The Detroit Red Wings hired Scotty Bowman in 1993 to help put them over the top, and the team enjoyed three Stanley Cup championships during his tenure as bench boss.
Bowman reacted to the news of Mike Ilitch’s passing on Friday following the news that he had passed away at the age of 87 and credited the late Detroit icon with revitalizing his career.
“It was pretty special working for a man like that,” Bowman said of Ilitch during a phone interview. “He certainly rekindled my career. I was wondering how long I would stay. I was going to stay for two years, but I stayed for, I think it was nine years. I never had to have a contract. It was always just a handshake. That’s the way I liked it and he liked it.”
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 11, 2017
Bowman joined a Red Wings team that was talented but hadn’t been able to take the next step to finally capture the elusive championship the city hadn’t enjoyed since 1955.
“They had a decent team,” Bowman said, “but he was very anxious to get a Stanley Cup. It took a few years, but he was always backing us, making the resources available.”
To that end, Bowman explained that the Ilitch way was winning, and nothing else. Everything was done for the betterment of the team.
“He was active, but he never interfered,” Bowman said in a separate interview. “He maybe came into the locker room a couple times a year, maybe before the playoffs. He was a phone call away, you ran everything by him. He probably never refused anything that people that work for him wanted to do, as long as you explained it to him. It was always the same answer – Is this going to help us win?”
“You always had the feeling that whatever it took, when you needed a player, you needed to talk to him, his door was always open. You could always call him. It never seemed like a business call, it was always a friendly call.”
Bowman cemented his legacy as the greatest coach in sports, and Mike Ilitch was the one who made it happen.
Mike Ilitch brought superstars to Detroit for decades. His first big addition: a kid named Steve Yzerman. pic.twitter.com/jYwaUkoM9M
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 11, 2017
Steve Yzerman Mourns Mike Ilitch
Steve Yzerman was a shy 18-year-old when he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983 from the Peterborough Petes. What followed was one of the greatest careers in NHL history, including three Stanley Cup championships – all with the same team.
Now the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yzerman reacted to the news that the man who drafted him and paved the way for him to become Hockeytown’s favorite adopted son, had passed away Friday at the age of 87.
“Both Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as their entire family, have had an immeasurable impact on not only my career but my life,” Yzerman said in a statement. “Going back to the age of 18 when I arrived in Detroit, the guidance, generosity, concern and love Mr, Ilitch had always shown me and my family are things I will forever be grateful for.”
“I was extremely fortunate to have played my entire career for a man who’s love of hockey and burning desire to win were the catalysts which drove the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup Championships after purchasing the team in 1982.
“Mr. Ilitch has left an incredible legacy in baseball, hockey and Metropolitan Detroit. He will forever be remembered for all the ways he enriched our lives. Mike Ilitch will live on vividly in my mind and heart forever.”