Red Wings affiliates

Reg Noble in the uniform of the Detroit Falcons alongside the Cougars'
jersey of 1928-29 and an early version of the crest with the winged wheel.

The Detroit Hockey Club Incorporated was granted an NHL franchise on 25 September 1926 when the Victoria Cougars of the Western Canadian Hockey League was bought by local businessmen and reborn as Detroit Cougars. In 1930, in an attempt to change the team's fortunes, the name was changed to Detroit Falcons. On 5 October 1932, grain broker James Norris from Chicago bought the team and renamed it Detroit Red Wings after the Winged Wheelers, a team Norris played for in Montreal during his youth. Norris decided that a version of their logo was perfect for a team playing in the Motor City.

When Jack Adams left the Detroit Red Wings in 1962, he had been serving the club as coach and General Manager for 35 years. He was an innovator, developing the hockey farm system and building winning teams. The names of the farm teams often alluded to flying (like the Red Wings), for example Pittsburgh Hornets and Edmonton Flyers. Also, they often sported colours, uniforms and logos similar to the mother team in NHL, so the winged lion of London followed an old tradition.

Norm Beaudin (right) in the uniform of Detroit's farm team Indianapolis Capitols

The winged cotton boll of the Memphis Wings
Future London Lion Rick McCann made his pro debut with Detroit-affiliate Memphis Wings in the Central Hockey League in 1966-67. The club had been based in Memphis since 1964-65, when the Cincinnati Wings were moved due to an inexperienced club and small crowds. In 1965, Memphis dropped the original winged wheel of Detroit and replaced it with a winged cotton boll. Detroit moved the team (including Rick McCann) to Fort Worth for the 1967-68 season. Doug Barkley coached the Fort Worth Wings during two seasons (1969-71) with Bob Lemieux as General Manager. Lemieux took over as coach in 1971-72.

In 1972-73 Doug Barkley went to Norfolk, Virginia, to coach Detroit's new AHL-affiliate. The Tidewater region in Virginia consists of low lying swamps, wide rivers and deep water harbours, defined by tidal rivers like the James, York and Potomac that flow from the Chesapeake Bay into the interior of the state. Thus, Detroit originally named their affiliate the Tidewater (Red) Wings but the name was changed to Virginia (Red) Wings when Barkley joined. The Red Wings had given Al Coates the job of launching their Norfolk franchise as its business manager and future Lions Ron Simpson, Brian Watts, Brian McCutcheon, Rick Newell and Rick McCann were among the players. When Barkley and Coates went to London to run the Lions, Bob Lemieux coached Virginia Wings. In 1974-75, Barkley was back alongside fifteen of the former Lions. When Detroit folded the team after the 1974-75 season, Al Coates put together a local ownership group to save the Norfolk franchise and the remains of London Lions. He got league approval only to have his investors back out, so he returned to the Detroit-organization.

The winged K of the Kalamazoo Wings
In the IHL, Detroit ran the Port Huron Wings from 1971-74. Port Huron was also the site of Detroit's training camp. In 1974, the franchise was moved to become Kalamazoo Wings. Bob Lemieux coached the team until 1977. This club has survived long after Detroit left. It played in the IHL until 1995 - part of the time as Michigan K-Wings - and then joined the UHL, where they still play. Perhaps a bit exhausted by the London Lions-adventure, Detroit were absent from both AHL and CHL in 1975-77. For the 1975-76 season they shared their AHL-interests with other clubs in New Haven Nighthawks (with five of the former London Lions including stallwarts McCann-McCutcheon-Watts) and from 1977 'til 1979 they returned to the CHL by running Kansas City Red Wings.

When goalie Jim Rutherford were re-acquired by Detroit from Pittsburgh on 18 January 1974, Rutherford decided to have his blue Penguin mask re-painted. One of Detroit's first games after the trade was in Toronto, home of goalie-mask designer Greg Harrison. Rutherford told him to paint the mask white but Harrison had other ideas. The re-painted mask WAS white but it also had red wings painted over each eye, using the eye holes in the mask as wheels. Initially Rutherford didn't like the mask but he wore it and everybody loved it. Rutherford starred in a 2-2 tie with the Leafs and being the superstitious sort, Rutherford continued to use it as he didn't want to alter a successful formula. And - reputedly - after this the goalie mask as art was here to stay. From 1970 to 1983, Rutherford played 457 games in the NHL for Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Los Angeles. During his career, he also played with winged farm teams in Hamilton, Fort Worth, New Haven and Adirondack.

Jim Rutherford and an alternate way of using the Red Wings

The winged J of the Johnstown (Red) Wings
During the 80s and 90s, Detroit's primary affiliate was Adirondack Red Wings, based in Glen Falls, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains area not far from Lake Placid. Adirondack was part of the American Hockey League 1979-99 and Dennis Polonich played for the club 1980-85. In 1978-80, the EHL-team Johnstown Wings (later Johnstown Red Wings) in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, developed a secondary affiliation with Detroit as a farm team of the Adirondack Red Wings.

Over the years, Detroit also sponsored junior amateur teams like Hamilton Red Wings, which was part of the Ontario Hockey Association 1963-74. Future London Lion Brian Watts played for the club in 1964-66. Detroit's sponsorship ended in the late 1960's, but the name remained until 1974. Kelowna Wings joined the WHL in 1982 as an expansion team. Kelowna's location in Canada's leading fruit district in British Columbia was reflected by their unique version of Detroit's winged wheel. The team relocated in 1985 to become the Spokane Chiefs.

The winged apple of the Kelowna Wings

Swede Niklas Kronwall in the Grand Rapids Griffins

The griffin of Grand Rapids

The present primary affiliate of Detroit is Michigan-based Grand Rapids Griffins. They played in the IHL from 1996 until the league folded in 2001, and then joined the AHL. A legendary Griffin very neatly sums up the various logos and names used within the Detroit Red Wings-organization over the years, being a creature with head, beak and (Red) Wings of a (Detroit) Falcon and the body of a large feline like a Cougar (of Detroit) or a Lion (of London). The Griffins usually play in blue, white and red uniforms. However, at times they've also sported versions with the typical Red Wings-design, making them look almost like the London Lions...