The roots of the Detroit Red Wings team go all the way back to the old Western Hockey League, where the Victoria (British Columbia) Cougars were members until their complete roster was sold to a group of businessmen from Detroit on September 25, 1926. The group, led by former NHL goalie Percy LeSueur and Charles King, were one of 11 bidding to bring NHL hockey to Detroit. They were awarded an NHL franchise on May 15, 1926.
The team began play as the Detroit Cougars in the fall of 1926, while playing its home games in Windsor, Ontario awaiting a new arena to be built. Despite the fact that the Cougars had won the Stanley Cup in 1925 and were Cup finalists a year later, the 1926 Detroit Cougars finished with an 12-28-4 record, rnking last in the NHL that season.
Help came the following season, in the form of Jack Adams, the team's new coach and GM. Adams had played in the old Pacific Coast League, and in the NHL with the Toronto St. Pats and Ottawa Senators. Adam's tenure as coach and GM would last over 25 seasons, until the 1962-63 season, when former Red Wing Sid Abel would take over.
In 1927-28, the Cougars would move into the brand new Olympia Stadium. A Detroit and professional hockey landmark, the Olympia would serve as the home for the franchise through the midway point of the 1979-80 season. With Adams at the helm, the team made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history the following year.
Adams would change the team name to the Falcons in 1930-31, hoping to alter it's fortunes, but after the depression, the team would go into receivership, and Adams was forced to put up his own cash to make payroll. It was so bad financially, that Adams joked if the Montreal Canadiens superstar Howie Morenz were available for $1.98, the Falcons still couldn't afford him. Things weren't much better on the ice as the team had only made the playoffs twice in its first six seasons.
Norris had once starred in the NHA for the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. Nicknamed the "Winged Wheelers" due to their double winged bicycle wheel logo, Norris appropriated the design to an automobile wheel suitable for Motown.
Although the Red Wings missed the playoffs once more in 1934-35, Adams knew his recipe for success was nearing completion. The Wings GM added the final pieces to his puzzle prior to the 1935-36 season, shipping All Star center Cooney Weiland to Boston for forward Marty Barry. It was a bold stroke, and Adams inserted Barry as his number one pivot, fitting him between Larry Aurie and Herbie Lewis. The move paid huge dividends when Barry’s 21-19-40 totals left him second in NHL scoring. Linemate Lewis (14-23-37) finished ninth in the NHL points race.
Role players Hec Kilrea and Pete Kelly were also picked up and would make huge contributions. Ralph (Scotty) Bowman, a late season acquisition one year earlier, and the heavy hitting Bucko McDonald, second in the voting for NHL rookie of the year, solidified the defense. After loaned goaltender Wilf Cude was recalled by the Montreal Canadiens, Adams turned to Normie Smith, and he quickly matured into a front line NHL stopper.
The Wings topped the tough American Division, where all four clubs had reached the 50 point plateau in the 48 game campaign. The Canadian Division champion Montreal Maroons provided the opening round playoff opposition, and the winner of the first place showdown would advance directly to the Stanley Cup final.
The first game of the series would become a legendary one, as it would last an NHL record 176 minutes and 30 seconds on the game clock. A game that is still talked about today, it ended nearly six hours later (in real time) when rookie Modere "Mud" Bruneteau - on a pass from Hec Kilrea - beat the Maroons' Lorne Chabot in the game's only goal.
The game ended on soggy ice at 2:25 a.m., after Smith had made 89 saves in a performance for the ages. In the next game, he would again shut out the Maroons, eventually setting a consecutive shutout streak of 248:32 - a playoff record.
The Wings would blast by the Maroons on their way to the final with a three game sweep, and only arch rival Maple Leafs stood in their way. Detroit swould make short work of the Leafs. After a 3-1 win, the Wings would serve Toronto a 9-4 whipping at the Olympia. The nine goals were a single game playoff record for the Wings.
On April 9, the Red Wings headed to Toronto, looking to clinch their first Stanley Cup. The game looked to be bagged after Detroit jumped out to a 3-0 lead with only 6:50 remaining on the clock, but Toronto surged back to knot the game at 3-3. The Leafs Buzz Boll scored in overtime, to bring Toronto back from the dead, but the setback would prove to be short lived for Detroit.
Two nights later, in Game 4 of the best of five series, the Wings were again placed behind the eight ball. Leafs' center Joe Primeau tallied to put his club ahead, but the Red Wings stormed back with a pair, to make it 2-1. Doug Kelly’s marker at 9:48 of the third period put Detroit up 3-2, and the Wings hung on for their first Stanley Cup victory.
The Stanley Cup was not presented to the Red Wings on the ice that night, but later in the evening at a ceremony held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto by league president Frank Calder.
"Winning the Stanley Cup was the one ambition of my life," Wings owner James Norris said as he poured champagne into the mug’s bowl. Team mates sipped from it, including Adams, who'd never before taken a drink of alcohol in his life.
"Every player on this team has taken a turn at bringing the house down in these playoffs," coach Adams said. "I never saw anything like it."
Upon returning to Detroit, an overflow crowd at Michigan Central Train Station were on hand to greet their champions. The following day, a police escort assisted Adams in carrying the Cup safely through a mob of fans, where he promised there would be as much celebrating next spring.
"Don’t be surprised if the Wings make it two in a row," Adams predicted. "I hope they make it a habit."
Adams surely knew his stuff, as the Red Wings repeated as Cup champions in 1937, beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in the Cup final.
Players on the Red Wings were given commemerative rings not long after the victory, and on April 18, the festivities continued with a lavish banquet at the Masonic Temple in Detroit.
Here are some interesting facts about the members of the 1936 Cup Champion Red Wings.
Syd Howe's (2-3-5) name is spelled "Sid" on the Cup, he later changed his name to "Syd". Howe was the first player in the NHL era to score six goals in one game on February 3, 1944.
John Sorrell (2-3-5), was in his sixth season with the Red Wings and did not play in the league until he was 24 years old. Sorrell was a slim 5' 11", 155lbs.
Marry Barry (2-2-4) was aquired from the Bruins for Cooney Weiland and played on a line with Larry Aurie and Herbie Lewis. After the war, Barry coached St. Mary's junior team in Halifax. He died of a heart atack in 1969.
Gord Pettinger (2-2-4) spent four seasons with Detroit, winning two Cups. His brother Eric was a brief NHL'er from 1928 to 1931.
Bucko McDonald (3-0-3) was a lacrosse pro in his late teens while playing minor league hockey. A big, solid defenseman, McDonald had taken a season off from hockey when the Red Wings offered him a contract. An aging veteran, he surprised many by making the team on his very first try. McDonald, unbeknownst at the time, later helped alter hockey history as Bobby Orr's minor league coach. McDonald, upon sensing Orr's gifts, had the intuitive notion to mold the young forward into a defenseman.
Hec Kilrea (0-2-2) was called "General" on the original Cup band. Nine years prior, he had teamed with GM and coach Jack Adams in winning the Cup with the Ottawa Senators. Hec is a relative of Ottawa 67's legendary coach Brian Kilrea.
Wally Kilrea (2-1-3), Hec's brother, just missed playing with another brother by two seasons. Retiring in 1937-38, Wally's sibling Ken Kilrea joined the Wings in 1938-39.
Modere "Mud" Bruneteau (1-2-3) scored the historic 1-0 goal in the longest game ever played, against the Montreal Maroons in the opening round. Mud happened into such serendipity, having been recalled from the minors by the Red Wings only two weeks earlier. The morning following the game, Maroons goalie Lorne Chabot presented Mud with the historic puck. It was a terrific gesture of sportsmanship that Bruneteau recalled for the remainder of his days.
Herbie Lewis (1-2-3) played in the Ace Bailey benefit game in 1934. Coach Jack Adams once said, "Lewis is a sportsman of the highest type. I defy baseball, football, or boxing to produce an individual who can eclipse Herbie Lewis as a perfect role model for what an athlete should stand for."
Ralph "Scotty" Bowman (1-1-2) was claimed by GM Adams from the St. Louis Eagles, who disbanded prior to the start of the season. Bowman played his youth hockey with teams in the Parkdale and Niagara Falls areas. He is of no relation to modern day coach William "Scotty" Bowman.
Pete Kelly's Cup winning goal came quite serendipitously. "It wasn't my shift", he admitted. "But Larry Aurie, who was the right winger on our scoring line, was limping to the bench at the end of a long shift and I jumped over the boards without waiting for Jack Adams to tell me to go. I got a pass from Herbie Lewis and I just shot it in the top corner of the net." The victim was Leafs goalie George Hainsworth.
In a game on February 24, 1935, Wings captain Doug Young (0-2-2) swung at a puck near the boards and missed, instead hitting a fan named Mrs. Doris Geldhart. The stick broke the ladies nose and blackened both eyes. She sued him, unsuccessfully, for the sum of $25,000.
Ebbie Goodfellow (1-0-1) spent six years as a forward before suiting up as a defenseman for the Red Wings. Equally skilled in both ends, he tied the final game at 1-1 in the second period on a Sorrell pass, before splitting the D for the goal.
Larry Aurie (0-1-1) broke his collarbone in a game on February 18th. Seemingly gone for the season, Aurie missed only four games before returning.
Goaltender Normie Smith played all 48 games during the regular season, allowing only 103 goals. During that time he had a shutout streak that lasted 248:32. In the final, he posted a 2.74 GAA with 11 goals allowed in 241 minutes of play. The Montreal Maroons had gevin up on Smith, but he refused to give up anything to them. Smith’s original team provided Detroit’s opposition in the opening round of the 1936 playoffs and in Game 1 of the series, which lasted an NHL record 176:30, the Detroit goalie threw a brick wall up in front of his cage, blocking 89 shots for a 1-0 win. He also blanked the Maroons 3-0 in Game 2. Backstopping Detroit to a four game decision over Toronto and the first Stanley Cup in club history, Smith led all goalies in wins with six, and shutouts with two during the playoffs.
Coach and GM Jack Adams began his career as a player with the Toronto Arenas in 1917, winning the Cup in the NHL's inaugural season. He joined the Red Wings in 1927 and the affiliation lasted 35 years and produced 7 Stanley Cups.
Red Wings team president James Norris made his fortune via the Norris Grain Company of Chicago. He had wanrted to buy an NHL team for that city, but when rebuffed he settled for Detroit in 1933. He changed the team's name from Falcons to Red Wings and based the logo on the Montreal Winged Wheelers hockey team of his youth while growing up in Montreal. Later, in an era where conflict of interest bylaws were a foreign concept, Norris held power in the Detroit Olympia, Madison Square Garden, and the Chicago Stadium. It gave rise to jokes that NHL actually was an acronym for the Norris Hockey League.
Eyes On The Prize is most definitely a site that documents the Montreal Canadiens past, present and future, but I like to think that it also seeks to encapsulate what winning the Stanley Cup is all about. In fact, the name of the site - if you've ever wondered - wasn't chosen incidentally. It's all about the Cup, and of course, the Habs aren't the only club to lay claim to mastering winning it in it's 116 year history. Occasionally - and it does us all good to learn - I like to look outside the Canadiens wins, historically. Cup tales truly blow my mind, as each individual win is a story all to itself. In EOTP's older incarnation, I started to historically chronicle, in depth, all Cup wins starting in 1893, and hopefully I will get to hop, skip and jump to various Cup wins by different teams in time. I know that it enriches my knowledge of the game and it's history. I hope you feel it does the same for you.