Skip to main content

Red Wings Played Prison Hockey Team In 1954

Outdoor games are definitely a highlight of the NHL season nowadays. From Fenway Park in Boston to Wrigley Field in Chicago to Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton to Red Square in Moscow, they provide great memories for all hockey fans.

There likely were not too many spectators for arguably the most infamous outdoor game involving a NHL team, though.

On February 2nd, 1954, Gordie Howe and the Detroit Red Wings played a game in 21 degree Fahrenheit temperatures on an outdoor ice surface constructed at Marquette Prison in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

It seems Detroit's manager Jack Adams made a deal, mostly in jest, that the Wings would scrimmage against the inmates. Adams had visited the prison to visit a couple of mobsters by the name of Ray Bernstein and Harry Keywell, notable Detroit sports fans before their incarceration. He promised the duo the Wings appearance at Marquette, knowing full well that the prison had no facilities and no hockey team.

That changed shortly thereafter, as the prison hired Oakie Brumm, a celebrated University of Michigan hockey player, as the prison's director of physical activity. He arranged for the outdoor ice surface, and then hounded Adams to come through with his promise.

Adams donated used equipment to the inmates so that they could practice. Then, on Groundhog's Day 1954, the Wings faced-off with the criminals, some of whom were incarcerated for crimes that would make hockey tough guys look like teddy bears.

Not surprisingly, the game was a mismatch. The Wings were up 18-0 after the first period, and that's when they stopped keeping score. On account had Gordie Howe circling around the net unimpeded three times before finally taking a shot and scoring.

At the end of the game the victorious Wings were awarded a "honey bucket," a pail prisoners used in their cells as toilets. Adams hoisted the trophy up high, as if it were the Stanley Cup.

Adams is quoted as saying "This is a great day. I'm proud of having such a fine farm team up here in the north. The only trouble is, you guys sure have made it tough for me to recruit any of you."


Dave said…
Great story. I first heard about this game in David Dupuis' biography of Terry Sawchuk.
Gerry said…
I got to this article through a citation link on Wikipedia. Great job! I think this is one of the best stories ever. Someone ought to pitch this to Hollywood. I mean, they're out of ideas anyway, right?

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M