Longtime and distinguished member of the Detroit Red Wing alumni association Alex Delvecchio turned 89 years young today. An absolute pillar within team history, Delvecchio’s No. 10 was first hung in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena in 1991. Most faithful Red Wings fans know the accomplishments, but celebrating his birthday only invites an opportunity to remember some of his most memorable achievements.
Delvecchio was well known and respected for his incredible durability. One notable injury was a broken ankle during the 1956-57 season resulting in 22 missed games. After 1957, however, he missed just 21 over the next 16 seasons. His marked resilience accounts for him holding the 11th spot in NHL history for most games played. He also ranks second in career games played with one franchise (1,550), which is only eclipsed by the great Nicklas Lidström.
Amazingly, he may have had one of his best NHL seasons during the 1972-73 campaign. At the ripe old age of 41, he collected 18 goals and 53 assists in 77 games. Unfortunately, that would also be his last full NHL season.
The Fort William, Ontario, native was a three-time Stanley Cup champion in Detroit (1952, 1954, 1955). During this dominant period in Red Wings history, Delvecchio and Sid Abel shared the third spot on the infamous “Production Line” with Howe and Ted Lindsay.
Delvecchio was also a three-time Lady Byng Trophy winner (1959, 1966, 1969). He also appeared in 13 NHL All-Star games from 1953-1967 — only missing the event twice over that span in 1960 and 1966.
Delvecchio is one of the great leaders in franchise history having served as team captain for 12 seasons, which was only bested by current Red Wing general manager Steve Yzerman. He is firmly entrenched within several Red Wing statistical categories — third in points and goals, and fourth in assists. He also sits 27th among all-time NHL point producers. As such, it was an easy induction within the 1977 class of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was also recognized as the 82nd greatest player on a top 100 list created by The Hockey News. Not a bad resume.
These collective accomplishments led to the commissioning of artist Omri Amrany to create a 7.5-foot white bronze statue of Delvecchio. The final piece of work was completed in 2008, and originally situated in the concourse at the Joe Louis Arena. In August of 2017, along with commemorative statues of his Production Line teammates Lindsay and Howe, his statue was moved to the Little Caesars concourse.
Coaching and Managerial Stint
Immediately after his playing career ended in 1974, the Red Wings hired him as head coach and soon after as the general manager. Delvecchio quickly discovered that his coaching aptitude was not the same as his playing ability. Better stated by Dave Stubbs from NHL.com, “he was too much of a gentleman for either job, taking every loss personally while he chugged antacid like it was water” (from “Alex Delvecchio still hockey icon in Detroit” – NHL.com News – 8/24/16).
In 1975, Delvecchio hired former Red Wing teammate and defenseman Doug Barkley. The move was made so that he could strictly focus on his duties as general manager. Unfortunately, Delvecchio’s role did not stick and he was replaced by former teammate Lindsay in 1977.
As you can see from the photo above, the beloved figure known as “Fats” is still looking sharp. To this day, he remains a massive figure within Red Wings history. Wherever you might be on this December 4, I am sure you would be happy to join me in wishing Delvecchio a happiest 89th birthday.