More than just an overview of highlights of a young Steve Yzerman or a remembrance of the team’s epic battles with the Colorado Avalanche in the 1990s, this complete guide to the Detroit Red Wings is a collection of every essential piece of Red Wings knowledge and trivia, as well as must-do activities, and ranks them all, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist. From knowing why throwing an octopus onto the ice is a good thing, naming every player who has seen his number retired, or knowing the best place to grab a bite in Detroit before the game, 100 Things Red Wings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is the ultimate resource for true fans of the Detroit Red Wings.
About the Author
Kevin Allen has authored and coauthored more than a dozen sports books, including Brett: His Own Story, Star-Spangled Hockey: Celebrating 75 Years of USA Hockey, and Without Fear: Hockey’s 50 Greatest Goaltenders. He lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Bob Duff is a sports columnist at the Windsor Star, covering a variety of sports at both the local and professional level. He is also an NHL columnist for MSNBC.com and Hockey Weekly, and freelances for such publications as the Hockey News, Beckett Hockey, Faceoff, and Prospects magazine. His books include The Bruise Brothers: Hockey's Heavyweight Champions; The History of Hockeytown; Nine: A Tribute to Gordie Howe; and Nineteen: A Tribute to Steve Yzerman. He lives in Cottam, Ontario. Darren McCarty played parts of 15 seasons in the NHL—all but two with the Detroit Red Wings. Known as an enforcer, his career totals include 127 goals and 1,477 penalty minutes. McCarty was part of four Stanley Cup championship teams. In retirement, he remains active with the Red Wings’ Alumni Association. He lives in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
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100 Things Red Wings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Kevin Allen, Bob Duff
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2014 Kevin Allen and Bob Duff
All rights reserved.
What if Gordie Howe Had Debuted on Broadway?
Gordie Howe can only wonder how the axis of the hockey world might have been altered were fate to have kept him on his original path toward the National Hockey League.
In 1943 New York Rangers scout Fred McCorry spotted Howe playing in Saskatoon and invited Howe, 15, to attend his first NHL training camp, in Winnipeg with the Rangers, one of 36 amateurs invited to the camp. What course might his life might have taken were the Rangers wise enough to get his name on a contract?
"I was there four days," Howe recalled.
Howe was a youngster during the Depression, when money was scarce. Growing up, catalogs replaced shin pads as hockey equipment.
"My first day in camp with the Rangers, I watched the guy beside me get dressed, to see where everything went," Howe said.
Another hockey legend, Lester Patrick — who was the Howe of his era, coming out of retirement to play goal during the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals — ran the Rangers when the young Howe showed up amidst dozens of other prospects.
"He spoke to me four times," Howe said. "At the start of camp, he asked, 'What's your name, son?' and then they wrote it on a piece of paper and pinned it to the back of my sweater.
"The first day, I hit [Rangers veteran forward] Grant Warwick with a pretty good body check, and Mr. Patrick called me over and asked, 'What's your name, son?' Two other times, when I did something on the ice, he called me over and asked, 'What's your name, son?' Finally, I said, 'It's on the back of my shirt, sir.'"
Unsigned, Howe went home to Saskatoon, where on October 26, 1943, he turned out with the new Saskatoon Lions junior club. The following fall, Howe was invited to the Red Wings' training camp in Windsor, where he immediately turned heads.
"In those days, the Red Wings had a scout in Saskatoon, Fred Pinckney," Detroit GM Jack Adams explained to the Associated Press in 1966. "He watched Gordie's progress for about three years and then recommended that we take a look at him at our training camp."
Talking to New York Times columnist Arthur Daley in 1966, Adams defended Patrick's decision not to sign Howe.
"I always felt Lester took a bum rap on that one and didn't deserve the criticism he got for missing out on the greatest star the sport has ever had," Adams explained. "Whatever year it was, the Rangers were pretty well loaded with young players. All were top class, and Gordie was given such little ice time that he never had a chance to impress anyone. Besides, he was a tall, gangly kid, only 14 years old."
Lynn Patrick, Lester's son, doesn't let his father off the hook so easily over the Rangers' gaffe with Gordie. "Dad took him aside after the workout and suggested he learn a trade or something, to forget about hockey," Lynn Patrick told the Boston Daily Record in 1953.
The following season, Howe showed up at the Wings' camp.
"We were training at Windsor, Ontario, and we had so many kids that I didn't work them with the pros," Adams recalled. "I had them scrimmaging among themselves, and so there was no way I could miss Howe. He was doing things on the ice that the other kids couldn't do. He was ambidextrous and could do everything better."
In camp with the veterans, Howe quickly turned heads, splitting the veteran Detroit defense pairing of Jack Stewart and Bill Quackenbush to score a slick breakaway goal.
He was assigned to Detroit's OHA junior club in Galt, but Howe wasn't allowed to play because the Saskatchewan Hockey Association wouldn't permit him a transfer. He practiced all season with the team and participated in exhibition contests, learning the game from coach Al Murray, a onetime NHL defenseman with the New York Americans.
"He came to me and said, 'I've got some news for you, and you're not going to like it,'" Howe remembered. "That's when he told me my transfer didn't come through. But he told me if I stayed the year in Galt, he'd make me into a hockey player, and he did."
Howe turned pro in 1945, playing for coach Tommy Ivan with Omaha of the United States League. The next spring, Ivan was promoted to coach Indianapolis of the AHL.
Before training camp that fall, Adams told Ivan that Howe would be joining him at Indianapolis.
"No," Ivan said. "He'll be playing for you."
He was right.
Howe never saw the minor leagues again, skating in 1,687 games as a Red Wing and scoring 786 goals over his 25 seasons with Detroit, all still club records.
To this day, Howe is held in reverence by Red Wings fans too young to have ever seen him play.
"My dad can't sit in the seats [at Joe Louis Arena], because he gets mobbed nonstop for autographs," explained Mark Howe, who, like his dad, is a Hall of Famer who played for the Wings. "It's not that he doesn't appreciate the attention, but he feels badly for the people sitting around him, who never get to see the game."
More than four decades since he wore his Red Wings sweater for the final time, the man they call "Mr. Hockey" is still Mr. Red Wing.
Detroit fans can only shudder at the thought of how easily Howe's star could have shone on Broadway.CHAPTER 2
Howie Young and Bob Probert, Detroit's Wild Men
The parallels of their careers, their downfalls, and their resurrections are shockingly similar.
Both started in Detroit. Both set penalty-minute records in a Red Wings uniform. After Detroit, each man moved on to play for Chicago. And both bottomed out into the world of substance abuse before doing some time in a jail cell helped them turn their lives around.
Each also carried an aura that was larger than life.
Bob Probert and Howie Young are as much remembered for their drug-and-alcohol-addled misdeeds as they are for the role they filled on the ice with the Wings, as the NHL's toughest players.
Young turned to alcohol when he was 16, after his grandmother, the woman who raised him, died. Just days after the death of his father, Al, Probert left to play for the Brantford Alexanders of the Ontario Hockey League, and that's when his troubles with the bottle began.
"Probie was 17," recalled former teammate and close friend Joe Kocur. "He lost the one guy who could have straightened him out. He started hanging with the wrong crowd."
A defenseman, Young arrived with the Wings during Detroit's 1960–61 run to the Stanley Cup Finals. His combination of skill and toughness led Detroit GM Jack Adams to compare Young to the legendary Eddie Shore.
"Sometimes a guy like that will pump new life into a club," Adams explained to the Associated Press in 1961. "That's what he has done for us."
On the ice, Young was a policeman, collecting 273 penalty minutes during the 1962–63 season, then an NHL record.
Off the ice, Young fought with policemen. He was fined for an altercation involving three Detroit police officers in 1963. Young's scraps, both between the boards and while bellying up to a bar, became the stuff of legend.
Going on benders, Young would disappear for days at a time, and in 1963, the Wings decided they'd seen enough and shipped him off to the Blackhawks.
"We bent over backward to help Young many times, but he has not shown any desire to help either the club or himself," Detroit coach/GM Sid Abel said.
Young seemed to understand his own downfall, not that he appeared able to do anything to prevent it. "I was sent to the minors because no one wanted a drunk on their team," Young told the AP. "John Barleycorn doesn't care what anybody thinks. John Barleycorn doesn't care about anyone."
After failing in Chicago, Young was sent to play for the Los Angeles Blades of the minor-pro Western Hockey League. At first, the trend continued. Young got a Mohawk haircut and began to run with Frank Sinatra and his entourage, appearing in Sinatra's 1965 World War II movie None But the Brave.
One night on Sinatra's boat, Young's foolishness again got the better of him. "He told Sinatra he wasn't so tough and picked him up and threw him overboard," Young's longtime friend former NHL defenseman Jim McKenny told the London Free Press. "Sinatra's toupee flew off.
"Some of his gunsels beat the crap out of Howie. They stuck a couple of hundred dollars in his pocket and left him lying on the beach. He woke up under swaying palms with 200 bucks in his pocket and thought he was in heaven. He didn't remember anything about throwing [Sinatra] in the water."
Young's day of reckoning finally came on May 4, 1965. Sitting in a Los Angeles jail cell for disturbing the peace, he met another man who'd tried Alcoholics Anonymous. The next day, Young enrolled in AA.
"I wasn't on skid road," Young later recalled. "I was on death road."
Young credited L.A. coach Fern Flaman and GM Lynn Patrick for helping to straighten him out and embrace sobriety.
"Without them, I don't know where I'd be right now. Dead, maybe. It was that bad," Young told the Boston Traveler in 1966. "Without the drink on my brain, I could listen and think."
Young made it back to the NHL for a second stint with both the Wings and Blackhawks and a short stay with the expansion Vancouver Canucks.
"I had no urge to go back to the gutter, back into the insanity," Young told New York Times columnist Dave Anderson. "I was out there long enough."
In 1985, at age 48, a sober Young tried out with the Flint Spirits of the International Hockey League, around the same time that Probert was first making his mark in Detroit.
Like Young, Probert was as tough as they came. In 1987–88, he set a Red Wings franchise record with 398 penalty minutes but also scored 29 goals that season and was selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game.
"I think he did a lot for the franchise," former Detroit coach Jacques Demers said. "Bob Probert changed the dynamic of the building. If you want to come play in Detroit, there's [Bruise Brothers] Probert and Kocur. That won us a lot of games. [Steve] Yzerman was great, no question, but those two guys, they helped us a lot."
Away from the rink, Probert was every bit as problematic as Young.
"Bob was in trouble every week," Detroit senior vice president Jimmy Devellano remembered.
In 1986 Probert was charged with impaired driving. In 1988 he was one of eight Wings players who broke curfew on the eve of a Western Conference Finals game in Edmonton to go drinking at a bar called Goose Loonies. In 1989 he was arrested crossing the border into Detroit from Windsor when cocaine was found in his underwear. Convicted, Probert served time in a US federal prison.
Kocur believes that most of Probert's off-ice issues stemmed from old relationships he'd formed in his hometown.
"With his NHL buddies, Probert was okay. We kept him out of trouble," Kocur said. "When he went back to Windsor to see his old friends, that's when he got messed up."
After another drunk driving charge in 1994, the Wings let Probert go, and he signed as a free agent with Chicago.
"I always looked at him as a very good person who had some demons," Demers said. "I saw a lot of good things about him."
Like Young, Probert eventually turned his life around. He married and became a family man, helping his wife, Dani, raise their four children.
"The adjustment from my last year of playing to my first year of not playing was pretty tough," Probert admitted after his NHL career ended in 2002. "Constantly finding things to do, that's the key for me. Don't get bored, because when I get bored, I get into trouble."
Sadly, both Young and Probert met early and untimely ends.
On July 5, 2010, Probert was boating with his family on Lake St. Clair when he died suddenly after experiencing chest pains. He was 45.
Young died of cancer in 1999 in New Mexico at the age of 63.CHAPTER 3
Visit the Scene of the Crime: The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
An estimated 13,000 vehicles per day cross the Canada-US border via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, the second-busiest border crossing between the two nations. But it was a 1988 GMC Jimmy driven by Detroit left-winger Bob Probert at 5:15 am on March 2, 1989, that made this particular border crossing forever known to every Red Wings fan.
Probert and three passengers, including his future wife, Dani, were in the vehicle coming back to Detroit from Probert's hometown of Windsor, when a US Customs inspector discovered Probert's entry visa had expired and opted to take a closer look at the SUV.
During his search, the officer spotted numerous empty beer and liquor bottles on the car's floor. The inspector also noted, in a signed affidavit presented to US federal court magistrate Paul Komives, that "Probert appeared to be disoriented."
During secondary inspection, another customs official discovered two amphetamine pills in the Jimmy. After patting down Probert, he found a black cocaine mill in the inside pocket of his jacket. A white residue evident on the mill later tested positive for cocaine.
That discovery led to a strip search of Probert, and 14.3 grams of cocaine were found "concealed in his underwear," Richard Hoglund, special agent in charge for US Customs, told the Windsor Star.
Probert was taken into custody and the vehicle was impounded. It began an odyssey that led to Probert's conviction on drug charges and his serving three months of jail time in a federal prison in Rochester, Minnesota, where his fellow prisoners included fallen televangelist Jim Bakker and reputed Detroit mobster Jack Giacalone, who had been linked to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
"When I was arrested, it was the low point of my career," Probert was quoted as saying in his biography, The Bruise Brothers. "The truth is, it was a long time coming. I remember thinking as I was coming across the border that night how invincible I was. On the one hand you're thinking, 'What if they catch me?' but on the other hand, you're figuring that if they do, they'll just look the other way because you're a professional athlete.
"I think now that on some level, I was relieved when I got arrested because I'd gotten to the point where I didn't care. My self-esteem was very low. I just feel lucky I didn't kill anybody. It could have been a lot worse than it was.
"I think it was good that I got sent [to prison]. At the time I was powerless to change anything, even if I had wanted to. I did an awful lot of thinking in there."
Probert was suspended from the NHL for a season, returning to the Detroit lineup for the final four games of the 1989–90 season. He was also unable to cross the border and play any road games in Canada for 1,461 days while his lawyers fought with US immigration officials to gain Probert the right to reenter the country if he left the United States.
"One of the hardest things during the four years I wasn't allowed into Canada was seeing Windsor across the Detroit River," Probert said of his birthplace and home. "I saw it every day when I went down to the rink to practice. It was a little tough knowing it was that close, yet it seemed so far away."
To Probert's credit, he never played the "Why me?" blame game during his troubles with drug and alcohol abuse.
"I don't blame hockey, only myself," Probert said. "I chose to do what I did, and I paid the price for it."CHAPTER 4
Red Kelly's Number Should Hang from the JLA Rafters
There's a sense of foreboding when some look up at the retired numbers hung from the Joe Louis Arena rafters. Or should that be four-boding?
Many veteran watchers of the team are convinced that there's been a huge oversight in terms of which sweaters have earned a place of honor in the Wings franchise. They are convinced that Red Kelly's No. 4 should also be up top, and they have a valid point.
During his 13 seasons as a Wing, all Kelly did was win four Stanley Cups, play in seven Cup Finals series, become the first defenseman ever to win the Norris Trophy and the second defenseman to capture the Lady Byng Trophy.
Hockey people viewed Kelly as Detroit's true catalyst, the one player they couldn't do without, even more so than Gordie Howe.
"He's the guy who makes them click," Boston Bruins coach Lynn Patrick told the Springfield Union in 1954, pointing out that the Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1949–50 minus Mr. Hockey but had never won a title during the 1950s without Kelly in the fold.
Excerpted from 100 Things Red Wings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Kevin Allen, Bob Duff. Copyright © 2014 Kevin Allen and Bob Duff. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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