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Mitch Albom weighs in on Mr. Ilitch

The Free Press's Mitch Albom wrote a hell of a column about Mike Ilitch's legacy:

For what it’s worth, I considered Mr. Ilitch a professional friend. Having known him for 30 years, I think he came to trust me, and I visited his home several times, and we’d sit at a long table and talk about many things, life, family, health. He was incredibly unassuming, often saying “Wow” and shaking his head and looking down.

Yes, he was shrewd. No, he didn’t brook dissent. Yes, casino money helped fuel his fortune (his wife being listed as owner of the MotorCity Casino is mainly to avoid conflict with Major League Baseball) and, yes, he took advantage of tax breaks and a willing city partner and grew wealthier as downtown Detroit resurged.

But nearly every major thing he built, his family still owns. That’s the difference between speculating and investing. Between dipping your beak, or making your nest. Mike Ilitch was all portions Detroit. And for a long time, Detroit is going to be a large portion Mike Ilitch.

You know the only thing I ever heard him complain about? The word “recluse.” He’d heard it said about him, and he didn’t like it. This was no Howard Hughes. The very idea of a hermit’s life would repel him.

This was a regular guy who happened to get really rich, a guy who was all about family — one wife, seven kids — who didn’t hunger for headlines, didn’t collect expensive toys, and never strayed far from his roots (“I don’t have six houses around the world…” he once told me, “Holy cripes. I couldn’t handle it!"), a man who sometimes felt unworthy of things but never felt above them.

Albom continues...

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Zetterberg, Dubnyk will be subjects of ‘Star Sunday’ coverage on NBC

NBC posted a press release explaining how they're going to cover Sunday afternoon's games:


Red Wings-Wild NHL Game of the Week at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Features Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk 

Canadiens-Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN Features Montreal’s Shea Weber and Boston’s Brad Marchand

“Star Sunday” Players Will Be Featured in Player Arrivals, Pre-Game Interviews, Pre- and Post-Game Studio Coverage, and Iso Cams

STAMFORD, Conn. – February 9, 2017 – NBC Sports presents a “Star Sunday” NHL doubleheader this weekend, beginning with the NHL Game of the Week at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, when Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild host Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings.

“Star Sunday” shifts to NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, followed by an Original Six clash at 7:30 p.m. ET, when Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins host Shea Weber and the Montreal Canadiens.

Airing most Sundays through the end of the regular season in April, NBC Sports’ “Star Sunday” games will shine a spotlight on a star from each team. The stars selected for each “Star Sunday” will be the focus of pre-game player arrivals and interviews, and will be highlighted in pre-game features and “get-to-know” segments. NBC Sports’ “Star Sunday” game telecasts will include an iso cam on the stars to be utilized for game analysis during intermissions, and scoreboard graphics will let viewers know when these stars are on the ice.

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Prospect news: Griffins earn shootout win over Iowa; Walleye lose in OT; Marsh 2+1, Pope 1A

Of prospect-related note:

In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins received regulation goals from Joe Hicketts, Connor Allen and Matthew Ford, a 37-save performance from Cal Heeter and shootout goals from Evgeny Svechnikov and Tyler Bertuzzi en route to a 4-3 shootout win over the Iowa Wild. The Griffins' website posted a recap:

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The overnight report: Red Wings-Blue Jackets wrap-up and Wings-Wild set-up

The Red Wings suffered a bitter defeat in their 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the Wings will get right back at 'er as they face the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon (3:00 PM EST on NBC/97.1 FM).

The Red Wings worked their tails off on Saturday night, but they spent a lot of time "chasing the game" because they surrendered the game's first goal again, and the fact that Sergei Bobrovsky was nothing less than swashbuckling in his dominance made the Blue Jackets very happy, as the Columbus Dispatch's Tom Reed noted:

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Fox Sports Detroit ‘Remembers Mr. Ilitch’

Fox Sports Detroit posted its entire "Remembering Mr. Ilitch" special online, in 3 parts:

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Savage: Thomas Vanek touch-and-go for Sunday’s game

MLive's Brendan Savage spoke with Thomas Vanek regarding the ankle injury he suffered during the Red Wings' 2-1 loss to Columbus on Saturday:

Vanek missed about nine minutes of the third period Saturday in Columbus after one of the Blue Jackets fell on his ankle in a 2-1 loss at Nationwide Arena.

He returned late in the period and nearly scored the tying goal as time was expiring on the Red Wings' third straight loss. Vanek was limping slightly as he left the arena.

The Red Wings play the Minnesota Wild at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

"Feels all right," he said. "Doesn't feel great but I got to finish the game with it so we'll see how it feels. I don't know. We'll see how it feels when I wake up tomorrow."


Coach Jeff Blashill said he wouldn't know Vanek's status for the game in Minnesota until Sunday.

"It looked like a tough injury when he left the ice but he was able to come back," Blashill said. "Sometimes those things get worse tomorrow so we'll check it out tomorrow and we'll have an update for you."

Savage continues...

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Dave Strader, Jim Leyland talk about Mr. Ilitch

Fox Sports Detroit is airing a special remembering Mike Ilitch, and they've posted videos of former Wings play-by-play announcer Dave Strader and former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland addressing the departure of their owner:


Update: FSD posted a clip of Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock addressing Mr. Ilitch's passing, too:

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Jimmy Devellano: Wings ‘carried the league’ in 90’s, 00’s

The Free Press's George Sipple spoke with Red Wings executive Jimmy Devellano regarding Mike Ilitch's legacy, and Devellano puffed his chest out--and rightly so:

Jim Devellano, the former general manager and current senior vice president and alternate governor of the Detroit Red Wings, said Mike Ilitch’s impact on the NHL was immeasurable. Ilitch died Friday at age 87.

“The Detroit Red Wings, truthfully, carried the league through much of the 1990s and 2000s,” Devellano, in Toronto, said in a phone interview today with the Free Press. “I know that’s a fact. Our TV ratings were the best.”

The Red Wings won four Stanley Cup titles in that span and made the playoffs in 25 consecutive seasons.

The Wings eventually moved to the Eastern Conference, but wanted to move there much earlier than they did.

“They kept us in the Western Conference because we helped attendance in the West,” Devellano said. “We never belonged in the West and I thought hard to get us in the East and the league pushed back. They wanted us in the West. The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t the Chicago Blackhawks back then. The L.A. Kings weren’t the L.A. Kings. So through the '90s and the 2000s, it’s safe to say the Red Wings were the pre-eminent draw in both attendance and ratings that helped spark the growth of the NHL in the United States. I know because I was there and I was part of it. I know what the Detroit Red Wings meant to the NHL and the hinted stats. I know.”

Sipple continues...

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The other Litle Caesars empire

Kris Draper spoke with the Free Press's George Sipple about the legacy of Mike Ilitch in founding the Little Caesars amateur hockey program as well as his legacy as the Wings' owner:

“You look at the opportunity that guys like Zach Werenski, Mike Modano, Bryan Rolston had,” Draper said. “The way they were treated obviously impacted those guys.

“They’ve touched people at all levels – lawyers, doctors, fireman, police officers, teachers. So many people came through the ranks of Little Caesars hockey. You look at the highest level, but it all starts with Little Caesars amateur hockey. I’m sure there are thousands who have stories about Mike and Marian Ilitch and the Ilitch family.

“It started with a pizza shop, one store, and they built it into an empire.”

Draper said Holland called him with the news on Friday and he relayed the news to his youth team.

“They realize how fortunate we are to wear the baby blue and orange colors,” Draper said. “The kids, they get it.”

Draper understands, too, how fortunate he was to play for an owner like Ilitch in the NHL.

“Everything he’s accomplished, it’s a celebration of his life,” Draper said. “You feel for Mrs. Ilitch. Ninety-nine percent of the time when I saw Mrs. Ilitch, I saw Mr. Ilitch. They were together. Companion for life, and that’s something that resonates with everybody, the way they were.

Sipple continues...

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TMR evening line: Kevin Allen on Mike Ilitch

USA Today's Kevin Allen issued quite the fitting take on Mike Ilitch's legacy:

When I talked to Ilitch through the years, I always thought to myself that he was the most approachable working-class billionaire I was ever going to meet. He always seemed more like the guy-next-door than someone who could afford to own two major league sports franchises.

Ilitch’s loyalty also extended to his community. He believed in the city of Detroit when others were fleeing the city. He choose to restore the Fox Theater and move his Little Caesars corporate office downtown.

Ilitch’s death comes less than a year after Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider died. They were similar in their approach to ownership. They didn’t need anyone to make a report on how their teams were doing. They watched their teams perform and drew their own conclusions.

While other owners are as involved as Snider and Ilitch were, their deaths suggest we are close to closing the books on the pre-salary cap era when owner involvement played a heavier role in on-ice competition.

In 2006, I teamed with Art Regner to write a book about Red Wings’ history entitled What it Means to Be a Red Wing.      

Mike and Marian Ilitch wrote the book's introduction, and this was their last paragraph: “If you ask us what it means to be a Red Wing, we would say it means that everyone in the organization strives for success while conducting himself, or herself, in a classy and professional manner. It’s about pride. Little Caesars is a family business. And the Detroit Red Wings are a family organization. Pride has played an important role in the success of each venture.”

That is a fitting epitaph for Mike Ilitch.


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About The Malik Report

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.


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