3 of the Greatest Detroit Red Wings to Ever Play the Game

Chad IrvineContributor IIISeptember 16, 2011

(Left) Steve Yzerman Sporting his No. 19 during the 1984 Season (Right) Nicklas Lidstrom as an Assistant Captain under Yzerman in his No. 5 jersey
(Left) Steve Yzerman Sporting his No. 19 during the 1984 Season (Right) Nicklas Lidstrom as an Assistant Captain under Yzerman in his No. 5 jersey

Three Names (Detroit Cougars, Detroit Falcons, Detroit Red Wings), two colors, one city. The Detroit Red Wings have always been a team known for excellence—filled with their own Great players.

The first of the great players came in 1946, his name was Gordie Howe. Known for wearing No. 9 throughout his illustrious career, he started in Detroit wearing No. 17. He quickly established himself as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Not only did Howe dominate scoring, he did everything on the ice so often that he now has his own style of hat trick. The "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" consists of a goal, an assist and a fight.

During his rookie season, he was told by coach Jack Adams "I know you can fight. Now show me you can play hockey." After that, Howe dominated the ice. He started the tradition of Red Wing greats. Among his long list of accomplishments: 23-time all star, four Stanley Cups, Top 5 in scoring for 20 consecutive seasons, most points with a single Franchise (1,809 with Detroit) and most games played (1,767). Howe started a long tradition of greatness among the Detroit Red Wings organization. His famed No. 9 now hangs from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena, retired by the organization.

After a period known as the "dead wing" era, Steve Yzerman was drafted by the Ilitch Family in their first draft as owners of the franchise in 1983. Of course, Yzerman's drafting was under much scrutiny within the organization. Because of Yzerman's small size, GM Jim Devellano wanted to pick Pat Lafontaine over him, but it turned out that Yzerman was the right pick.

It didn't take long for Yzerman to put the "C" on his chest. He became captain in 1986, as the youngest in franchise history. In just his second season as Captain, Yzerman ended the "dead wing" era, winning the first division title in over 20 years. Two seasons after that, Yzerman set the third highest point total in a single season at 155, only passed by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, two more greats to play the game.

In the 1994-1995 season, Yzerman continued greatness, leading the Winged Wheels to the first Stanley Cup Finals for the franchise in 29 seasons. Although the wings were swept by the Devils, it was a sign of greatness to come from the young captain. Next year, the wings fell short in the conference finals, losing in six to the Avalanche.

Finally in 1997, The Red Wings drought was over. Yzerman lead his team to the promised land. After years of delay, his dream came true. Then, the unthinkable, back-to-back Stanley Cups for the Red Wings.

In the 1999-2000 season, Yzerman reached the 600 goal mark, as well as making the All-Star team. After a few years hiatus from the Stanley Cup Finals, the Wings made it back in 2002, beating the Hurricanes. He ended his career in greatness after the 2005-2006 Season, with 10 All Star Selections, four Stanley Cups (3 as player, 1 as executive for the Red Wings in 2008) and sixth in NHL history in points.

He was the longest serving captain for a team (over 1,300 games). The No. 19 was not only retired by the Red Wings but also was retired by the Canadian Men's National team.

Another of the greatest Red Wings to play is still active with the team and took the "C" from Yzerman when he retired.

Nicklas Lidstrom wears No. 5 with the team, He has been with the team since the 1991-1992 season. Lidstrom has been "Mr. Reliable" for the wings, in his first 13 seasons (including the lockout shortened 1994-1995 season) he only missed 17 games. He was never one to get into scuffles on the ice either. Lidstrom might not be the biggest or most physical player on the ice, but he always is able to keep up and use his head. He uses his stick wisely, and is always able to play the puck well.

Nicklas Lidstrom has one year left on his contract. In 19 NHL seasons, he has has always had a plus/minus rating of plus-7 or higher. The exception was the 2010-2011 season where his numbers slipped to -2, but he made up for that with 62 points.

Like the other Red Wing greats, he has four Stanley Cups. Lidstrom also has 12 All-Star appearances. He is expected to play his final season next year, as he just signed a one year contract after long debating retirement.

Of course, over the long history of the Red Wings, there have been many venues, fans, rivals, and coaches. There have also been many greats to be with the Red Wings organization. Their names can be found both on the ice and in the rafters at "The Joe." Look for the Red Wings greatness to continue into the future as the team continues it's long playoff streak, dating back to the days of Steve Yzerman as captain and Scotty Bowman as the coach.