How Did They Get to Be the Red Wings?

Origins of the Detroit Red Wings name and "winged wheel " Red Wings logo

Detroit Red Wings Logo
Detroit Red Wings

The name of Detroit's National Hockey League franchise, the Red Wings, and their iconic winged wheel logo were inspired by the first team to win the Stanley Cup, the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association's Winged Wheelers. 

It Began in the Roaring '20s

The Red Wings' origins date to 1926, when Detroit was awarded an NHL franchise. Because the team owners bought the roster of the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League, they named their fledgling team the Detroit Cougars. Success was elusive in those early years, so the city's newspapers held a contest to change the name. The winner was the Falcons, but the new name didn't change the team's fortunes.

In 1932, millionaire James Norris bought the team. In his youth, he had played on the MAAA Winged Wheelers team that won that first Cup in 1893. The MAAA was a sporting club that sponsored many types of sports, including cycling, which was the origin of the winged wheel logo worn by all MAAA athletes. 

Norris thought the winged wheel was a perfect logo for the Motor City, so a version of that logo in red was adopted and the club was renamed the Red Wings.

New Name and Logo Changed Team's Luck

Coincidence or not, the new name and logo marked a turnaround in the team's fortunes. The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs in their first season.

Subsequent updates of the logo also seemed to bring good luck. The Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup in 1936 after the original logo was redesigned. The final redesign debuted in the 1948-49 season. The Red Wings made it to the Stanley Cup finals that season and won the Cup the following season. That logo is still in use today.

Modern-Day Team

The Red Wings play in the NHL Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division and are one of the most successful teams in NHL history. In a league that has its roots solidly in Canada, the Detroit team has won more Stanley Cup championships than any other U.S.-based team. Their 11 wins are second only to the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Red Wings dominated in the 1950s. Led by two of the NHL's all-time greats, right wing Gordie Howe and goalie Terry Sawchuk, Detroit won the Stanley Cup four times, in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955. 

After a slump a decade and a half long, the Red Wings were back on top. Led by legendary coach Scotty Bowman, the Red Wings won Stanley Cups in consecutive seasons, 1996–97 and 1997-98. The Wings won again in the 2001–02 and 2007–08 seasons. 

Impressive Records

The Red Wings set a record in the 2011–12 season by winning 23 consecutive home games. They also tied for the third-longest playoff appearance streak, havIng played in the postseason for 25 straight years. That streak ended with the 2016–17 season.