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Sportsnet examines ‘The Red Wings’ Way’ established under Mike Ilitch’s ownership

Given the Forbes report regarding the Red Wings' and every other team's present valuations, as well as Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea's article about the "succession plans" of teams like the Wings given that Mike Ilitch is 83 years old, Sportsnet's Ryan Dixon offers something of a timely article about the ways in which Mr. I helped transform the Red Wings franchise from an $8 million investment into a $470 million powerhouse that will break ground on a $650 million rink-and-real-estate development sooner than later:

Ken Holland’s earliest understanding of the Detroit Red Wings’ organizational dynamic was enhanced by a visual aid. Now the team’s GM, Holland first joined the Wings as a journeyman goalie on a three-week call-up from the American Hockey League in 1983, about one year after local businessman Mike Ilitch had purchased the moribund club for $3 million and the rights he held to three Chuck E. Cheese’s franchises.

Holland quickly got the lay of the land in Detroit, including a strong sense of how much Ilitch was invested in the club beyond his initial stake. A proper owner’s suite was among the many things Joe Louis Arena lacked at the time, so Ilitch viewed the games from a makeshift box that was rolled into the Zamboni entrance. “He was right behind the net, on top of the action,” Holland says.

That level of personal engagement enabled Ilitch to rescue his hometown team from hockey hell and transform it into the NHL’s longest-running success story, with four Stanley Cups since 1997 and 22 consecutive playoff appearances. From the front-line involvement of his family in the early days, to empowering capable people with the authority to make personnel decisions and providing the resources necessary to execute them, Ilitch has worked at every turn to create an environment where winning is the only option.

Jim Devellano likes to joke that, before Ilitch bought the team, the Red Wings weren’t in Detroit—they were in the Detroit River. Devellano was the first employee of the Ilitch era, becoming GM of the Wings in July 1982. In leaving his post as assistant GM of the New York Islanders, Devellano was departing a team that had just won its third consecutive Stanley Cup for a club that came by its “Dead Wings” nickname honestly. “Generally, when you get those opportunities, it’s because the team had been so bad for so long,” Devellano says.

Dixon continues, and his article's worth your time.

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Down River Dan's avatar

Nice article,  thanks for the link George.

I vividly remember when the team signed all of the college free agents. I remember the big prize was supposed to be Ray Stasiak(sp), but Oates turned out to be a HOF player.

We Wings fans have all been very blessed to have an owner like Mr. Illitch and everything he has done, and not just with the Wings. He has done far more for the city and minor hockey in the Detroit area.

Posted by Down River Dan on 11/25/13 at 03:39 PM ET

Primis's avatar

He has done far more for the city and minor hockey in the Detroit area.

Posted by Down River Dan on 11/25/13 at 02:39 PM ET

Just have a look at the Little Caesars hockey alumni list:


Posted by Primis on 11/25/13 at 04:48 PM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

As someone who remembers the front office and ownership prior to Illitch, let me give a warm “thank you,” for all he has done to make Detroit a winning franchise.

THANK YOU, Mr Illitch.

Posted by alwaysaurie on 11/26/13 at 02:46 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.