Friday, September 18, 2015

Detroit Red Wings (NHL, 1970-71)

1970-71 Regular Season--Red Wings v.s Minnesota North Stars
     1970-71 was the 44th season of play for the Detroit Red Wings. After making the Stanley Cup Finals four times in the 1960s (losing each time), the franchise collapsed. The Wings missed the playoffs in 1967 and 1968. They rebounded in 1970, but were quickly swept away by Chicago in the first round.
     In 1970-71, the Red Wings were still owned by Bruce Norris, whose family had owned the team since the 1930s. Norris would hire a name that would become infamous in Detroit sports that offseason: Ned Harkness, fresh from the college ranks. Harkness would immediately clash with his players, many of which did not care for his "rah-rah", often profane outbursts behind the bench. Not surprisingly, the Wings got off to a miserable 12-22-4 start. GM Sid Abel, after hearing numerous complaints from the players, approached Norris to see if he had the power to fire Harkness. When Norris said no, Abel resigned in disgust. Norris then promoted Harkness to GM, who then hired ex-Wing Doug Barkley as his replacement behind the bench. Barkley did even worse, as the Wings went 10-23-7 the rest of the way to finish with a 22-45-11 record, dead last in the East Division, 66 points behind league-best Boston. Embarrassingly, the Wings finished behind both new expansion franchises that year! Only the inept California Golden Seals were worse than the Red Wings. The low-point of the season would be a 13-0 annihilation in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada.
     The Red Wings scored the fourth-fewest goals that year, just 209. Tom Webster led the team on offense, scoring 30 goals to go with 67 points. Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio, the last two ties to the franchise's glory years of the 1950s, were the only other Wings to score over 20 goals that year.
     Team defense was a big problem in 1970-71, as the Wings allowed 309 goals, second only to the Golden Seals. Four different goaltenders guarded the Detroit crease that year, with Roy Edwards and Jim Rutherford playing the majority of the games. Edwards went 11-19-7 with a 3.39 GAA in 37 games. Rutherford (a future executive in Carolina), went 7-15-3 in his rookie year, and would go on to a long career in the NHL, the majority of it spent with the Red Wings.
     With a season as forgettable as that, the Wings would obviously miss the playoffs that year. In fact, they would miss the playoffs each year until 1977-78.
     This program is from a January 17, 1971, game against the Minnesota North Stars. This was Gordie Howe's final season with the Wings, and Mr. Hockey graces the cover of the program. Mickey Redmond was just acquired from Montreal for Frank Mahovolich by then, and would go on to be the team's first fifty goal-scorer two seasons later. The North Stars featured Danny Grant, another future 50-goal scorer for the Wings. In net, the Stars featured Cesare Maniago and legendary Gump Worsley, a tandem nicknamed "Mutt and Jeff". Minnesota would skate away with a 2-0 shutout at the Olympia that night.
     This program is 44 pages long, with numerous in-game pictures. There is an article about the 1971 All-Star Game, which was broadcast on Channel 50 that year from Boston. There are also articles about North Stars players Cesare Maniago and Danny Grant, and full-page pictures of Tom Webster and Jude Drouin. Nice muscle car ads in here too, including the '71 Camaro and the '71 Ford Torino Cobra. Local advertisements include Red Pelican Mustard, Stroh's Beer (still a Detroit company back then), Pfeiffer Beer and Stu Evans Lincoln-Mercury.

References:
National Hockey League Statistics: 1970-71 (from hockeydb.com)

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