Tha Sports Junkies 101

Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch dead at 87

Wings owner, Mike Ilitch, dead at 87. C Pardue/via Flickr

NHL

Mike Ilitch, owner of both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers franchises has died.

Born Micheal Ilitch on July 20, 1929 is the founder and owner of well-known American pizza chain, Little Caesars, hence the name for the new to be home of the Red Wings, Little Caesars Arena.

Ilitch purchased the Red Wings franchise in the year of 1982 from long-time owner Bruce Norris for $8 million USD. He would turn the franchise into what became the playoff powerhouse hockey fans had grown to see. Over two decades of consecutive playoff appearances saw four of the trips turn into Stanley Cup victories (’97, ’98 ’02, ’08).

He was a man who clearly had a mind for the game. To put the franchise’s playoff successes in perspective, they have made exactly 25 consecutive trips to the post-season. That makes for the longest active playoff streak in all of North-American sports. It also ties the franchise with the St. Louis Blues for third for all-time longest in the NHL.

Ilitch leaves behind a unique legacy and leaves the city that he stayed true to with one last gift, a new home for the Red Wings. Questions arose around the new arena. Questions such as who pays? What will we call it? Unfortunately, the name he chose did not sit too well with the Detroit faithful. But, it is the Ilitch family company and that was the decision that they made.

This final gift from Ilitch, the new home for the Red Wings, should give fans an idea of how much he cared. The fans needed something better than the Joe Louis Arena and he clearly saw that, the family saw that. Little Caesars Arena will develop its own unique moments and hold its own memories. Fans have the Ilitch family to thank, fans have Mike Ilitch to hold onto forever.

For all of his hard-work and dedication throughout his time as the owner of the franchise, it earned him Hockey Hall of Fame honors in 2003 as well as U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame honors in 2004.

What does the future hold for the Red Wings? Will there be a new buyer? Only time will tell, though one thing is certain, Ilitch has left a mark that will last forever.