Sports’ longest playoff streak is finally over. For the first time since 1989-90, the Detroit Red Wings are packing it up after their final regular season game and not advancing to the playoffs.
Think about that feat in this day and age of salary caps and free agent bidding wars. The Red Wings survived it and skated into the playoffs for a quarter century straight – 25 years!
To put that into perspective, not a single player in the NHL today was playing in the league when the streak started. Not even 45-year-old, graying Jaromir Jagr. Nine of today’s NHL teams weren’t in the league and fifteen of the current Red Wings players weren’t born yet.
Feel free to check that out with a quick Google search on the World Wide Web which BTW was also not existing yet.
When this 25 year streak first started…
The Simpsons was taking TV by storm with their debut season.
People were burning their Milli Vanilli collection after the band admitted lip-synching their hit, “Girl You Know Its True,” and had their Grammy award yanked.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched.
People were flocking to theaters to watch Born of the 4th of July and Goodfellas.
Joe Montana lead the San Francisco 49ers over the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl 55-10, with Montana taking home the MVP award.
The Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup, defeating Boston Bruins who had to get past the Hartford Whalers earlier in those playoffs. Yeah, those historic Hartford Whalers.
The Detroit Pistons, with coach Chuck Daley behind the pine, defeated the Portland Trailblazers to win the NBA title with Isaiah Thomas taking home the MVP award.
Back to the Red Wings, their impressive streak will probably never be matched.
In that 1989-90 season that started this streak, the Red Wings roster had Steve Yzerman wearing the captain jersey and he was only 24. Yzerman has long since retired and the address for Joe Louis Arena was changed to “19 Steve Yzerman Drive”.
Yzerman’s team and the ones following his tenure accomplished a lot in their run. Hoisting four Stanley Cups while making it to the Stanley Cup Final six times. I had the honor of attending seeing them hoist the Cup after defeating the Flyers in 1997 and the Hurricanes in 2002, both at The Joe. During this run, they also took home the Presidents Trophy six times, including the 1995-96 season when they set a league record with 62 wins.
During the run they also were locks in the playoffs 21 times, finishing top four in their conference 18 of those times.
On a flip note, the Red Wings 25 year streak isn’t the longest in NHL history. The Boston Bruins made the playoffs 29 straight times and the Chicago Blackhawks 28 straight, but times were much different back then without tight salary caps and players being known to stay with their teams for longer period of times.
The NHL salary cap was born in 2005-06 and the Red Wings were forced to cut their payroll in half! How can an elite team remain competitive with that challenge thrown into the mix? Somehow Wings’ GM Ken Holland figured out a way to remain competitive over another 10 seasons.
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