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John U. Bacon

This is the Season of Our Discontent. Or it would be, if you attached your happiness to Detroit’s professional sports teams.

Let’s start with the Pistons.

When Bill Davidson bought the team in 1974, the Pistons were bad and getting worse. But Davidson patiently rebuilt the team with the right leaders, and won two NBA titles. Then he hired new leaders, and did it all again, and won another NBA title in 2004. Along the way, they won nine division titles.

Screen grab / "The Russian Five"

The Freep Film Festival opens on Wednesday with a documentary that takes us right into the heart of one of the most compelling stories in sports history anywhere: how the players who became known as the Russian Five came to the Detroit Red Wings and helped power the team to back-to-back Stanley Cups.

The Russian Five is the first feature-length documentary from Port Huron’s Joshua Riehl. It's getting its world premiere this Wednesday night at a sold-out event in Detroit.

aerial view of little caesars arena
Tony Brown

 


 

John U. Bacon, Michigan Radio sports commentator, joined Stateside today to discuss what the Red Wings should expect in the draft lottery, what the main difference was between watching the Frozen Four and Red Wings games, and why the Pistons have "stalled."

 

TONY BROWN / MICHIGAN RADIO

Between a wild weekend with the Red Wings and coaching change-ups at the Lions, there’s a lot going on in the world of Michigan sports.

John U. Bacon, Michigan Radio’s sports commentator, joined Stateside to talk about the week’s news.

Cynthia Lambert
Cynthia Lambert

Cynthia Lambert had the title many others dream of: sports reporter. She worked for the Detroit News covering the Red Wings for 12 seasons, including their Stanley Cup wins in 1997 and 1998.

Now she’s taken those seasons of sports reporting and packed them into her new memoir Power Play: My Life Inside The Red Wings Locker Room.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Carrie Lu / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 

 

We’ve had some listeners reach out on twitter to put in a request: talk some hockey!

We aim to please, and the timing is perfect — it’s the mid-season mark.

 

John U. Bacon, Michigan Radio sports commentator, joined Stateside to give us an update on all things hockey, with a side of basketball and football.

John U. Bacon

Time to look back on 2017 – but we’ll spare you the serious stuff and stick to sports.

Even in sports, alas, Michiganders waded through a lot of bad news, starting with the passing of Mike Ilitch. He and his wife Marion opened their first Little Caesar’s Pizza Treat in Garden City, Michigan, in 1959. Twenty years later they had built an empire big enough to support a kid’s hockey league that produced NHL players.

By 1982, they bought the long-dormant Detroit Red Wings, drafted a kid named Steve Yzerman, and started a two-decade dynasty that won four Stanley Cups.

Keith Allison / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

To sum up the year in sports, Michigan Radio’s sports commentator John U. Bacon said this: “If you like mediocrity, I mean really like it, Motown is the place for you.”

He sat down with Stateside host Cynthia Canty to explain.

Courtesy of the Howe Family

Imagine being a little kid, driving home late at night with your dad.

You drop off to sleep, more or less, but you're awake enough to feel your dad scoop you up, carry you into the house, and gently tuck you into bed.

Now imagine that dad is NHL legend Gordie Howe, and he's tucking you in just a short time after he thrilled thousands of Detroit Red Wings fans cheering for Mr. Hockey at Olympia Stadium.

An aerial view of Little Caesar's Arena.
Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and others joined the Ilitch family to cut the ribbon on the new Little Caesar’s Arena complex on Tuesday.

Both the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will play home games there within weeks.

The arena is touted as the anchor of the new “District Detroit,” a 50-block redevelopment project just north of downtown Detroit that also includes new housing and retail.

Craig Stanley / NBC News

White supremacist groups gathered in Charlottesville over the weekend, sparking violence and national outrage. Participants carried torches, guns, and Confederate and Nazi symbols, as white supremacists are wont to do, but some were also seen carrying shields adorned with… the Detroit Red Wings logo.

Little Caesars Area being built in June of 2016.
Rick Briggs / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Let me start out by saying that Robert Davis, usually referred to as a Highland Park activist, is a man easy to despise. He has won a reputation as a gadfly who is constantly filing lawsuits demanding transparency in government and attacking corruption.

Some see him as a crusading knight in shining armor and others as a relentless self-promoter trying to make a name and have us forget his past.

Little Caesars Arena Construction site in downtown, with a Pistons banner
Tyler Scott / Michigan Radio

A federal lawsuit seeks to block some public funding of Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and a new Detroit Pistons headquarters without a vote from city residents.

The lawsuit Thursday says Michigan law prohibits spending school property tax revenue on the projects because a tax voters approved in 2012 was to be used exclusively for Detroit's public schools.

Some NHL players, like Alex Ovechkin, have said they plan to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, despite the league announcing it won't send its players to compete.
Jennifer Griggs / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It was recently announced that the National Hockey League (NHL) will not be sending its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The last time NHL players weren't included in the Olympic hockey tournament was in 1998. After nearly two decades, that is expected to come to a close next year when the Winter Games are hosted in Seoul, South Korea.

Empty classroom
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Hundreds of Detroit parents angered by school closure threats are having their kids opt out of the state's M-STEP test. They say the standardized tests are used to justify closures. 

Joe Louis Arena during its final season
Cynthia Canty / Michigan Radio

It is the end of multiple eras for sports fans in Michigan and specifically metro Detroit. Last night, the Detroit Red Wings played their final game at Joe Louis Arena, a place they have called home since 1979.

Tonight, the Detroit Pistons will play their last home game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, an arena where they've played since 1988.

Mark Goebel / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The longest playoff streak in the NHL officially came to an end last night after the Red Wings lost to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Detroit's playoff streak was the longest run of all four major league sports. In that time, the Wings won four Stanley Cups and six President's Cups.

The last time the Red Wings were not in the playoffs, George H.W. Bush was president, the reunification of Germany was underway, and "The Simpsons" had just aired for the first time.

Kris Draper played 17 seasons and won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.
Dinur / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's been called "Brawl in Hockeytown." Some call it "Fight Night at the Joe."

On March 26, 1997, Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings punched, then kept on punching, Claude Lemieux of the Colorado Avalanche.

The reason for that fight happened 301 days earlier in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals when Lemieux hit Wings center Kris Draper from behind, sending Draper face-first into the bench and smashing his face (see video below). He suffered a broken orbital bone, a broken cheekbone, a broken nose, a broken jaw and a concussion. 

The 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings pose for a group photo on the ice of the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
Michael Righi / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

For the first time since 1990, the Detroit Red Wings might not go to the NHL playoffs.

John U. Bacon spoke to Stateside about the Red Wings' playoff chances and his predictions for Michigan’s college basketball teams going into March Madness.

Mark Goebel / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In all the four major sports, no team has had a longer streak of consecutive playoff appearances than the Detroit Red Wings.

The last 25 years, Red Wings fans have enjoyed playoff hockey in the spring, but that could be coming to an end.

Little Caesars Arena under construction in June 2016.
Rick Briggs / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

For many Detroit Tigers fans, the demolition of Tiger Stadium remains a source of anger.
Michael Kumm / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Mike Ilitch certainly left his mark on downtown Detroit, beginning with the major renovation of the Fox Theatre in 1988 and continuing to this day with the ongoing construction of Little Caesars Arena for the Red Wings and the Pistons.

There are those who found a lot to criticize in the way the Ilitch family acquired downtown property, maintained that property, and financed its arenas.

Michigan Radio's senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry joined Stateside to talk about Ilitch's legacy when it comes to the business side of his life and what he did for the city of Detroit.

Did the sun set on the Lions' playoff hopes at MetLife Stadium on Sunday?
Gabriel Argudo Jr / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

There were plenty of missed opportunities, but in the end, the Detroit Lions fell short against the New York Giants on Sunday. They lost 17-6 and while they are still sitting in first place in the NFC North division with two games to play, they have a tough task ahead of them.

Watch highlights of the Lions at the Giants below:

tyler scott / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The return of professional basketball to downtown Detroit adds another piece to the city's fast-paced economic rebound two years out of bankruptcy, but some say all neighborhoods have to share in the turnaround.

The Pistons are expected to start next season at Little Caesars Arena, which is the centerpiece of a coming 50-block entertainment district in a part of downtown that's already nearly at capacity with new residents and new businesses.

Michigan is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country heading into next weekend's rivalry game in East Lansing against Michigan State.
Flickr user Anthony Gattine/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

One thing that college football fans love about the sport is that you never really know what's going to happen from week to week. It's tough to predict, and there are a number of interesting stories happening across the Michigan sports landscape that very few people saw coming. 

Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon admits that he knew Michigan would be good under Jim Harbaugh, but not this good this quickly. He knew Michigan State would have a down year (by their standards), but not bad enough to have their first five-game losing streak in 25 years. He knew Western Michigan would be good, but not good enough to be 8-0 and ranked in the Top 20 for the first time in school history.

Little Caesars Arena under construction in June 2016.
Rick Briggs / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit officials say an estimated half-million dollars in fines have been levied on contractors working on the new Red Wings arena because the companies haven't hired enough Detroit residents.

Little Caesars Arena's developer, Olympia Development of Michigan, is required to ensure at least 51% of the workers live in Detroit.

Steven Depolo / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

It was a full weekend of sports across the state of Michigan, headlined by the Wolverines and the Spartans hosting games in their respective home stadiums. Michigan, which remains ranked No. 4 in the nation, flexed its muscles with a 49-10 blowout of Penn State. Meanwhile, in East Lansing, it was a battle between two Big Ten teams ranked in the top ten. However, Michigan State suffered a rare one-sided loss, 30-6, to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Michigan Radio's sports commentator John U. Bacon provides a round-up of everything Michigan sports.
Flickr user Michael Righi / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Although it’s the offseason for most major American sports, there’s still plenty of action in the sports world. Michigan sports has seen some important moves in both professional and collegiate athletics.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined Stateside to explain all the recent moves.

 

A tribute wall for Gordie Howe outside Joe Louis Arena.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Red Wings fans and former hockey greats alike lined up at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday to pay their last respects to Gordie Howe.

The legendary player known as Mr. Hockey died last week at age 88.

Howe’s family and the Red Wings organized a day-long public visitation for him from 9 am-9 pm, honoring his iconic number.

Howe’s pro hockey career spanned five decades, making him one of the most durable and greatest players of all time. He spent most of that career with the Red Wings, leading the team to four Stanley Cup championships during the 1950s.

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