Greatest streaks in Detroit sports history

Dutch Reibel, Ted Lindsay, and Alex Delvecchio celebrate a victory during the 1954-1955 season.

On Tuesday night the Detroit Red Wings will try to do something that no other team has ever done in the National Hockey League: win 21 straight games on their home ice.

Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock says of the streak: “Any time you can win 20 games in a row, you’ve done something. That’s just the facts. My first year here, I don’t know how many games we won, we never did it. Scotty (Bowman’s) team here won 62 games, they never did it. So obviously, it’s very difficult to do, and we feel fortunate that we’ve done it, because we needed the points.”

The Wings will face off against the Dallas Stars at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night to try to set the NHL record and make more Red Wings  history. But just how great is the streak when compared to others in Detroit sports history? Here are other great streaks put together by teams (and one notable individual athlete) from Motown.

1984 Detroit Tigers, 17 in a row on the road
The ’84 Tigers charged out of the gate like no other team ever has, probably in any professional sport. Sparky Anderson’s club won their first nine, 18 of their first 20, 26 of their first 30, and 35 of their first 40. From the start of the season, the Tigers won a major league record 17 consecutive games away from Detroit. The streak included sweeps at Minnesota, Chicago, Texas, Cleveland, Kansas City, and California. Finally, on May 25 in Seattle, the Tigers were defeated 7-3 by the Mariners, ending their amazing streak of winning on the road. Their record at home during their streak was an equally impressive 18-5.

1989-1990 Detroit Pistons, 13 straight wins, 25 of 26
The reigning NBA Champions got off to a lukewarm start in 1989, at one point their record was a rather ordinary 13-10. But by mid-December they started to heat up, and on January 23, 1990, they rolled into Chicago in a tie with the Bulls for first place in the Central Division. Against Michael Jordan and their rivals, the Pistons used a balanced attack (eight players with 8+ points) to win going away down the stretch, 107-95. Three days later they beat the Suns in Detroit, and the next night they ground out a 85-83 win over the Timberwolves in Minnesota. Starting with that victory over the Bulls, Detroit rolled off 13 straight victories, a franchise record. On February 23, a month after their streak had started, Detroit lost in Atlanta to the Hawks. But two nights later in Madison Square Garden they punished the Knicks with Joe Dumars scoring 30 points. They won 11 more in a row before losing. They had won 25 of 26, improving their record to 51-15 and establishing a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference. In June they would win their second straight NBA title.

1934 Detroit Lions, 10 consecutive wins to start tenure in Motor City
When the Portsmouth Spartans relocated to Detroit to become the Lions in 1934 there were modest expectations for the new NFL team in the Motor City. The roster had some talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but no one expected the new Lions to contend for a title. Instead, the Detroit club roared to 10 wins to start the season in their new city, fueled by that stingy defense. The Lions didn’t allow an opponent to score a point until week #8, racking up shutouts by scores of 9-0, 6-0, 3-0, 10-0, 24-0, 28-0, and 38-0. In the 10 wins to start the season, they outscored their opponents 215 to 27. On Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, they lost to the Green Bay Packers in a bitter contest that ended with the score 3-0. The Lions would lose the next week to Chicago, 19-16, and the Bears beat them again for the NFL title the following week, 10-7. The 10 straight wins remain a Lions record. The following year, the Lions won the NFL title, making Detroit the City of Champions, with the Tigers and Red Wings also winning titles for those seasons.

1954-1955 Detroit Red Wings, 15 straight including Stanley Cup playoffs
These were the defending Stanley Cup champions, featuring perhaps the greatest ensemble cast in Red Wings’ history: Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsay, Marcel Pronovost, Alex Delvecchio, and goalie Terry Sawchuk. Second-year center Dutch Reibel actually led the team in scoring. The Wings were a very balanced and powerful team. They won their last nine games of the regular season and then swept the Maple Leafs in the semi-finals. Facing the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals, Detroit won the first two games handily at Olympia Stadium to give them 15 consecutive victories. During the streak, Gordie and Gang outscored their opponents by a margin of 66-23. The Canadiens snapped Detroit’s streak in Game Three, but the Wings eventually won the Cup in seven games.

Joe Louis, 25 consecutive successful title defenses
“The Brown Bomber” had the longest uninterrupted title reign and the most successful title defenses in heavyweight history. From June of 1937 through June of 1948, Louis defended his title an amazing 25 times without a loss. Of those 25 successful defenses, 21 were won by knockout, and 17 of those were ten counts. Five of his knockouts occurred in the first round! Louis also knocked out six men who had previously held the Heavyweight Championship of the world. From 1934 to 1949, when he first retired as champion, his record was 60-1 with 51 knockouts. He held the Heavyweight Championship for a record of nearly 12 years. One of his sparring partners said of Louis: “As he comes toward you, he seems to get smaller the closer he comes and then, he explodes at you. When he hits you, you think you’ve been shot, and if he hits you right, you think you’re dead.”

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a web producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @thedanholmes or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.