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Travel all the way back to the 1920s. Women officially gained the right to vote in an election, the roaring 20s were in full swing, and some guy named Charles Ponzi came up with a sales scheme. Head towards the back half of the decade, specifically 1926, and a new sports franchise was brought to the city of Detroit, Michigan.
The Detroit Cougars, better known now as the Detroit Red Wings, became one of the Original Six teams of the National Hockey League. Despite the team being located in Detroit, they actually played their first season abroad in Windsor, Ontario, due to there not being an arena in Detroit ready at the start of the season. The team found their home the next season at the new Detroit Olympia, which would be the home of the Red Wings for another 50 years.
It did not take the team very long to make their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as after just four seasons, they clinched their first playoff birth in franchise history. In their first-ever playoff series, the Cougars were outscored 7-2 in their two-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite making the playoffs once again in 1932, they never had their first chance at the Stanley Cup until 1934, two seasons after they officially became the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings did not win the cup that year but they were on the right track and just two years later, they won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, defeating Toronto, the team they met in their first playoff series, in four games. That Stanley Cup win kicked off a fairly successful next 20 years for the franchise as they won 7 of their 11 Stanley Cups between 1935 – 1955 with three of those wins coming in just four years in the early 50s.
That first cup win in the 1950s was aided by what is known as the “Production Line” or Sid Abel, Ted Lindsay, and Gordie Howe with second-year goaltender Terry Sawchuk in net. In that season, they swept both the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens on the way to their fifth cup win in franchise history. After being upset by the Boston Bruins in 1953, the Red Wings found themselves winning back-to-back Stanley Cups against the Montreal Canadiens.
The “Dead Wings”
The appropriately named “Dead Wings” era happened between 1967 – 1982. There were multiple factors due to the decline in Red Wings play, one of which being Ned Harkness, a successful college hockey coach who tried to force his style of play on a veteran Red Wings team that did not want to change. Harkness was eventually forced to resign in 1974.
Two more big things happened during the time of the “Dead Wings.” During the 1979 season, the team left the Olympia for Joe Louis Arena, an arena that would be the home of the Red Wings up until 2017. The last big thing to happen during this time was the selling of the franchise to a new owner. After 50 years of family ownership under Bruce Norris, he sold the Red Wings to Mike Ilitch, the founder of Little Caesars Pizza.
25 Years of Dominance
Fast-forward to the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Red Wings started getting back to their winning ways. They rattled off six division championships in nine seasons while also winning two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 1997. Their success throughout the 90s is attributed to Steve Yzerman, who captained the team from 1986 until his retirement in 2006, along with an abundance of Red Wings greats, including Sergei Fedorov and Paul Coffey.
The success in the ’90s would continue into the new millennium and throughout the next decade. From 2000 – 2010, the Red Wings won nine division championships, four Presidents’ Trophies, three conference championships, and two Stanley Cups. The 2000s’ Red Wings played one of the most dominant stretches of hockey the NHL has ever seen and it was put together by players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Chris Osgood, and many more.
It was a stretch of dominance that many had not seen in professional sports before but it all came to a crashing end just a couple years into the new decade.
From 2010 To Now
The reign of the Red Wings had officially come to halt. The team still managed to find their way into the playoffs between 2010 – 216 but there was never anything to write home about. The farthest they ever made it was the Conference Semifinals and they lost twice to the San Jose Sharks in 2011, and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, both series ending after seven games.
In the next three years, the Red Wings were still in the playoffs but nothing ever happened. They were bounced in the first round by the Boston Bruins in 2014, by the Tampa Bay Lightning in consecutive seasons in 2015 and 2016. After losing to Tampa in five games in the 2016 playoffs, the Red Wings have yet to qualify for the NHL Playoffs with their best season being just three games below .500.
In 2017, the team officially entered its rebuilding phase and they even built a new arena to start the process. In 2017, the Red Wings played the first game in their new home, Little Caesars Arena, and christened it by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-2. In 2019, the team announced that former team captain, Steve Yzerman would rejoin the franchise as their new General Manager and Executive Vice President.
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