Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Detroit's Four Major Teams

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I'll never forget the first time I was published. Back in 1979, My best friend and adopted brother George Eichorn asked me to write a few paragraphs for the Detroit Monitor about the struggles of Detroit's Four Major Teams.

I did and was thrilled to see my name in the paper for what would be the first of many times during my 32-year tenure in the media. Every so often, when I get the opportunity to find an individual that gets published for the first time, it gives me warm feelings of when I started.

But in honor of my longtime colleague Eichorn, I'm going to talk briefly about all four of Detroit's sports teams in this story.

Last night, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 at the Joe Louis Arena. On Thursday night, the Red Wings will attempt to do what only three other teams in the NHL have done and that's rally from a 3-0 deficit and win four straight to close out the Sharks.

The Red Wings are in this position due to the stellar play of their young goaltender Jimmy Howard, who figures to be the cornerstone of this franchise for a long time.

I love the headline and a key paragraph in a Sports Illustrated article by Adrian Dater.

The headline read, "Wings' latest, greatest rally could spell doom for crumbling Sharks." The paragraph I liked the most was "A match-up between a tested Original Six Franchise with four Stanley Cup Rings since 1997 against the Chicago Cubs on Ice"

Comparing the Sharks to the Cubs might be a little harsh since they began playing in 1991. The Cubs championship drought is 102 years. But I understand where Dater is coming from.

It would be great to see the Red Wings defeat the Sharks on Thursday night because it will energize a fan base which has been hit hard because of the economy. If they don't win, this group led by Coach Mike Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland will be back and better than ever next year. As much as I don't believe in moral victories, the fact that the Red Wings are playing when everyone counted them dead a week ago is worth feeling good about.

If the Red Wings can get past the Sharks, they'll earn all of their frequent flyer miles going through Phoenix, San Jose and then the Vancouver Canucks. If they're lucky enough to make it to the finals, there is another Original Six Rival, the Boston Bruins waiting. The purists and NBC would love this match-up! Otherwise, Wings legend Steve Yzerman can haunt his old team as his Tampa Bay Lightning are peaking at the right time.

If they don't win Thursday night, the fans still have many reasons to be proud of their historic effort.

On Saturday, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws a no-hitter in the Tigers 9-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada at the Sky Dome. This was Verlander's second no-hitter in his career with his first occurring against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 12, 2007.

In 1984, Jack Morris threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox and the Tigers went on to win the World Series against the San Diego Padres. I'll be curious to see if the Tigers can duplicate the same success in 2011. Ironically, the Tigers started the season 9-0 which was the same score as Verlander's gem against the Blue Jays.

I'm glad that Tom Gores will be the new owner of the Detroit Pistons and they'll be playing at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

I don't expect to see Gores make many major changes during his first season as owner with perhaps just a coaching switch. I believe that Joe Dumars will have at least one season to get the team headed in the right direction, perhaps two at the most.

But I have a strong feeling inside that Gores will hire Earvin "Magic" Johnson to be another voice with the franchise either as Dumars future replacement or as a key part of the front office. In October of 2010, Johnson sold his minority ownership stake of the Los Angeles Lakers. Since Gores and Johnson are former Michigan State Spartans and have plenty of ties to the state of Michigan, in addition to them becoming millionaires in Southern California, this makes too much sense to see them work together.

With Larry Bird agreeing to stay with the Indiana Pacers and see his rebuilding project through, I could see Johnson and Bird working in the front offices of their respective home states trying to build elite teams. We all know that Johnson and Bird will always be linked to the Michigan State/Indiana State 1979 NCAA title game with the Spartans prevailing. Perhaps, we could see Michigan and Indiana in the limelight again but in Pro Basketball. Johnson and Bird in the same division intrigues me.

Finally, the Detroit Lions have created the "Monsters of Motown" when they drafted Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with their first round pick, 13th overall. With last year's pick Ndamukong Suh coming back for his second season, this has the makings of a legendary defensive tackle combination.

I have two words for opposing quarterbacks. Good Luck! They better be fast to escape these beasts.

If Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford can stay healthy with his new offensive weapons, this team has a lot to look forward to, especially after winning their final four games in 2010.

Back in 1979, all four teams struggled. Nowadays, Detroit fans have much more to look forward to.

Scott Morganroth's blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/ and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

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