Tuesday, 27 June, 2017

Red Wings pay tribute to Mike Ilitch at Joe Louis Arena

Kristopher Love | 17 February, 2017, 01:40

Ilitch took over the Red Wings during a relatively dark time in their franchise's history. The founder of Little Caesars, Ilitch owned the Detroit Tigers baseball team as well and was considered one of the more charitable souls in the Detroit area. When she was beaten and robbed in 1994 Judge Daman Keith called on the community to raise money to help her move to another neighborhood.

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.

As part of his long-term plan, Ilitch also spearheaded the so-called District Detroit project, a $1.2 billion swansong that aims to revitalise large swathes of vacant land with office, retail and residential spaces. You just realize how many lives Mr. Ilitch touched and what he did for this city.

On May 8, 1959, Little Caesars Pizza was founded by Mike Ilitch in a strip mall near Detroit, Michigan. I worked at a Little Caesars in Thunder Bay.

Although the Sports Business Daily reported Ilitch's generosity while he was still alive in 2014, the news didn't widely circulate until his death on February 10, 2017. He was instrumental in funding and building the new Red Wings arena, which opens to start the 2017-18 National Hockey League season. The Red Wings sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 54 points, seven behind the second wild-card spot with 26 regular-season games remaining.

"We have some good ones there and not so much just wins or losses, but I've played on two teams that have had some pretty historical rivalries against the Red Wings", said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, including the Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted him, in that group.

Ilitch read about Keith's effort in a newspaper. To aid in this venture the federal government has poured in hundreds of millions in funds for so-called blight removal and the wholesale destruction of housing in Detroit, in the process clearing out poorer residents to make way for upscale redevelopment. He remembers Ilitch as a down-to-earth and kind man. The rise of Detroit's casino industry paralleled the collapse of the auto industry and has been used to finance the city's debt to wealthy bondholders. The family will honor Ilitch at a private funeral service. I thought the third period was one of Larks' best periods.

Mike Ilitch is behind charity work around the nation, but his heart is in Detroit.