Wednesday 1st March 2017 marked an almost seismic event in the history of the National Hockey League. Just a couple of short weeks after the man who oversaw it passed away, the hockey dynasty that is the Detroit Red Wings died, With the trade of top scorer Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers, it was essentially the white flag from management that confirmed what all Wings fans had feared. The streak, the dynasty was over. Although a slow death, the Wings have essentially been on life support for the last few years, it is no less a strange thing to contemplate – Detroit’s season will end after 82 games. The Joe Louis Arena has hosted its last playoff game.
The streak officially started in 1991, but it was the 1989 Draft where the foundations of the Hockeytown Dynasty were laid. With their Second Round pick (53rd overall) they selected a defenseman from Sweden. That D-man would go on to pick up four Stanley Cup rings, a Conn Smythe Trophy, seven Norris Trophies, and feature in countless All Star Games. He’d become the first European born and trained Captain to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup above his head and he’d be nominated to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, At international level, he’d also pick up World Championship and Olympic gold medals. There can be little doubt that when conversation turns to the greatest defenseman of all time, Nicklas Lidstrom‘s name will not be far away. He became the cornerstone of the Wings’ organisation, a leader on and off the ice and was a major factor in their run of four Cups in 11 years.
In the same draft, and with their 74th overall pick the Wings took Sergei Fedorov. He’d go on to win three Cups with the team. He’d also pick up a Hart Trophy (becoming the first European born and trained player to do so), a Pearson Award and two Selke Trophies. As with Lidstrom. Fedorov would also take his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.
During the streak, the Wings have been lucky enough to have some of the most talented players of their time, as well as characters who can bring a smile to the face at their mere mention. Whilst it’s the likes of Lidstrom, Fedorov and in later years Datsyuk and Zetterberg who steal the limelight, players like Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty deserve a mention. There will be very few better stories than that of McCarty, seemingly down and out, fighting his way back and contributing to the Wings’ success in 2008.
So now, with the trade deadline passed, attention for the Wings turns to the 2017 Draft. They have no fewer than eleven picks. Can they find the next Nicklas Lidstrom? Is the next Sergei Fedorov buried in the later rounds? Only time will tell. What is certain is that this season marks a watershed in the history of Detroit, The passing of Gordie Howe and Mike Ilitch, the imminent move from the Joe Louis Arena and the end of their 25 year playoff streak, now is as good a time as any for Hockeytown to hit the reset button.
It may take time, it may require patience, but they’ll get there.
Hockeytown 2.0. Are you ready?