horizons.”

It’s estimated that during the late ’20s, Americans spent somewhere between $6 and $21 billion per year on their leisure activities.



The NHL saw a good thing, and expanded into the U.S. during the mid-1920s.

The league first established itself in Boston (Bruins) in 1924 (while creating a second Montreal team, the Maroons), and Pittsburgh (Pirates) and New York (Americans) the following season. The third year of NHL expansion was in 1926, when Detroit (Cougars, later the Falcons, and finally the Red Wings) and Chicago (Blackhawks) started teams, and a second club was permitted in New York (Rangers).

The 1920s were aptly called the “Roaring Twenties,” as society completely opened up, and people were rejecting traditional values. Many defied Prohibition, and indulged in dancing, dressing up and “making whoopee.”

“…the 1920s were a ‘party’ that resulted in a serious hangover,” Frederick J. Hoffman wrote in his book THE 20’S.

So, hockey was perfect for this generation.

Paul Gallico covered hockey’s arrival in the Big Apple for the  Daily News, and wrote in his memoirs, Farewell to Sport:

“…I have always suspected that the real appeal of hockey … [is] that it is a fast, body-contact game played by men with clubs in their hands and knives lashed to their feet, since the skates are razor sharp, and before the evening is over it is almost a certainty that someone will be hurt and will fleck the ice with a generous contribution of gore before he is led away to be hemstitched together again.”



The Americans took their first faceoff in 1925, the year before the Western Hockey League closed their arena doors, and many players migrated east to the new American franchises.

The Portland Rosebuds moved to Chicago, the Victoria Cougars to Detroit.

Amerks’ owner, “Big Bill” Dwyer, was initially lucky, as the Hamilton Tigers had been suspended – for going on strike – and he was able to purchase the players for $75,000 – on September 26, 1925. He had previously acquired Joe Simpson, John Morrison and Roy Rickey, from the cash-strapped Edmonton Eskimos, for $10,000 – on September 18th.

Both Detroit and Chicago would pay WHL teams $100,000 for their players.

The core of the Americans, had been the NHL’s regular season champs the 1924-25 season.

They went 12-22-4 the following season, however. And then they improved slightly to 17-25-2, and fell even further to 11-27-6 their third year (The year that the Rangers would win the Stanley Cup).

There were numerous reasons for the Americans’ failures.

Much has been written about the Culture of Winning – the Montreal Canadiens, the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Yankees, etc.

Well, the Quebec City Bulldogs, who became the Hamilton Tigers, who became the New York Americans typify a Culture of Losing (As today are the Pittsburgh Pirates [baseball], the Arizona Cardinals [football], and the Memphis Grizzlies [basketball].).

The Tigers were terrible in Quebec and Hamilton (see spreadsheets), and only played well during the one 1924-25 season (They had more wins – 9 – by the mid-season mark, than they had ever had in a previous year.). And, they had started to slump during theit  second half in Hamilton, before being suspended from the playoffs.

If this culture of losing wasn’t bad enough, the former Tigers were transplanted into a terrible environment. Dwyer was pure and simply a gangster, and players would go into Dwyer’s office to get paid, and have to pass through a number of gunsels and hit men to get to his desk.

Also, they weren’t treated well in their own rink, Madison Square Gardens, which didn’t help their self esteem. Everything was, “The Rangers this … the Rangers that….”

And then, there were their bad habits.

To begin with, Dwyer spoiled his players by giving them too much money.

Dwyer at least doubled the salaries. At a time when NHLers were making $1,500 to $2,000 per season, he paid Shorty Green $5,000 – up from $3,000 – and Billy Burch $25,000 over three years. And he would continue to pay Lionel Conacher $7,500 per season, as per his Pittsburgh contract.

With the big bucks, the bad hockey environment, plus living in the Big Apple,  his players started gambling.

“…you could get betting actions in that club dressing-room,” Andy Lytle of the Toronto Star wrote, “from one and all on almost any subject under the sun involving debate and hence betting, from what the weather would be, to which way their press agent would be leaning when he stumbled in for a spot of scuttle-butting, and he a most noted lush.”

And if this wasn’t bad enough, some became heavy drinkers. Lionel Conacher’s brother, Charlie, once quipped that Dwyer’s star defenseman, seemed “bent on a literal interpretation of the soft drink slogan, ‘Drink Canada Dry’.

The drinking was so bad, that Dwyer threw up his hands and dispatched Lionel to the Maroons, who also set him adrift (And yes, there is a certain irony here. Dwyer was – in a way – paying his alcoholic star from money acquired from bootlegging.).

The greatest reason for the Americans’ failure, however, was Dwyer himself. He couldn’t stick with one coach, and the team lacked continuity.

Dwyer went through coaches – one per season – faster than Harold Ballard would five decades later.

Dwyer’s first coach was Tommy Gorman, followed by Edward “Newsy” Lalonde, and then Wilfred “Shorty” Green. The Americans’ fourth season, Dwyer went back to Gorman for the 1928-29 campaign, and Lionel Conacher the next year.

I think that Dwyer’s total confusion may be seen in the fact that he would expand the duties – from player to player/coach – of a faltering alcoholic.

Dwyer’s team might be losers, but his bottom line was great.  On opening night alone, December  24, 1925, 17,422 arrived at the new arena, located on 50th Street at Eight Avenue.

This wasn’t a record for an opening night, however.

At the Indy 500’s inaugural race in 1911, 80,000 spectators had filled the stands. And, an amateur baseball championship in Cleveland, in 1914, had drawn more than 100,000 fans.

Ray Harroun had won the big Indy race, with a time of 74.6 mph. It was a controversial affair, as he had used some newfangled invention called a rearview mirror.

This 1926 pic doesn’t include Amerks’ owner, “Big Bill” Dwyer.

Shown in his place, were: Tom Gorman, Manager (on crutches), Honorary President Tex Rickard (with a cane), President Col. John Hammond, Chairman/Director Tom Duggan (in black suit, bow tie and hat).



Ray Harroun, and his yellow Model 32 Marmon “Wasp” retired from racing, but people were speeding all over the place during the 1920s. Canadians and Americans had become “nations of spectators,” with lots of money and a bad attitude. They wanted to go places and do things.

And they disliked rules, particularly Prohibition.

“It infringed too directly upon the personal liberty,” wrote Foster Rhea Dulles in America Learns to Play: A History of Popular Recreation, “and the right to enjoy oneself, upon which the post-war generation was so stridently insisting.”

Bill Dwyer had never been too concerned about personal liberty, and he believed that people should enjoy themselves.

Time: The Weekly News Magazine described Dwyer’s career in his December 23, 1946 obit:

“William V. (”Big Bill”) Dwyer … onetime ‘king of the bootleggers,’ who in Prohibition days commanded a fleet of 20 rum-runners, controlled the entry of liquor into New York Harbor … After spending “a little vacation” in Atlanta’s Federal Penitentiary (he was convicted of bootlegging in 1926), he tried to rebuild his crumbled fortune through sports promoting, bought the N.Y. Americans hockey team, introduced professional hockey to Manhattan, headed Miami’s famed Gables Racing Association.”

Yes, there’s a further parallel with Harold Ballard here. Both spent time in stir, while owning NHL hockey teams.

“Big Bill” Dwyer wasn’t in his team’s photo because he was in prison. He had been arrested eleven days before the Americans’ inaugural game, and missed more than the photo – his team’s pathetic first season.

The NHL’s Club Directory for 1930-31 listed Dwyer as the Americans’ Treasurer.

The Directory didn’t include Dwyer’s name, however,  with the Philadelphia Quaker Hockey Club.

The franchise had been the Pittsburgh Pirates the year before, and had been owned by Dwyer for nearly three seasons.


Arthur Reeve, “What America Spends for Sport,” Outing 57, December 1910, p.303.

Walter Hiatt, “Billions Just for Fun,” Collier’s, 74, October 25 1924, p 50.

Jesse Steiner, Americans at Play. NY, McGraw-Hill, 1933, p 183.

Stuart Chase, “Play,” in Charles Beard, ed., Whither Mankind. NY, Longman, Greene & Co., 1928, pp.336-7.