Hockey world pays respects to Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch died on Friday evening at 87, and throughout the remainder of the evening and into Saturday morning the rest of the hockey world paid its respects to the long-time Detroit Red Wings owner.

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

Yzerman spent his entire playing career with the Red Wings with Ilitch as team owner, winning three Stanley Cups with the team.

“Both Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as their entire family, have had an immeasurable impact on not only my career, but my life,” Yzerman said in a statement. “Going back to the age of 18 when I arrived in Detroit, the guidance, generosity, concern and love Mr, Ilitch had always shown me and my family are things I will forever be grateful for.

“I was extremely fortunate to have played my entire career for a man who’s love of hockey and burning desire to win were the catalysts which drove the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup Championships after purchasing the team in 1982.

“Mr. Ilitch has left an incredible legacy in baseball, hockey and Metropolitan Detroit. He will forever be remembered for all the ways he enriched our lives.  Mike Ilitch will live on vividly in my mind and heart forever.”

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. The Red Wings acquired Shanahan from the Hartford Whalers during the 1996 season. He would play nine seasons in Detroit and was a part of the three Stanley Cup winning teams alongside Yzerman.

“Mike Ilitch and his family made every player that had the good fortune of playing for him feel like a new member of his family. We saw the joyful tears in his eyes when Stevie Y first handed him the Cup in 1997. We watched him sit bedside with Vladimir Konstantinov after his tragic accident a week later. He was more than a team owner. It was personal. We were all his adopted “boys” and he helped us all become men. His passing is extremely painful to all those who knew him and loved him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Marian and the rest of his family. His legacy in hockey will live on. Thank you Mr. I. Rest in peace.”

Former Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer. Fischer, who is currently employed by the Red Wings in player evaluation, played for the team until a heart issue ended his career.

“Mr. Ilitch was a very special man in my life. The family is the first and only employer I’ve had. It’s been 19 years. From being drafted to being a player to rehabbing as a cardiac patient to working in the front office, they’ve been special in my life.”

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs: “Mike Ilitch was first and foremost a great personal friend. He was also a tremendous partner in the NHL, and someone who always put the interests of the league before his own. His legacy in hockey will be defined by the indelible mark that he has left on the NHL, as well as the immense impact that he has had on growing the sport in Michigan and throughout the United States.

The Red Wings and Tigers are so much a part of the history and identity of Detroit, and both teams have thrived under his careful stewardship. He led a great physical transformation of his beloved home city that will endure for many years. But perhaps most importantly, he shared his passion for sports and talent for business with his children, who will carry on his legacy.

We will miss him, and we extend our condolences to his wife Marian, the entire Illitch family, the Red Wings and Tigers organizations, and the city of Detroit.”

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