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Ilitch restored Red Wings to championship flights, took Tigers to World Series

Feb 13, 2017

The city of Detroit lost one of its business icons when Mike Ilitch passed away. Many people know him for being the founder of Little Caesars Pizza, but most know him as the owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings.

Michigan Sports Hall of Famer Ray Lane began covering sports in Detroit starting in 1961 and was there when Ilitch bought the Red Wings in 1982 (for $8 million!), and later the Tigers in 1992. Lane joined Stateside to look back at the sports side of Ilitch's legacy.

Lane has seen a lot of players, coaches, owners and executives come and go since the early 1960s, but where does he rank Mike Ilitch in Detroit sports?

Lane said he is "number one."

"He turned both [the Red Wings and the Tigers] around with his leadership and certainly with championship teams also, but Mike was a hands-on owner with both of those franchises," said Lane. "[With] getting the crowds back into the stadiums and the arenas, Mike did a great job."

According to Lane, Ilitch was more of a baseball guy than a hockey guy, but over the years, he grew to love the sport of hockey.

Certainly the Red Wings winning three Stanley Cups under his watch helped that love blossom, but the one thing that always eluded Ilitch was that World Series title. Ilitch spent hundreds of millions of dollars on players to make the Tigers a contender and they nearly won that trophy for him, falling short in the 2006 and 2012 World Series.  

Listen to the full interview above to hear why Ilitch was a "players' owner" and how his off-the-field work helped lay the foundation for turning around the Tigers and the Red Wings.

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