Detroit — Fans arriving before the Red Wings game against the Blues Wednesday saw a continual loop of photographs of the long and varied life of a late owner of team, Mike Ilitch.
From his years as a U.S. Marine, to leaping around second base in the Tigers farm system, to biting into a slice of pizza offered by wife and Wings’ owner Marian Ilitch, to lifting the Stanley Cup, Ilitch accomplished a lot in his 87 years.
In the darkest red paint on the big ice surface, facing the sideboards in front of the Wings bench and the visitor’s penalty box, was a simple “Mr. I.” Red Wings players also wore "Mr. I" patches as a tribute to the late owner.
That the game was long schedule as a national broadcast on NBCSN afforded another opportunity to remember the consummate son of Detroit well beyond his native state.
Many NHL arenas had a moment of silence for the late owner, but Wednesday it was time to memorialize him in the arena where he returned one of the great sports franchises to glory, and returned the Stanley Cup to Detroit four times.
Immediately after the silence, the audio and video on the big scoreboard cut to the first Stanley Cup celebration.
After a brief video, the fans remembered Ilitch with a standing ovation that had a bit of a roar.
His death brought the return of one his Stanley Cup winning captains, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, to the game — Nicklas Lidstrom.
And, in the “Game Notes” provided to media by the team, the same notice appeared, as it has appeared for many seasons, now, with only the number changing.
“Since Mike and Marian Ilitch purchased the Detroit Red Wings in 1982, the team has won a combined 1,569 regular season and playoff games, more than any other franchise in the NHL.”