As Detroit sports fans, we have been blessed with some amazing teams. Throughout the years, the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, Lions (though no Super Bowl), and even the Detroit Shock have rewarded our loyalty with many amazing championship runs. Though we will cherish each and every Detroit championship, not all were created equal. Here is a list of the Top 10 most dominant Detroit championship teams of all-time.
Who would you rank as the most dominant championship team in Detroit sports history?
NOTE: Only teams that finished in 1st place during their regular season and then followed that up with a championship were considered for this list.
#10 – 2003 Detroit Shock (25-9)
In 2002, the Detroit Shock started off the season 0-13 but refused to give up. From that point, they finished 9-10 down the stretch and though they did not make the WNBA Playoffs, it gave them some momentum heading into the next season.
In 2003, the Shock was one of the most dominant teams in the league as they finished with an overall record of 25-9 to complete their worst to first campaign. After losing Game 1 of the WNBA Finals to the L.A. Sparks, the Shock stormed back to win Games 2 and 3 to win their first of three WNBA Championships.
Who can forget the summer of 2003, watching Swin Cash, Deanna Nolan, WNBA Rookie of the Year Cheryl Ford, and Ruth Riley tear up the league under the direction of WNBA Coach of the Year, Bill Laimbeer? We sure can’t!
#9 – 1954-1955 Detroit Red Wings (42-17-11)
Captained by Ted Lindsay, the 1954-1955 Detroit Red Wings (95 points) edged out the Montreal Canadiens (93 points) for 1st place in the NHL.
Beginning on February 20th, 1955, the Red Wings finished the regular season 10-0-2 and took that momentum into the Stanley Cup Final where they eventually beat the Canadians in seven games. This would be the last time the Red Wings would win a Stanley Cup until the 1996-1997 season.
The great Gordie Howe led the Red Wings in goals with 29 while goaltender Terry Sawchuk played in 68 of the 70 regular season games and finished with a 1.98 goals against average.
#8 – 1951-1952 Detroit Red Wings (44-14-12)
The 1951-1952 Detroit Red Wings absolutely dominated the NHL finishing 22 points ahead of the 2nd place Montreal Canadiens. The team was led by Gordie Howe (87 points), Ted Lindsay (30 goals), and Terry Sawchuk (1.90 goals against average). Sawchuk started and played in every game of the regular season and played in all 4200 minutes.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Red Wings outscored the Canadiens 11-2 as they swept the series four games to none. There is no question about it that the 1951-1952 Red Wings were a dominant team.
#7 – 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons (59-23)
Though the 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons was not as dominant a team as they were the previous season, they still managed to finish 1st place in the Eastern Conference with a 59-23 regular season record.
Similar to what they did the previous season, the Pistons cruised through the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs, before squaring off against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Michael Jordan and the Bulls gave the Pistons all they could handle before Detroit finally sealed the deal with a 93-74 Game 7 victory.
In the NBA Finals, the Pistons faced a very good Portland Trail Blazers team, but when all was said and done, Detroit had won the series four games to one, including winning three in a row at Portland. We will always remember Vinnie Johnson hitting the game-winner with 0:00.7 showing on the clock.
#6 – 1953 Detroit Lions (10-2)
The Detroit Lions are included on a championship list! Sorry, couldn’t resist that.
The 1953 Detroit Lions were led by quarterback Bobby Lane along with six other future Hall of Fame players. The Lions finished the regular season with a 10-2 record (both losses coming to the L.A. Rams) good enough for best in the NFL Western Conference.
In the NFL Championship Game, the Lions were given the task of playing the 11-1 Cleveland Browns who had been dominant in the NFL Eastern Conference before losing their last game of the regular season. The Lions took a 10-3 lead into the half before the Browns came back to tie the game after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the Browns used two field goals to take a six-point lead before Detroit roared back with an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown drive win the game.
#5 – 1968 Detroit Tigers (103-59)
The 1968 Detroit Tigers is one of the most dominant teams in the history of the franchise. Not only did they win the American League by 12 games, but they went on to win the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
The Tigers hitting attack was led by Willie Horton (36 home runs, 85 RBI’s), Bill Freehan (25 home runs, 84 RBI’s), Jim Northrup (21 home runs, 90 RBI’s) and Norm Cash (25 home runs, 63 RBI’s). As far as pitching goes, the Tigers were led by two of the best starters in team history, Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich. McLain was absolutely dominant in 1968 (31-6 with a 1.96 ERA) and won both the Cy Young and the American League Most Valuable Player award.
McLain may have been the best pitcher in the league during the regular season, but in the World Series, it was Lolich who raised his game to a new level. Lolich won Game 2, Game 5, and had an epic performance in Game 7 as he outdueled the great Bob Gibson to give the Tigers their 3rd World Series title.
#4 – 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings (54-21-7)
Led by Pavel Datsyuk (31 goals, 66 assists), Henrik Zetterberg (43 goals, 49 assists) and Nicklas Lidstrom (10 goals, 60 assists) the 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings won the Presidents’ Trophy with 115 points and eventually went on to win their 11th Stanley Cup.
During the regular season, the Wings led the Western Conference in goals scored with 257 and led the entire NHL in goals against with only 184. Goaltenders Dominic Hasek and Chris Osgood were absolutely amazing in the net as they split duties during the regular season. Both players finished the season with 27 wins and each had stellar goals-against averages, Hasek with 2.14 and Osgood with 2.09.
2007-2008 marked the 17th consecutive season the Red Wings qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they made the best of it. After a tough Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators (Wings won 4 games to 2), the Red Wings swept the Colorado Avalanche and then took care of the Dallas Stars (4 games to 2) in the Western Conference Finals.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Red Wings skated against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it was all Detroit. The Wings shut out the Penguins in Games 1 and 2 and ended up winning the series in six games as Henrik Zetterberg was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.
#3 – 1984 Detroit Tigers (104-58)
The 1984 Detroit Tigers are not only one of the most dominant teams in the history of Detroit sports, but they are also one of the most beloved. Most remember this team not only for winning the World Series but for their amazing 35-5 start to the season.
Led by a hitting attack that featured Lance Parrish (33 home runs, 98 RBI’s), Kirk Gibson (27 home runs, 91 RBI’s), Chet Lemon (20 home runs, 76 RBI’s) and the double-play combo of Lou Whitaker (.289 AVG, 13 home runs) and Alan Trammell (.314 AVG, 69 RBI’s), The Tigers ran away with the American League East, besting the 2nd place Toronto Blue Jays by 15.0 games.
Another reason for the Tiger success in 1984 was their pitching staff which was led by Jack Morris (19-11), Dan Petry (18-8), and Milt Wilcox (17-8). In addition to that starting trio was the Tigers closer, Willie Hernandez (32 saves, 1.92 ERA). Hernandez was so good throughout the season that he was named the 1984 American League MVP.
In the 1984 World Series, the Tigers took the field against the San Diego Padres. After splitting the first two games of the series in San Diego, the Tigers came home to Tiger Stadium and took care of business. Detroit won games 3, 4, and 5 to win their 4th World Series in team history. Following the conclusion of the Tigers win, Alan Trammell was named World Series MVP. The 1984 World Series marks the last time the Tigers won a World Championship.
#2 – 1988-1989 Detroit Pistons (63-19)
Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn, Bill Laimbeer, and Mark Aguirre as a starting five with guys like Dennis Rodman, John Salley, James Edwards, and Vinnie Johnson coming off the bench? Yes, please! Oh, and let’s not forget about one of the greatest head coaches in NBA history, Chuck Daly. What a team!
The 1988-1989 Detroit Pistons are without question one of the greatest teams in Detroit sports history. With a 63-19 regular season record (best in the NBA), the Pistons finished six games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Central Division as the cruised into the NBA Playoffs.
When the Playoffs began, the Pistons seemed to raise their game to a new level. They swept through the first two rounds before taking out the Chicago Bulls in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the NBA Finals, the Pistons absolutely destroyed the L.A. Lakers four games to none to win their first ever NBA Championship.
#1 – 2001-2002 Detroit Red Wings (51-17-10-4)
Ladies and Gentlemen, we give to you the most dominant championship team in Detroit sports history, the 2001-2002 Detroit Red Wings.
With 10 future Hall of Fame players and Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, there is no doubt about it that the 2001-2002 Red Wings will always be considered one of the best teams in NHL History. In the regular season, the Wings were led by Brendan Shanahan (37 goals, 38 assists), Sergei Fedorov (31 goals, 37 assists), Nicklas Lidstrom (9 goals, 50 assists), and Brett Hull (30 goals, 33 assists). The team dominated the NHL Western Conference with 116 points, 17 better than the 2nd place Colorado Avalanche.
As far as goaltending goes, the Red Wings had it made with Dominik Hasek who was absolutely a stone wall. Hasek won 41 games for the Wings while saving 92% of the shots he faced and posting a 1.86 goals against average.
When it came time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was captain Steve Yzerman (6 goals, 17 assists) who led the Red Wings in total points. After losing the first two games to the No. 8 seed Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the Red Wings roared back to win the next four games. Following a 4 games to 1 series win over the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Semifinals, it was time for one of the most memorable series in Red Wings history.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Red Wings took the ice against the hated Colorado Avalanche with the winner going to the Stanley Cup Final. After splitting the first four games, the Avalanche went into Joe Louis Arena and stole Game 5 with a 2-1 overtime win. With their backs against the wall, the Wings came back in Game 6 and shutout the Avalanche in Colorado, 2-0. Game 7 will go down as one of the biggest beat downs in Stanley Cup Playoffs history as the Red Wings once again shutout the Avalanche, this time by a score of 7-0.
Following a huge win over Colorado in the Conference Finals, the Stanley Cup Final seemed almost like a formality as the Red Wings took down the Carolina Hurricanes 4 games to 1. After the conclusion of the series, Nicklas Lidstrom was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.