Thoughts on a Mike Ilitch Jersey Patch

The Red Wings are expected to reveal an on-jersey tribute to owner Mike Ilitch, who died last Friday at age 87, tonight as they host the St. Louis Blues.

I’ve commented before on the Red Wings having a tendency to make their memorial patches “text in a box” and I expect we’ll see something along those lines tonight.  With that in mind, I’ve put together something I’d like to see the Wings do.

First off, if I were the team, I’d scrap the Gordie Howe patch (which I never liked anyway) and make a combined patch for Howe and Ilitch.  I’d put this new patch on the shoulder and restore the “Farewell to the Joe” patch to the opposite shoulder for symmetry.  Since the arena patch is probably gone for good, keeping the memorial patch on the chest is also feasible.

My idea for a Gordie Howe / Mike Ilitch memorial patch.

The patch would feature the signatures of the two men, one over the other, separated by a black band with the Winged Wheel over it.

I thought about using the blue from the “Believe” patch the Red Wings wore in honor of Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakonov and the “BM – RS – SL” patch memorializing Brad McCrimmon, Ruslan Salei, and Stefan Liv, but ultimately went with black because I thought the signatures should be black and didn’t want to introduce an additional color.

I have no idea what the team will actually do and I doubt it will be this.  I suppose we’ll see in the coming hours.

Former Wings Lidstrom, Fedorov Named to Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced on Monday that two former Red Wings will be included in their Class of 2015.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov were elected to the Hall in their first year of eligibility. They join Phil Housley, Chris Pronger, Angela Ruggiero, Peter Karmanos, and Bill Hay in making up the latest class of inductees.

In his twenty-year career, spent entirely with Detroit, Lidstrom won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s best defenseman seven times, trailing only Bobby Orr’s eight. He won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and was named the playoff MVP of their 2002 championship run.

Lidstrom played 1564 career games, with his final season of 2011-12 the only one that saw him miss more than six games. He scored 264 goals and added 878 assists for 1142 career points while taking only 514 penalty minutes.

For the final six seasons of his career, Lidstrom captained the Red Wings, taking over that role after the 2006 retirement of Steve Yzerman.

Outside the NHL, Lidstrom represented his native Sweden four times at the Olympics, winning a gold medal in 2006.

Both Lidstrom and Fedorov were drafted by the Red Wings as part of their legendary 1989 class that included Mike Sillinger, Bob Bougner, Dallas Drake, and Vladimir Konstantinov.

Fedorov played 13 seasons with Detroit before moving on to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as an unrestricted free agent. From there he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and then the Washington Capitals. He ended his NHL career in 2009, returning home to Russia to play three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League with Metallurg Magnitogorsk before retiring.

In 1248 career NHL games, Fedorov scored 483 career goals and 696 points for 1179 points. He won three Stanley Cups – all with the Red Wings – and won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP in 1993-94. That same year he was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Trophy as the league’s best player, as voted by his fellow players. He was also twice named the league’s best defensive forward.

The pair will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on November 9, 2015.

Seventeen

I have the tendency to wax nostalgic about the site and/or make grand statements when DetroitHockey.Net’s birthday comes up. Nothing makes me feel quite as old as this date, though I’m told my kid’s birthday will do it as well.

Today DH.N is seventeen years old. I’m not going to do my Old Man Rasmussen spiel, though. Because the biggest news out of the Red Wings for the last couple days has been about jersey numbers, I’m going to talk about seventeen for a bit.

The first Detroit #17 I remember was Gerard Gallant. Like probably any kid who became a Wings fan in the 1980s, for me, his is a name tied closely to Steve Yzerman as the pair helped lead the team out of the “Dead Wings” era.

After Gallant went to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the number went unused until Doug Brown picked it up during the (original) lockout-shortened 1995 season. Brown would go on to become an honorary member of Detroit’s Russian Five. He was integral enough to the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup Championship teams that when he was claimed by the Nashville Predators (who talked about naming him their first captain) in the expansion draft, the Wings traded to get him back. Detroit was the only stop in Brown’s career where he wore #17, though it wasn’t the only number he wore in Detroit. During a comeback attempt at training camp in 2002, Brown wore the #71 recently adopted by Daniel Cleary because Brett Hull had claimed #17.

Hull took #17 straight from Brown in 2001, as Brown wasn’t brought back that summer and Hull was brought on. Hull was briefly listed as #16 for the Red Wings, taking the number he’d worn for most of his career. The team’s unofficial retirement of that number for Vladimir Konstantinov held, though, and Hull ended up with #17 instead, another case where Detroit was the only stop where a player wore that number. I disagreed with the Hull signing at the time (what do I know?). Detroit’s Stanley Cup win in 2002 combined with Dallas’ in 1999, while Hull was wearing #22, gives Hull the distinction of winning two Cups while not wearing the jersey number he was famous for. Like Brown, Hull would go on to wear a different number in one training camp, adopting #80 in honor of Herb Brooks in 2003.

Brad Norton would be assigned #17 for his six forgettable games early in the 2006-07 season before trade deadline acquisition Kyle Calder claimed it when his usual #19 was – of course – unavailable. A trend continued, as for both players it was the only time in their careers where they had the number.

Returning to Detroit for the final season of his career that summer, Dallas Drake took on #17 as the #28 he wore in his first go-round with the Red Wings was in use by Brian Rafalski. The #18, #11 and #10 he’d previously worn in his career were also taken, marking yet another time #17 went to a player who had never worn it before and never would again. Drake would close out his career with a Stanley Cup Championship that season.

Number 17 sat dormant for two seasons before being assigned to its current holder, Patrick Eaves, in 2010. Eaves joined the Red Wings after the Boston Bruins (for whom he never played a game) bought out the contract they acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in return for former Red Wing Aaron Ward. During his stints with the Ottawa Senators and the Hurricanes, Eaves had worn #44 but his arrival in Detroit coincided with Todd Bertuzzi‘s return to the team. Bertuzzi took #44, putting Eaves in need of a new number. Due to the Wings’ glut of forwards, Eaves’ future with the team is currently in doubt. If he doesn’t wear the number again he would be the sixth consecutive player to don #17 in Detroit and nowhere else.

On Tal Pinchevsky’s Breakaway

A couple weeks ago, Justin Bourne of The Backhand Shelf posted his recommendation of Tal Pinchevsky’s new book, Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL – The Untold Story of Hockey’s Great Escapes.  Having finished it last weekend, I’m finally getting around to posting my thoughts.

I’ll admit, I was a little underwhelmed, though I think that has to do with having heard parts of the stories before.  Growing up a Red Wings fan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it’s easy to have already heard (at least parts of ) the defection stories of Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, or Petr Klima.  The story of how European players were contantly tested and were percieved as too soft for the NHL was the story of the Russian Five era Red Wings.

I would have liked to know more about Konstantinov’s defection, in particular.  How do you go about bribing a doctor to give a cancer diagnosis in a collapsing Soviet Union?  Of course, with Konstantinov unavailable as an interview, that story becomes much harder to tell.

Negatives aside, there were a few things that really stuck with me from each of the stories.

With the early defections – Vaclav Nedomansky, the Stastnys, Klima – it’s amazing just how much the representatives of the North American teams had no idea what they were doing.  It really was a case of just flying over to Europe with a bag of cash and then figuring it all out on the fly.

The flip side of that is just remarkable: These players were willing to leave their homes with no plan, just a goal.  With that in mind, it’s not a surprise how often the hold up for a player was finding a way to get his significant other to North America as well.  You can’t just leave everything behind.

It shouldn’t be a shock (though I say that only after having read the stories) that some defectors aren’t willing to talk about their entire experience.  To them, it was something they had to do, not something they want to share.

Also surprising was just how isolated some of the early defectors were once they made it to North America.  Yeah, we heard a lot about Fedorov when he came over, but the thing to remember was that some of his relative success adapting came from what the Red Wings learned when Klima came over.

We’re talking about people who may not have spoken the language, may not have seen a supermarket, may never have had a checkbook or a credit card.  It’s one thing to adapt on the ice, it’s another thing entirely to change your way of life.

It’s incredible what some of these trailblazers were able to accomplish and what it took for them to do it. The NHL we know today would not exist without their efforts.

Red Wings, Maple Leafs Each Add Four to Alumni Showdown Rosters

The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced on Thursday the addition of four players to each of their rosters for the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park on December 31.

The Red Wings have added Petr Klima, Dallas Drake, Garry Unger and Paul Ysebaert to their alumni roster.

Klima was one of the Red Wings many eastern European draft selections of the 1980s.  He was selected in the fifth round of the 1983 draft and defected from then-Czechoslovakia in 1985.  He played in 293 career games with the Red Wings before being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in 1989.  After stints in Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh, he ended his NHL career with a return to the Red Wings for 13 games in the 1998-99 season.

Drake also started and ended his career with the Red Wings.  Selected by Detroit in the 1989 draft, he made his NHL debut for the 1992-93 season.  Drake was traded to the Winnpeg Jets the following year and moved with the team to Phoenix.  He played six seasons for the St. Louis Blues before returning to the Red Wings to close out his career with a Stanley Cup in 2008.

Like Drake, Unger also played for both the Blues and the Red Wings.  Acquired from the Maple Leafs during his rookie season of 1967-68, Unger would play parts of four season with Detroit before being dealt to St. Louis.  He played nine seasons with the Blues and closed out his career with campaigns for the Los Angeles and Edmonton.

Ysebaert played parts of three seasons with the Red Wings from 1990 to 1993.  He started his career with New Jersey before being traded to Detroit, then moved on to Winnipeg, Chicago and Tampa Bay.

The four players added by the Maple Leafs were Joe Niewendyk, Borje Salming, Frank Mahovlich and Mats Sundin.

The following players are confirmed to appear at the Alumni Showdown:

Red Wings
Red Berenson
Jimmy Carson
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Dallas Drake
Kris Draper
Sergei Fedorov
Petr Klima
Joe Kocur
Martin Lapointe
Igor Larionov
Ted Lindsay
Kirk Maltby
Darren McCarty
John Ogrodnick
Dennis Polonich
Mickey Redmond
Garry Unger
Luc Robitaille
Paul Ysebaert

Chris Chelios
Paul Coffey
Mathieu Dandenault
Jiri Fischer
Viacheslav Fetisov
Mark Howe
Vladimir Konstantinov
Larry Murphy
Aaron Ward

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon

Maple Leafs
Dave Andreychuk
Wendel Clark
Russ Courtnall
Vincent Damphousse
Bill Derlago
Tie Domi
Ron Ellis
Doug Gilmour
Gary Leeman
Kevin Maguire
Frank Mahovlich
Brad May
Lanny McDonald
Joe Nieuwendyk
Gary Roberts
Darryl Sittler
Mats Sundin
Darcy Tucker
Rick Vaive
Tiger Williams

Dave Ellett
Jim McKenny
Bryan McCabe
Bob McGill
Borje Salming

Johnny Bower
Curtis Joseph
Mike Palmateer
Felix Potvin

Wings, Leafs Announce More Alumni Showdown Additions

The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced seven more players who will appear in the Alumni Showdown between the two teams in December on Thursday.

The Red Wings added Aaron Ward, Red Berenson, Jimmy Carson and Dennis Polonich.

Ward started his career with the Red Wings in 1993-94 and played seven seasons with the team, winning the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998 before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001.  He won another Cup with Carolina in 2006.  He closed out his career with four seasons split between the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, another stint with Carolina, and the Anaheim Ducks.

Berenson, the legendary University of Michigan head coach, spent parts of five seasons with the Red Wings in the 70s.  He also played for the Montreal Canadiens, Rangers, and St. Louis Blues over 987 career NHL games.

Carson played part of four season with the Wings in the early 1990s.  He started his career with the Los Angeles Kings before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the Wayne Gretzky deal.  The Oilers traded him to the Red Wings early in the 1989-90 season and the Wings sent him back to LA in 1993.  He closed out his NHL career with stints in Vancouver and Hartford, then retired from hockey after two years with the IHL’s Detroit Vipers.

Polonich played his entire NHL career in Detroit, serving as team captain during the 1976-77 season while Danny Grant was injured.  He was famously injured by Wilf Paiement of the Colorado Rockies in a 1978 game when Paiement smashed him in the face with his stick.  Polonich was sent down to the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings in 1983 and never made it back into the NHL.  He closed out his career with two season’s with the IHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks in 1986 and 1987.

The Maple Leafs added Tie Domi, Brad May, and Dave “Tiger” Williams.  May and Williams also spent time with the Red Wings over their careers.

The following players are confirmed to appear at the Alumni Showdown:

Red Wings
Red Berenson
Jimmy Carson
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Kris Draper
Sergei Fedorov
Joe Kocur
Martin Lapointe
Igor Larionov
Ted Lindsay
Kirk Maltby
Darren McCarty
John Ogrodnick
Dennis Polonich
Mickey Redmond
Luc Robitaille

Chris Chelios
Paul Coffey
Mathieu Dandenault
Jiri Fischer
Viacheslav Fetisov
Mark Howe
Vladimir Konstantinov
Larry Murphy
Aaron Ward

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon

Maple Leafs
Dave Andreychuk
Wendel Clark
Russ Courtnall
Vincent Damphousse
Bill Derlago
Tie Domi
Ron Ellis
Doug Gilmour
Gary Leeman
Kevin Maguire
Brad May
Lanny McDonald
Gary Roberts
Darryl Sittler
Darcy Tucker
Rick Vaive
Tiger Williams

Dave Ellett
Jim McKenny
Bryan McCabe
Bob McGill

Johnny Bower
Curtis Joseph
Mike Palmateer
Felix Potvin

Four of “Russian Five” to Appear at Alumni Showdown

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday that four members of the famous “Russian Five” will appear at the Alumni Showdown on December 31 at Comerica Park.

The Russian Five was the first group of five Soviet-trained players to play as a unit in the NHL.  Assembeled by coach Scotty Bowman – who will be behind the bench at the Alumni Showdown – in 1995, the line consisted of Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov.

All but Kozlov will be at the outdoor game against alumni from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In addition to the four Russians, the Maple Leafs announced six new players who will appear: Gary Leeman, Russ Courtnall, Bill Derlago, Bob McGill, Vincent Damphousse, and Dave Ellett.

Confirmed participants for the two teams are now as follows, with more to be announced:

Detroit
Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Alex Delvecchio, Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Mark Howe, Joe Kocur, Vladimir Konstantinov, Igor Larionov, Ted Lindsay, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Larry Murphy, John Ogrodnick, Chris Osgood, Mickey Redmond, Luc Robitaille, Mike Vernon

Toronto
Dave Andreychuk, Johnny Bower, Wendel Clark, Russ Courtnall, Vincent Damphousse, Bill Derlago, Dave Ellett, Ron Ellis, Doug Gilmour, Curtis Joseph, Gary Leeman, Kevin Maguire, Bob McGill, Jim McKenny, Mike Palmateer, Felix Potvin, Darryl Sittler, Darcy Tucker, Rick Vaive

On Unretiring Jersey Numbers

I’ve had my head in code all week so I’m getting to this a little late but I wanted to take the time to say a few words anyway.

On Wednesday night, Jamie Samuelsen posted to his blog at the Freep that maybe certain numbers currently retired by Detroit-area sports teams should be unretired to allow new players to honor those who the numbers were retired for in the first place.  Yesterday, Michael Petrella over at TPL touched on it as well.

Personally, I’m against unretiring numbers unless the number never should have been retired in the first place (subjective, I know).  Sometimes teams do stupid things and there should be an option of undoing that.  I hate the fact that the Minnesota Wild have #1 retired in honor of their fans, for example, and would love to see a player go there and wear it.

As much as I’ve complained about what goes in the rafters at the Joe, the Red Wings have a higher standard for jersey retirement.  Maybe too high, as Larry Aurie’s #6 isn’t up there and should be.  As such, I can’t see any reason for one of the Wings’ six (or seven once you include Aurie) retired numbers being returned to use.

Samuelsen asks of a hyothetical question from his six-year-old son…

But if I have a hard time explaining to Josh why the second baseman doesn’t actually stand on second base, I’ll have a much harder time explaining the theory behind a retired number. Wouldn’t I?

And I say that’s your opportunity to teach your team’s rich history.  You explain that there was a player so important to the team that his number has been reserved for him forever.  New players wearing an past great’s number doesn’t teach that

That said, I have a specific case where I think the Red Wings should open up a currently-unavailable number for use again, and given what this week is I expect it to be unpopular.

I think that when Tomas Holmstrom eventually retires as the last of his remaining teammates, Vladimir Konstantinov‘s #16 should be returned to circulation.  Not handed out to some rookie at training camp, but available if an established player came to the team and wanted it.

Konstantinov’s injury was tragic and clearly inspired his teammates on their 1998 Stanley Cup run, but he’s not Gordie Howe or Ted Lindsay or Terry Sawchuk or Alex Delvecchio or Sid Abel or Steve Yzerman or Larry Aurie.

If tragedy is enough to inspire a permanent number retirement, why is Brendan Smith wearing #2 in Detroit?  Jiri Fischer may have a better life than Konstantinov but his career ended just as suddenly, with the added impact of coming in the middle of a game.

Coming the week of the fifteenth anniversary of the car crash that ended Konstantinov’s career, it feels wrong to suggest that the Wings’ honor him less.  That said, I’ve always felt like his number being held out of circulation was more about keeping him a part of the team he was pulled away from.

When Holmstrom retires – whether this year or next – the last remnant of that team will be gone.  It’ll be time to make #16 available again.

Thoughts on the Lokomotiv Plane Crash

I’ve been trying to come up with the right words to explain what I’ve been feeling since hearing about the plane crash that claimed the lives of the entire roster of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Yaroslavl Lokomotiv today. The problem I keep coming back to is that the ones I want to use are losing meaning.

When Derek Boogaard died earlier this year, I said, “Anytime something like this happens it’s a terrifying reminder of just how human our hockey heroes are. I’ve said it before, we think of them as invincible but they’re just men.”

I feel like this should have hit me when Vladimir Konstantinov was nearly killed in 1997 but it was too easy to chalk that up as a car accident, something that happens every day. Instead, it’s an idea that I first really realized when Chris Pronger collapsed after blocking a shot during the 1998 playoffs. It’s been reinforced with every death or major injury since, most notably Steve Yzerman‘s eye injury in 2004 and Jiri Fischer‘s 2005 collapse on the Detroit bench.

So it was easy to break out that line in May, an idea that’s always there but you never want to think about. But then in July you have Rick Rypien’s death, so soon after Boogaard’s. The words that came so easily don’t have the same meaning after so little time.

Two weeks later and Wade Belak is gone. Isolated incidents or an epidemic?nbsp; There’s almost panic in the feeling of “This is not supposed to happen.”

Three deaths in a single summer. It’s pretty much unprecedented. The idea of this being the worst offseason in NHL history is being thrown around.

And then an entire team is wiped out at once.

There are no words anymore because this is not how it’s supposed to be.

No, our hockey heroes are not invincible, they are just men. They are men in their prime, however, and it makes no sense for them to be cut down. There is no understanding it. We can only hope to come to terms with it.

Half Life

As I briefly Tweeted last night, today is one of the days where DetroitHockey.Net makes me feel old. I debated letting it go by unrecognized but that hardly seems right.

I started YzerFan19’s Detroit Red Wings Page – the site that eventually became DH.N – 5,419 days ago. That day – September 15, 1996 – was my 5,419th.

As of today, I have officially been working on this site for half of my life.

I wish I had profound things to say about the nearly 15 years I’ve been doing this. So much has changed between then and now.

I’ve gone through the list before but when I started this site, Google was not yet public. The term “blog” did not yet exist. Vladimir Konstantinov was still able-bodied. Paul Coffey was still a Red Wing.

It’s been a long time. I hope I’m lucky enough for another 5,419 days doing this.