This morning as I was talking to my friend about the passing of Mike Ilitch, he told me how he had overheard someone say that he was selfish because he named the new arena Little Caesar’s Arena and how Ilitch never actually cared about the city of Detroit. Excuse me? Mike Ilitch was selfish? Really? I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I think of Ilitch, I think of how he restored two sport franchises which helped start the rebuilding of Detroit. Ilitch was anything but selfish. Ilitch helped to restore the city of Detroit to its former glory and his legacy will live on forever.
When Mike Ilitch bought the Red Wings in 1982, the team was merely boys among men. Ilitch helped to turn around the entire franchise to what we know and love today. In 1991, the Red Wings began their historic streak of 25 straight playoff appearances, and counting. In 1997, the franchise won their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. Ilitch had finally brought the winning culture back to Detroit.
Ilitch not only turned around the Red Wings, but the Tigers as well. Ilitch bought the Tigers in 1992 and over a span of 15 years he turned them from pretenders to contenders. While the Tigers have not been able to get over the hump and win a World Series yet, Ilitch made them into winners. Over the last decade, the Tigers have won four division titles and have two World Series appearances which is incredible considering the state the team was in when he bought them.
You can see just how much Ilitch meant to the players in his organizations and how much they cared about him:
Ilitch loved Detroit and saw it as a challenge to help fix the city. Well Mr. Ilitch, you succeeded. Detroit is a better place and we have Ilitch to thank for it. Ilitch was not afraid of adversity and it definitely shows. Turning two sinking sport franchises around is amazing and all, but let’s not forget what else Ilitch did for the city of Detroit. From the Fox Theater to his charity foundations, Ilitch turned Detroit around and that, to me, is more impressive than fixing two franchises. Ilitch Charites (http://www.ilitchcharities.org/Home.aspx) which was founded in 2005 has done so much to give back to the Detroit community. Ilitch Charities as described on their homepage is a “non-profit organization that invests in our community’s future by supporting innovative, collaborative and measurable programs in the areas of community development, human services, education and recreation through contributions from the Ilitch companies, their colleagues and the generosity of others.” That right there shows how selfless Mike Ilitch really was. He wanted to help the community and give back what he could.
Mike Ilitch meant more to Detroit than just owning a couple of sport franchise. Ilitch was a great man will be remembered as such. He helped to turn the entire community of Detroit around. He saved two sinking franchises and created charities to give back to those less fortunate. Ilitch helped to restore the city of Detroit to its former glory. That, to me, is a legacy that will never be forgotten.