Maple Leafs’ Shanahan, Babcock saddened by passing of Red Wings owner Illitch

Shanahan, Babcock saddened by Illitch passing

TORONTO — Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock were both visibly saddened Saturday morning by the passing of long-time Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch.

The president and head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs both offered glowing reviews of Illitch from their respective tenures in Detroit, which included three Stanley Cups as a player for Shanahan and one as a head coach for Babcock. 

“He made you want to be a better man,” Babcock said of Illitch who passed away at age 87 in a Detroit hospital on Friday. “He was committed to doing things right and what he touched in business turned to gold. But he had that presence about him that he made you want to be better.”

“He was such a passionate sportsman, but his family always welcomed us,” added Shanahan. “They knew the players. They knew the wives, the girlfriends, the kids. We all got to made feel like we were part of his family.”

Shanahan, who played 716 regular season games with the Wings and another 106 in the playoffs, said Illitch and his wife Marian referred affectionately to players as their “boys”. 

“Sometimes we were 35, 40-years-old but we were still their boys,” Shanahan said.

Babcock said the Illitch family, also owners of the Detroit Tigers, set up an “expectation of success” during his decade-long run as coach of the Wings.

“Some people make you come in earlier,” Babcock said. “They don’t say nothing. They just show up every day and they grind and they make you grind. And that to me was what he was.”

Babcock and Shanahan both credited Illitch and his family for inspiring the ongoing revitalization of Detroit’s downtown, which will include a new arena for the Wings next season.

Shanahan described Illitch as a competitive sort who wouldn’t often venture down to the team’s dressing room at Joe Louis Arena, but when he did players took notice. There was one regular season game against Boston in particular, Shanahan said, when Illitch was particularly driven to beat the Bruins following a board meeting clash with that club’s ownership the previous summer.

“He didn’t have to say a word to us,” Shanahan said. “We knew exactly why he was there. We made sure that we weren’t sleeping through that one.”

“Great, great man,” Babcock said. 

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Kelowna airport advises travellers to plan ahead this holiday season

YLW is expecting more than 100,000 passengers to move through the terminal over next three weeks

SunRype products included in Tim Hortons meal program

The Okanagan fruit and juice producer provides FunBites in the Timmies Minis packs

West Kelowna girl takes aim at Type 1 diabetes

Arielle Findlater took a trip to Parliament to lobby for Type 1 diabetes

Lawrence Nagy ready for new role as Sun GM

The Sun legend aims to bring the basics back to football club

Your morning news in 90: Dec. 12, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Coquihalla closed northbound

Highway 5 is set to reopen after 1 p.m.

Stop ‘renovictions,’ B.C. housing task force says

MLAs call for end to strata bans on renting vacant suites

Enderby florist pick of B.C.’s crop

Crocus Floral Design earns wedding award for second year in a row, also several Okanagan finalists

Man caught on camera allegedly trying to defraud ICBC

Auto-insurer warns B.C. drivers to record info after crashes

Girl, 6, lured from elementary school, sexually assaulted: Vancouver police

Police are seeking dashcam footage from nearby Sexsmith Elementary School in South Vancouver

B.C. Liberals call for outside audit of Speaker’s office, NDP refuses

Auditor General implicated in Darryl Plecas accusations of impropriety

Three victims of ex-ski coach Bertrand Charest suing Alpine Canada

The victims are also seeking $150,000 each in punitive damages

Most Read