Red Wings Rabbit Hole Theater: Vol. 2 "The Dead Wings Edition"
There are 50 days until the puck drops on the Red Wings 2016-17 season. Until then, lets keep ourselves cozy with a weekly visit down the Red Wings Rabbit Hole; an endless You Tube nostalgia trip you'll first love, then regret six hours later.
This week's video: Minnesota North Stars vs. Detroit Red Wings Bench Clearing Brawl
Game Date: 2/14/1985
Notable Nostalgic Names To Look For: (Sophomore) Steve Yzerman, Ron Duguay, Dave "Tiger" Williams, Nick Polano, John Ogrodnick, Bob Rouse, Dino Ciccarelli (then hot head for Minnesota)
Cultural Significance: Is this hockey? There are few clips of "hockey" on You Tube that stretch the definition of the sport more than this bloody, swirling mass of humanity, loosely bound to one another for some dumb reason. Yes, a bench clearing brawl, something that wasn't so rare in the NHL during the 70's and 80's.
While the North Stars' color commentator pleads, "this is not what hockey is all about", future Red Wing fan favorite, Dino Ciccarelli is pummeling Wings captain Danny Gare on the bench. Meanwhile, Wings coach Nick Polano is ironically having to be restrained by legendary enforcer--then penalty minute leader--Tiger Williams, while Minnesota coach Glen Sonmor was furious (and probably scared) screaming at the dummy who deeply cut his hand with an errant stick and/or skate.
Thank goodness this is out of the NHL game today. Anyone who thinks this is entertaining or something worth keeping in the game is someone I frankly don't understand. I guess a good genuine-heat-of-the-moment line brawl is one thing, but this is oafish and dangerous.
In the context of what it meant for the season, Detroit was battling Minnesota for a final playoff spot in the Norris Division. The Red Wings were led by sophomore Steve Yzerman, Ron Duguay and John Ogrodnick, all surpassing 85 points individually. But the intensity of this playoff battle certainly didn't equal quality. Somehow 66 points qualified the Red Wings for the playoffs that season. YES, 66 POINTS. Detroit's record of 27-41-12 (including drawing the North Stars 5-5 in this particular game), was good enough to earn the right to be swept by Darryl Sutter and the Chicago Black Hawks in 3 games. What a game, what a season, a time in hockey.
The following season, this Red Wings team, with largely the same roster, had the worst season in modern franchise history with 40 points.
That was hot garbage. Let's cue up a bonus video!
Video: WKBD Bruce Martyn 1979 Season Preview
Game Date: 10/10/79
Uploader: TelevisionDetroit (h/t @puckinbourbon)
Notable Nostalgic Names To Look For: Bruce Martyn, Marcel Dionne, Sid Abel, The Howes, Bobby Clarke, Fred Shero, Don Cherry, "a 19 year old youngster with a great deal of poise" Wayne Gretzky and pretty much everyone mentioned in this video.
Cultural Significance: The 1979-80 season was one of the most pivotal in the history of the NHL, being Gordie Howe's last and Wayne Gretzky's first. Seeing a cut and paste intermission primer of WHA mergers and realignment for half-asleep Red Wing fans watching on crackly UHF only adds more charm to this video. I can smell the stale Stroh's in the shag carpet.
Legendary Red Wings broadcaster, Bruce Martyn, breezes past what was another year of disappointment for the Wings, promoting an upcoming season of fun as if he was your middle school principal leading a September assembly. It gets awkward when he mentions the Hartford Whalers, who for their inaugural NHL season, were in the Norris Division with the Red Wings. Martyn mentions Mark and Marty Howe with pride but gives pause when stating, "Papa Gordie" will be welcomed anywhere whether or not he plays. Of course Gordie did play his final NHL season in Hartford and had his brightest moment playing in the 1980 All-Star game at the brand new Joe Louis Arena.
Aside from mentioning Wayne Gretzky like a mere prospect, and speaking the common phrase "it's another whole new regime for the Toronto Maple Leafs", I found it funny Martyn described the Colorado Rockies (yes, the hockey team, there was a hockey team named this before the baseball team) as the "most interesting franchise in the league". The Rockies surprisingly hired Don Cherry which increased ticket sales and quelled rumors they were moving to the "New York area". After three more sub-par seasons led by Lanny McDonald and Rob Ramage, the Rockies did end up relocating, becoming the New Jersey Devils. And no, they were never interesting.
Despite the promise of a fun season, the 1979-80 Wings finished in last as they often did in the "Dead Wing era" with a 26-43-11 record and poor Ted Lindsay finishing the season as interim head coach.
OH and stay to the end of the video when Sid Abel explains how perplexed he is by time zone changes!
Follow the rabbit hole in the 'recommended videos' section on You Tube and let me know what old Red Wings videos you dig up in the comment section!