The “5” Legends to Retire in Detroit

May 31, 2012


Today is a day of celebration and sadness for Red Wings fans, and Detroiters as the city says goodbye to their 20-year veteran, and captain Nicklas Lidstrom. These things are never easy for fans, especially when the player retiring transcended greatness on and off the field. It’s hard to connect the fact that you will never see that player in competition ever again. But nevertheless it is the fact of life, and no matter how cliché it may seem: all good things must come to an end.

The city of Detroit has been fortunate enough throughout the years to have some of the greatest athletes in their respective careers call Detroit their home. When they go it is always bittersweet, and today not only should we honor Lidstrom for all he has done for the Red Wings organization, but a few other athletes who are among the legends of not only Detroit, but in sports period.

These athletes numbers will never be worn again in Detroit by their respective teams, and for good reason; someone may come around to match their legacies, but no one will ever replace it.

In honor of number 5, here is a list of the 5 most gifted athletes to ever retire in a Detroit jersey.

 Nicklas Lidstrom:

Mr. Perfect, Nicklas Lidstrom.

When Steve Yzerman retired from the Wings in 2006, he left behind a legacy that for most would be impossible to replace. However, “Mr.Perfect” is not most people. His installment at captain was the only suitable replacement for Stevie Y.

If it had not been for Yzerman’s career in Detroit, it’s easy to say that Lidstrom would have been captain all along. His accolades alone make him one of the greatest, if not the greatest defensemen of all-time.

His cool, calm, collective attitude made him a role model for fellow teammates, and as the leader of the Red Wings he lead the team to their 11th championship in 2008.

As is the case with most Hockey players they let their game do the talking, and in his 20-year tenure with the Wings his game spoke magnitudes to not only Detroit, but the NHL in general.

When he made his announcement official today, hockey said goodbye to one of its living legends. A sure hall-of-famer, and someone that we can tell our kids and our kids’ kids what a treat it was to watch him take the ice.

 Barry Sanders:

One of the greatests to ever play the game.

The Lions until recently have always been the doormat of the NFL. The has often been laced with players that ranged from mediocre to flat out flops (Andre Ware). However there is one jersey can wear in Detroit and everyone knows the greatness of it; and that is Barry Sander’s number 20

While Emmitt Smith is the NFL’s all-time rushing leader with 18,355 yards, it is very debatable that Barry would of had that record had his career lasted longer.

But instead of dragging out his playing days he decided to call it quits before the days of becoming a back-up tainted his glorious career.

His legacy includes, but is not limited to: 3rd All-time in NFL rushing yards, behind Walter Payton and Smith, Detroit Lions All-Time rushing leader (a record that will never be broken) and a 2,000 yard season; only 6 players can attest to doing so.

Isiah Thomas: 

Zeke with one of his many battles against Magic Johnson and the Lakers

If you go back about to the late 80’s- early 90’s it was about three teams in the NBA; The Lakers, The Celtics and The Pistons. Los Angeles had Magic, Boston had Bird, and Detroit had “Zeke”.

Known as the leader of the “Bad Boys” his exciting play, and pure grit made him one of the greatest to ever play the game.

In terms of Piston’s lore he is the greatest to ever wear the red, white, and blue. He holds the teams records in points, steals, games played and assists.

While his post-playing career has been full of ups and downs, mostly downs, there is no dispute that his on-the-court legacy is unmatched by any player in Pistons history.

Al Kaline:

Kaline, like the rest of this list played his entire career in the city of Detroit.

When you think of the greatest players to ever play the game of Baseball you think of the obvious; Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, etc. One name that is always included in that list too is Al Kaline, and the Detroit Tigers were lucky enough to be the team of the living-legend for all of his 22 seasons.

The 18-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winning right fielder was the pinnacle of the position.

The city of Detroit has embraced him so much that the road Cherry Street in Detroit was renamed Kaline Drive. In Comerica Park “Kalines Corner” is named after Mr. Tiger.

Steve Yzerman:

The Captain hoisting one of his 3 Stanley Cup trophies

At the age of 21 he was named the Captain of the Detroit Red Wings, who at that time were not the Red Wings we know and love. Two decades later he helped revitalize the Wings into one of the greatest franchises in all of Sport.

His two decade reign as captain of the wings is the longest in any North American sport. He is what every Red Wing player strives to become in terms of leadership and champion stature.

In 2006 he called it a career, with that he left the NHL with 3 Stanley Cups, 6th all-time in scoring, and the legacy of being amongst the HockeyTown legends. Lidstrom may have been greater in terms of accolades, but there will never be a player as influential to the Red Wings as Stevie Y.

So there it is, the 5 icons of Detroit sports, those who every professional drop of sweat, blood, and tears were in a Detroit uniform; the legends themselves.

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About Stefan Jagot

22-year-old Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts Major at Central Michigan University. The jack of all trades for

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4 Comments on “The “5” Legends to Retire in Detroit”

  1. Michael Gazdik Says:

    Speaking of Mr. Hockey, he showed up at my soon-to-be roommate’s graduation party. Think of the surprise on my face. (His grandfather and Gordie are best friends) But hell, Detroit’s been gifted with amazing athletes with hearts of gold.


  2. Josh Sund Says:

    I gotta agree with your top 5, but it’s kind of hard to exclude Gordie Howe, so let’s give him number 6 (he technically played for the Vipers so he’s retired from Detroit!) It’s hard to believe that Lidstrom is gone, he’s been a Wing for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Best defenseman ever.


  3. Stefan Jagot Says:

    Definitely, we are lucky enough again to be in an era in which there is so much potential for greatness. Time will be the judge of it though.


  4. Michael Gazdik Says:

    Nicely done, sir. While it will be impossible to reconstruct anything that any of these men have done for this city and their franchises, I wonder who will be the next guy to retire on such a note. We certainly are blessed with many possible candidates at this time: Pavel, Calvin, Matthew, Justin, Miguel and Prince all come to mind.


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