Celebrating Detroit Red Wings’ Alex Delvecchio’s 90th birthday: Quietly an all-time great

Detroit Free Press

In celebration of Detroit Red Wings great Alex Delvecchio 90th birthday on Saturday, here is an excerpt from “The Big 50: The Men and Moments that made the Detroit Red Wings”:

Against the New York Rangers on February 20, 1965, Alex Delvecchio scored a goal to help the Red Wings win 3-2. He scored another goal the next day to help the Wings beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. Thus began a record that would stand for 23 years, as Delvecchio produced points in 17 consecutive games, his streak ending March 28 when he went scoreless in the last game of the 1964-65 season, a 4-0 Toronto shutout. Delvecchio scored 12 goals and recorded 19 assists, his 31 points tying Norm Ullman by a Wings player in that span.

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Delvecchio’s record stood until Steve Yzerman obliterated it between November 25 and January 10 of the 1987-88 season, when he went on a 22-game tear that produced 20 goals and 30 assists. Delvecchio was a durable, skilled forward who served as center on the second iteration of the Production Line, taking over Sid Abel’s spot between Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay after Abel departed for Chicago in 1952.

Delvecchio spent his entire 24-year NHL career with the Wings, playing on three Stanley Cup winners. Alexander Peter Delvecchio was born December 4, 1931, in Fort William, Ontario. He made his debut with the Wings on March 25, 1951, suiting up in their last game of the regular season. When he retired in 1973, at 41, Delvecchio had logged 1,550 games; only Howe (1,687) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564) played more games with one franchise. At the time of his retirement, Delvecchio ranked second in the NHL with 1,281 points, trailing only Howe’s 1,809 points. Delvecchio’s sportsmanlike play won him the Lady Byng Trophy in 1959, 1966, and 1969. (Delvecchio tallied only 383 penalty minutes in his career. By comparison, Lindsay tallied 1,808.) He played in the All-Star Game 13 times.

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He was remarkably reliable, missing only 42 games in his career, and 22 of those date to a broken ankle suffered during the 1956-57 season. He served as captain from 1962 to ’73, the longest to do so until Yzerman. In November 1973, Delvecchio retired in an arrangement to replace Ted Garvin as coach. By the spring, he also had replaced Ned Harkness as general manager. However, those were dark days. In 1973-74, the Wings failed to qualify for the playoffs for a fourth straight year and for the seventh time in eight years. The next three seasons with Delvecchio as coach and GM, although much of the time Billy Dea or Larry Wilson worked behind the bench, the Wings went 65-144-31. With 10 games left in 1976-77, owner Bruce Norris replaced Delvecchio with his old linemate, Lindsay. Delvecchio’s place in Wings history is secured by his amazing accomplishments as one of the game’s most productive forwards — his 456 goals rank third and his 825 assists rank fourth. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977 and on October 10, 1991, the Wings held a ceremony to retire Delvecchio’s No. 10 and Lindsay’s No. 7.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

Need a gift?

What: “The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings.”

Author: Helene St. James, who has covered the Red Wings at the Detroit Free Press since 1996. Foreword by Chris Osgood, winner of three Stanley Cups as a Wings goaltender.

Publisher: Triumph Books.

Pages: 336 pages (paperback).

Price: $16.95.

Availability: Available in leading bookstores and online from booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the book: “The Big 50” brings to life the men and moments that made the Red Wings such a dynamic and iconic franchise for nearly a century. The book features never-before-told stories about the greats such as Howe, Yzerman, Lidstrom and Lindsay, the near-greats beloved by fans and the great memories of Fight Night, the Fabulous Fifties, the Team for the Ages, the Grind Line, The Joe and much more.

Get it signed! For a personalized copy of “The Big 50,” contact St. James at hstjames@freepress.com.

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