The men who buried the dead wings

Excerpt from “The Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Draft” by Helen St. James

The 1983 project brought the Red Wings back to life. It was a turning point after a decade of poor talent development and poor finishes in the standings, keeping the club away from the dreary days of the 1970s, when the team was so bad that it catalyzed the “dead wings” moniker. give up Leader The Broz and Enigma brothers from the Czech Republic.

This was the first draft of the group of men who gave hope to the franchise last summer. Mike Illich bought The Wings in early June 1982Too late to install his people ahead of the June 9 draft.

The 1983 draft, and especially the club’s first selection, held even greater importance in light of what had happened in the previous draft. Despite holding the second-worst record of the 1981-82 season, the Wings didn’t pick up until near the end of the first round due to a deal with Minnesota in the summer of 1981. North Stars general manager Lou Nan cheated on his Wings counterpart Jimmy Skinner, convincing him By exchanging first-round picks against two players – Greg Smith and Don Murdoch – they had little or no effect on the wings. The North Star finished sixth and won second place. The Wings finished 20th and won 17th.

In fact, the 1983 draft was the first time since 1979 that Wings retained her first-round pick, having eliminated her first-round picks in 1980, 1981 and 1982. Their business partners capitalized on their ability to draft Larry Murphy in 1980 and Brian Bellows in 1982. .)

As (Jimmy) DeVillano and his senior assistant, Neil Smith, continued into their first season, they focused on three players they thought could be game-changers: Pat Lafontaine, Sylvain Turgeon and Steve Laserman. When the bell rang out in the regular season in May, the Wings sat in 18th place, giving them their first pick in fourth. Once Minnesota Northstars took Brian Lawton with their first overall pick, DeVillano and Smith knew they’d get one of their buddies. La Fontaine was the better choice because he was a Detroit-area prodigy, but when the New Yorkers caught him third, after the Hartford Wheelers took over the Turgeon, Wings took Lizarman.

“I’ve seen Steve a few times, especially in the second half of the season,” Smith said in 2021. “As the season went on, we were getting closer and closer to knowing where we’d land in the draft. He was always Sylvain Turgeon, La Fontaine, and Stevie. We’ve seen each of them a few times. We got an equal rating, but La Fontaine was the local guy.”

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When he arrived in Detroit that summer, local papers included explanations of how to pronounce Yzerman: I-zer-man. But he soon became known as Stevie, then “Captain” – he was honored with a C on his jacket in 1986 when he was 21, making him the youngest in franchise history. Yzerman was calm but played a loud game. He made a living through heart attacks, And when he finally won the Stanley Cup on June 7, 1997At 32, he epitomized the city’s return to glory as he skated in a cup lap, and his vacuum-toothed smile was instant and iconic. Yzerman has won three Stanley Cups by the time he retired in 2006. His No. 19 retired in 2007, won another Cup as a front-office member in 2008, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. Yzerman’s 692 goals, 1,063 assists, 1,755 points, as well as a rating of 184, and 1,514 games are all best in the draft category.

Yzerman alone could have changed the wings, but as the rounds went on, the wings continued to find players who would revive the franchise: Lynne Lambert at 25, Bob Probert at 46, Peter Klima at 86, and Joey. Kocur at number 88.

“We did some really good work, me and the scouts,” Devilano said in 2021. “We did a lot of good scouting, because in the second round we got Lyn Lambert, who played for us two or three years ago. Unfortunately, he had an eye injury and he didn’t progress. Really down to the player we thought he could become.But he was a National Hockey League player.

On top of that, we have two 18-year-olds who in a few years will be the strongest players in the National Hockey League – Round 3, Bob Robert; Round 5 Joey Cukor. They became known as ‘Brothers Brothers.’ And boy, were they strong. And did they Selling a lot of T-shirts. On a later tour, we have another strongman in Stu Grimson [No. 186]. He didn’t play much for us, but he played in the NHL for a long time, and we recruited him – we get credit for him.”

The other shots were defender David Korol in 68th, goalkeeper Chris Posey in 106th, striker Bob Pearson in 126th, defender Craig Putz in 146th, defender Dave Sikorsky in 166, and striker Jeff Frank in 126. 206, And striker Charles Chiato at number 226.

While Yzerman and Klima in particular were drafted for their skills, Devellano was excited about just how huge some of the choices were that year. “You can see with the size of some of these guys that the red wings are not going to be propelled much longer,” he said at the time. In addition to Probert, Kocur and Grimson, Devellano liked Pearson, who was 6-3, and weighed 213 pounds. “I hope to be one of the fools in the future.”

Lambert was expected to go into the first round, and even after the eye injury, he was described as a strong and brave striker who was good at creating scoring opportunities around the net. He appeared in 176 games with the Wings, and was part of the trade that brought in goalkeeper Glen Hanlon of the New York Rangers.

When Wings recruited Probert, he was 6-3, 206-pound, and 18-years-old, and his powerful punches contrasted with the soft hands he showed around the net. He began playing for the team in 1985 and was named to the All-Star Game in 1988. His popularity was phenomenal – fans loved Yzerman but loved Probert. Fight opponents, fight the law – score big goals and get caught for cocaine – and sell T-shirts. He was a mix of bulky, skilled, and tough that hadn’t been seen in the Wings uniform since Jordi Howe’s retirement. The Wings caught Robert through multiple arrests, and kept him even as he broke the curfew and went out to drink the night before Game Five of the 1988 Conference Finals. It wasn’t until Robert’s play was rejected – and he was arrested for drunk driving again – that the Wings snapped Wings ties him up in 1994. But fans still love him and chant, “Pro-bie! Pro-Bye!” when he appeared at the Number Yzerman retirement party in 2007. Probert earned 259 points in the Wings costume as second in the draft category. 2,090 penalty minutes leads the class.

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Devilano said in 2021: “He was a good player. He could score 20 goals, he was as tough as his nails. He could play Steve Laserman, he could protect him. He gave you that in flashes. You just don’t get rid of a guy of that caliber — it’s hard.” So we tried to deal with it. We put him in rehab. We invited psychologists to work with him. We tried everything. But Bob’s addiction was too strong. If I had to do it again, I might not be forgiving.

“Every time he got caught, he would come back and play, and guess what would happen at the Joe Louis Arena? He would get a standing ovation. It would go on and on. And I was sitting in the stands, the names on the back of the shirts were Yzerman – he was No. 1 – and Probert was ranked the second ”

Probert played with Yzerman, fought with Kocur, and drank with Klima. Klima was a bold choice: He was a talented player, but he was stuck behind the Iron Curtain, and in 1983 he made it so uncertain that the wings would get him. It took Klima to ditch the Czechoslovak national team during a training exercise in West Germany in 1985 and defect to Detroit. Ed Mays, the Attorney General of the United States, helped him in his immigrant status. On opening night at the Joe Louis Arena in October 1985, Klima was given a standing ovation by fans for five minutes. Klima was a charismatic player, scoring 32 goals in his rookie year, 30 in his sophomore year, and 37 in 1987-88. But with him there were also many problems outside the ice: he was arrested three times for drunk driving, And Klima was drinking with Probert at the Goose Loonies nightclub in 1988, during the playoff series against Edmonton Oilers.. In November 1989, Clima was part of the trade that brought Jimmy Carson to Detroit. Clima 223 points with the wings is third in the Draft category.

“We went out of the box and took a very skilled and skilled player, a player that my scouts assured me would be a National Hockey League player, in Peter Clima,” said Devilano. “He has become a very skilled player.”

Kojor’s contributions in the 1980s were a foretaste – he and Robert gave wings to a powerful tandem of law enforcers. When Kocur was traded to Rangers in March 1991 (as Neil Smith was the general manager at the time), Kocur had 111 points in 399 games – and 1,714 penalty minutes.

(In January 1997, The Wings brought Kocur back, and he signed him after he was playing for the Alumni and in the Over-40 League. The Wings needed someone to stop opponents from taking cheap shots of their stars, and Kocur had great fitness. Winning the Stanley Cup and playing until 1999.)

The 1983 draft changed wings. Yzerman led the team to the playoffs in its first year, and Probert, Klima and Kocur quickly restored the franchise’s good name. They made the Wings a better team in the ’80s – not the Stanley Cup team, but mostly, the play-off team. The draft class enabled these wings to win a few playoff rounds, to sell tickets, to fill out the Joe Louis Arena. It has taken them from really bad to really competitive, and from unwatchable to entertaining. The change began when Ilic bought the team and when he hired Devilano. But it was Wasserman, Robert, Clima, and Cukor who buried the dead wings.

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