The passing of Mike Ilitch sent shockwaves throughout the NHL, MLB and the state of Michigan. He was a fixture of Detroit Sports and of Detroit itself.
I’m not from Detroit. I grew up in Windsor, but the river that divides us did nothing to stop me from adopting the city and its teams as my own. Over the years, Detroiters, and Detroiters at heart have endured being the butt of jokes and seeing their city become a punchline. Mike Ilitch believed in Detroit long before there was talk of a resurgence, a downtown rebuild or a tech boom. Hell, he is a big part of the reason why this movement even started in Detroit.
Thanks to his perseverance, we have a lifetime of happy memories as fans. More importantly, he gave us something to point at and say “See?” to anyone who doubted Detroit’s greatness and grit.
He took a city, and a franchise down on its luck and spoiled us with a dynasty. He never got that World Series ring he wanted so bad, and not for lack of trying, but he gave us so many electrifying post-season memories that we will cherish forever.
How can we best honour Mike Ilitch? By continuing to champion Detroit, to be proud of our city and not give up on its teams, even when the going gets tough. It pays off to believe.
Condolences for Mike Ilitch are pouring in from across Michigan.
Mayor Mike Duggan said "Mike Ilitch was more than just a shrewd, successful businessman. He was a Detroiter through and through.
"Whether he was making pizza, building successful sports and entertainment franchises or supporting youth organizations in our city, Mr. I helped to bring thousands of jobs and opportunities to our city and attract millions of dollars of investment."
Gov. Rick Snyder:
Gov. Rick Snyder called Ilitch a "powerhouse in so many ways across Michigan."
"We are a better state today because of the positive differences he made in our communities. He was a strong businessman, an innovative leader, and a loving family man. He was passionate about the city of Detroit and served a critical role in the city’s comeback, investing time, effort and resources to help craft a better vision for Detroit.
"Mr. I stands as one of America's greatest sports team owners," said Ken Holland, general manager of the Red Wings. "To have been able to work with him for more than 30 years and be a part of turning a struggling franchise into a champion again was an experience of a lifetime. His commitment to his team and our fans is the reason we all feel a part of 'Hockeytown'. He will be deeply missed by those of us who were fortunate enough to know him and call him a friend."
“I’ve never seen a man more dedicated to this community and to baseball than Mr. I. He was always there to give us whatever we needed because he wanted greatness and happiness for all of us – especially the fans. Mr. I was truly one of the great ones. He was a friend and an inspiration and he will be deeply missed,” Avila said.
Full statement from Lions team president Rod Wood:
"On behalf of the Martha Ford Family and the Detroit Lions, we extend our deepest and most sincere sympathies to the Ilitch Family and to the Red Wings, Tigers, Little Caesars and Olympia Entertainment organizations on the passing of Mike Ilitch.
"Mr. Ilitch's many positive contributions to our city and region will be everlasting and will greatly impact future generations of our community. His leadership of the Red Wings and Tigers truly set a standard of excellence.
"We send our thoughts and prayers to the Ilitch Family and to every member of the Red Wings, Tigers, Little Caesars and Olympia Entertainment organizations."