Maple Leafs’ Shana­han, Bab­cock sad­dened by pass­ing of Red Wings owner Il­litch

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JONAS SIEGEL

Bren­dan Shana­han and Mike Bab­cock were both vis­i­bly sad­dened Satur­day morn­ing by the pass­ing of long-time Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Il­litch.

The pres­i­dent and head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs both of­fered glow­ing re­views of Il­litch from their re­spec­tive tenures in Detroit, which in­cluded three Stan­ley Cups as a player for Shana­han and one as a head coach for Bab­cock.

“He made you want to be a bet­ter man,” Bab­cock said of Il­litch who passed away at age 87 in a Detroit hos­pi­tal on Fri­day. “He was com­mit­ted to do­ing things right and what he touched in busi­ness turned to gold. But he had that pres­ence about him that he made you want to be bet­ter.”

“He was such a pas­sion­ate sports­man, but his fam­ily al­ways wel­comed us,” added Shana­han. “They knew the play­ers. They knew the wives, the girl­friends, the kids. We all got to made feel like we were part of his fam­ily.”

Shana­han, who played 716 reg­u­lar sea­son games with the Wings and an­other 106 in the play­offs, said Il­litch and his wife Mar­ian re­ferred af­fec­tion­ately to play­ers as their “boys”.

“Some­times we were 35, 40-years-old but we were still their boys,” Shana­han said.

Bab­cock said the Il­litch fam­ily, also own­ers of the Detroit Tigers, set up an “ex­pec­ta­tion of suc­cess” dur­ing his decade-long run as coach of the Wings.

“Some peo­ple make you come in ear­lier,” Bab­cock said. “They don’t say noth­ing. They just show up ev­ery day and they grind and they make you grind. And that to me was what he was.”

Bab­cock and Shana­han both cred­ited Il­litch and his fam­ily for in­spir­ing the on­go­ing re­vi­tal­iza­tion of Detroit’s down­town, which will in­clude a new arena for the Wings next sea­son.

Shana­han de­scribed Il­litch as a com­pet­i­tive sort who wouldn’t of­ten ven­ture down to the team’s dress­ing room at Joe Louis Arena, but when he did play­ers took no­tice.

There was one reg­u­lar sea­son game against Bos­ton in par­tic­u­lar, Shana­han said, when Il­litch was par­tic­u­larly driven to beat the Bru­ins fol­low­ing a board meet­ing clash with that club’s own­er­ship the pre­vi­ous sum­mer.

“He didn’t have to say a word to us,” Shana­han said. “We knew ex­actly why he was there. We made sure that we weren’t sleep­ing through that one.”

“Great, great man,” Bab­cock said.

JU­LIAN H. GON­ZA­LEZ/DETROIT FREE PRESS VIA AP

In this June 17. 1998, file photo, Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Il­itch, cen­tre, hoists the Stan­ley Cup in Wash­ing­ton af­ter the Red Wings won their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive NHL cham­pi­onship.

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