Have the Red Wings won a Stanley Cup?

The Detroit Red Wings are one of the most storied franchises in NHL history. They have won 11 Stanley Cup championships, tying them with the Boston Bruins for third most all-time behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. However, Detroit’s last Stanley Cup victory came in 2008, which leads some to wonder if the Red Wings’ glory days are behind them. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Detroit’s championship history and assess whether this proud franchise still has what it takes to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug once again.

Quick Answers

How many Stanley Cups have the Red Wings won?

The Detroit Red Wings have won 11 Stanley Cup championships in their history, tying them with the Boston Bruins for 3rd most in NHL history. Their first came in 1936 and their most recent in 2008.

When was the last time the Red Wings won the Cup?

The Red Wings most recently won the Stanley Cup in 2008, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games. It was their 4th championship in 11 seasons.

Who were the Red Wings’ key players during their championship runs?

Some of the Red Wings’ all-time great players who were key to their Cup wins include Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, and Pavel Datsyuk. Their legendary coach Scotty Bowman also architected 3 of their Cup runs.

Early Championship History (1936-1955)

The Detroit Red Wings burst onto the NHL scene in 1926 as an expansion franchise after previously playing as the Victoria Cougars in the WCHL and PCHA. It didn’t take long for them to find championship glory, raising their first Stanley Cup in 1936 led by legendary players like Ebbie Goodfellow and Herbie Lewis. The Red Wings took home the Cup again in 1937 before the league contracted from 10 teams down to 7.

Detroit emerged as the class of the NHL during this era, appearing in 5 straight Stanley Cup finals from 1941 to 1945 and winning 3 of them. Hall of Fame goalie Johnny Mowers backstopped the Red Wings during the early 1940s alongside stars like Syd Howe, Mud Bruneteau, and Sid Abel.

After losing in the finals in both 1946 and 1947, Detroit captured Stanley Cups in consecutive seasons in 1950 and 1952. The 1952 squad led by the famous “Production Line” of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Sid Abel is considered one of the greatest NHL teams of all-time. Overall, this 20-year stretch from 1936-1955 established the Red Wings as one of the premier franchises in hockey.

Key Facts

  • First Cup win: 1936
  • Cups in Early Era: 5 (1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952)
  • Key Players: Ebbie Goodfellow, Herbie Lewis, Johnny Mowers, Syd Howe, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel

The Gordie Howe Era (1950s-1960s)

Arguably Detroit’s greatest player, Gordie Howe, began his NHL career with the Red Wings in 1946 and went on to lead them to further glory. After winning Cups alongside Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel in the early 1950s, Gordie formed another dynamic duo with center Alex Delvecchio in the late 1950s. This combination led Detroit to back-to-back championships in 1954 and 1955, their first repeat since 1937.

After coming up short in the finals in both 1956 and 1959, the Red Wings rebounded to claim 3 more titles from 1962 to 1964 with Howe leading the way. With his imposing physical presence and tremendous offensive ability, “Mr. Hockey” persisted as the cornerstone player in Detroit for a remarkable 25 seasons. His iconic #9 banner remains in the rafters of Little Caesars Arena today.

While Gordie Howe dominated the era on the ice, the Red Wings also had savvy general manager Jack Adams constructing their Cup-winning rosters behind the scenes. Adams pulled off clever trades and cultivated homegrown talents like Howe and Delvecchio during his 36 years at the helm.

Key Facts

  • Cups in Gordie Howe Era: 5 (1952, 1954, 1955, 1964, 1965)
  • Other Key Players – Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, Ted Lindsay
  • Architect: GM Jack Adams

The Dead Wings Era (1966-1982)

After winning the Stanley Cup in 1965, the Red Wings suffered through a long dry spell, failing to win another championship for over 40 years. With Gordie Howe entering the twilight of his career, Detroit’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in the late 1960s.

One of the lowest points came in the 1969-70 season when the Red Wings finished dead last in the NHL standings. Local media mockingly labeled them the “Dead Wings” during this era of futility. Detroit made the playoffs only twice between 1967 and 1983 as they struggled to rebuild their aging roster.

There were a few bright spots like Marcel Dionne leading the team in scoring and Rogie Vachon providing solid goaltending in the late 1970s. But the Red Wings lacked the star power and depth to truly compete with the NHL’s elite. The 1980s brought more disappointment, with 4 straight division cellar dwellings from 1979 to 1983.

While the Dead Wings era was miserable on the ice, it led to Detroit drafting several cornerstone players like Steve Yzerman, Gerard Gallant, and Petr Klima who laid the foundation for future glory. But it took new innovative ownership and management to steer the ship back in the right direction.

Key Facts

  • Playoff Appearances: 2 (1970, 1978)
  • Last Place Finishes: 8
  • Key Players – Marcel Dionne, Rogie Vachon, Reed Larson

The Yzerman Era Begins (1983-1997)

The tide finally began to turn for the Red Wings in the 1983 offseason when they drafted a promising 18-year-old center named Steve Yzerman. Stevie Y went on to become the longest-tenured captain in NHL history, manning the helm in Detroit for an incredible 20 seasons.

In addition to Yzerman, Detroit added more building blocks with blue-chippers like Petr Klima, Adam Oates, Sergei Fedorov, and Keith Primeau. pairing them with veteran leaders like Gerard Gallant and Brad McCrimmon. But the Red Wings couldn’t get over the hump, consistently falling short of a championship.

The team showed steady improvement in the late 1980s and early 90s, increasing their point totals and making the playoffs each year. But they lost in the first or second round six straight times from 1987 to 1992. After being stymied again by the arch-rival Avalanche in 1996, Detroit knew they needed to take another step to break through.

Help arrived in the form of Scotty Bowman, the most decorated coach in NHL history. Bowman brought a winning pedigree and expertise to get Detroit over the top. Combined with Yzerman entering his prime and young stars like Fedorov and Vladimir Konstantinov, the stage was set for big things.

Key Facts

  • First Playoff Berth Since 1978: 1987
  • First 100+ Point Season: 1987-88
  • Scotty Bowman Hired: 1993

The Dynasty Years (1997-2002)

After years of playoff frustration, the Red Wings finally exorcised their demons in 1997, sweeping the Flyers to capture their first Cup in 42 seasons. It was a cathartic moment led by Yzerman, Fedorov, and goalie Mike Vernon. But even sweeter things awaited in 1998.

Detroit took their play to another level in the late 1990s, capturing back-to-back NHL championships in 1997 and 1998. A perfect blend of veteran leaders like Yzerman and Larionov blended seamlessly with emerging young talents like Shanahan, Fedorov, and Lidstrom. They played a puck possession style that perfectly suited their skilled roster.

The NHL also welcomed Wayne Gretzky and other stars with expansion franchises in warm-weather cities like Dallas, Anaheim, and San Jose. But Detroit coolly dispatched all challengers, cementing themselves as the class of the league during this era.

Despite painful playoff losses in 1999 and 2000, the Red Wings rebounded to hoist the Cup again in 2002, their 3rd championship in 6 seasons. With Bowman and Yzerman at the helm and Hall of Famers like Fedorov and Lidstrom leading the charge, Detroit had clearly built a dynasty.

Key Facts

  • Cups: 3 (1997, 1998, 2002)
  • Key Players – Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Larionov, Shanahan
  • Architect: Coach Scotty Bowman
  • Dynasty Years: 1997-2002

The Salary Cap Era (2005-Present)

When the NHL instituted a salary cap before the 2005-06 season, critics predicted it would cripple big spending teams like the Red Wings. But savvy GM Ken Holland navigated the cap era brilliantly, keeping Detroit in contention.

The Red Wings didn’t miss a beat at first, winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2005-06 with 124 points. Lead by stalwarts Lidstrom and Zetterberg, they continued compiling 100+ point seasons and Central Division titles. The veteran core meshed perfectly with emerging standouts like Datsyuk, filling gaps left by departed stars like Fedorov and Larionov.

Riding the momentum of back-to-back conference titles, the Red Wings captured one last Cup in 2008, cementing the legacy of Lidstrom and the veteran core. They led 3-0 in the hard-fought finals against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins before finally prevailing in six games.

In the years since, Detroit has struggled to regenerate their roster. With Lidstrom retiring and age catching up to Datsyuk and Zetterberg, the Wings have missed the playoffs each of the past 6 seasons. Time will tell if Yzerman in the front office can orchestrate another contender. But the salary cap made sustaining a dynasty nearly impossible.

Key Facts

  • Last Cup: 2008
  • Finals Appearance: 2009
  • Key Players – Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg
  • New GM: Steve Yzerman

Championship Pedigree

Despite the recent playoff drought, the Red Wings undeniably have a championship pedigree unmatched by most NHL franchises. Here are some key facts about their decades of dominance:

  • 11 Stanley Cup Wins – Tied for 3rd Most in NHL History
  • 24 Stanley Cup Finals Appearances – 2nd Most Behind only Montreal
  • Won Cup in 6 Different Decades
  • Back-to-Back Titles in 1936-37, 1949-50, 1954-55, 1997-98
  • Three-Peated from 1991-1993 (as Campbell Conference Champions)
  • Won 62 Playoff Rounds – Tied for Most with Canadiens

Detroit’s 11 championships span the breadth of NHL history. From early heroes like Ebbie Goodfellow and Syd Howe to icons like Gordie and Yzerman, the winged wheel has been a symbol of sustained excellence.

Outlook for the Future

Despite going over a decade removed from their last championship, don’t count out the Red Wings yet. Here are some reasons why fans can remain optimistic about Detroit hoisting the Cup again someday:

  • Strong Young Core – Larkin, Bertuzzi, Raymond, Seider look like keepers
  • Solid Farm System – Prospects Edvinsson, Berggren, Mazur, Cossa
  • Cap Space – Will have flexibility to be active on free agent market
  • Patient Approach – Yzerman knows path back to contention takes time
  • Hungry Fan Base – Passionate hockey fans in Detroit craving another Cup

It certainly won’t be easy getting past juggernauts like Colorado and Tampa Bay in the years ahead. But with Yzerman at the helm and promising youth on the roster, the future remains bright for the Red Wings. Detroit has the resources and pedigree to build another contender if their cards are played right. After a decade in the wilderness, Hockeytown is ready to spread its wings and soar once more.


The Detroit Red Wings are undoubtedly one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports, never mind just the NHL. With 11 Stanley Cups and over 90 years of history, they have built a championship legacy rivaled by few.

After finally breaking through in the mid-90s, Detroit dominated the late 90s and early 2000s, cementing their dynasty credentials. The back-to-back Cups and three rings in six years perfectly bookended the Yzerman era.

Today’s Red Wings have struggled to match that sustained run of excellence in a salary cap world. But with young talents emerging and Yzerman in charge, Detroit’s best days may still lie ahead. When that next championship banner rises to the rafters of Little Caesars Arena, Red Wings fans can look back on decades of glory and moments that defined Hockeytown.

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