Detroit — The Red Wings are in a rebuild, and owner Chris Ilitch fully understands the process is going to take time.
Ilitch, the Red Wings' governor, president and chief executive officer, spoke to reporters Tuesday during an announcement of the Red Wings partnership with NHL and NHL Players Association in the Learn, Play, Score program to build interest in hockey among local youth.
The program is funded through an initial $1 million investment in partnership with the Red Wings, Red Wings Foundation and NHL and NHL Players Association Industry Growth Fund.
In terms of the Red Wings, Ilitch praised general manager Steve Yzerman and preached patience to fans concerning the rebuild, with the Wings in the throes of a difficult season.
The Wings are about to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
“Rebuilds are tough, nobody likes to lose,” Ilitch said. “I don’t like to lose. Our fans don’t like to lose, our players don’t like to lose. So rebuilds are tough. But what we are looking at and measuring is progress.
“Steve has settled in incredibly well.”
Ilitch praised the work of Yzerman, who replaced Ken Holland as the Wings’ general manager in April.
Ilitch cited Yzerman’s work in June’s Entry Draft — drafting of defenseman Moritz Seider appears to be a shrewd pick by many analysts — and trades thus far to make the roster younger and creating a positive environment for the young players to flourish.
By virtue of their league-worst record, the Wings are expected to draft no worse than fourth in June's Entry Draft.
“I can tell you our entire organization, from Steve all the way down, are working exceptionally hard to deliver a winner,” Ilitch said. “I believe we will get there — it’s just going to take time.”
More than 30,000 children in the city of Detroit will experience hockey for the first time through events and engagements during the next two years.
"This is all about empowering the youth in our city. Hockey is more than just a sport. It is about teamwork, dedication, maintaining a healthy body, mind and spirit,” Ilitch said. “We are committed to being a leader in finding innovative ways to connect younger generations to hockey in the community.”