Mired in sixth place in the Eastern Division at the beginning of what became known as the “Dead Wings Era” and the “Darkness with Harkness”, on January 13, 1971 the Red Wings rocked the hockey world when newly anointed General Manager Ned Harkness dealt high scoring left winger Frank Mahovlich, (33) to Montreal for promising right winger Mickey Redmond (23) and centers Billy Collins (7) and Guy Charron (21).
With the trade, Harkness split up one of the most potent lines in NHL history consisting of future Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, and Mahovlich, the latter of whom scored 87 goals the previous two seasons. The key acquisition for Detroit was Redmond who had won two Stanley Cup championships in Montreal in his first two seasons and had tallied 27 goals the previous year.
In an interview with Redmond two years ago he recalled being informed of the trade by Montreal coach Al MacNeil at an airport bookstore.
“I was disappointed and upset with the deal at the time, but all things happen for a reason,” said Redmond now in his as he prepares for this 37th consecutive season as a color commentor for Red Wing telecasts. “The deal worked out for Montreal because they won the cup with Frank, but I’ve been on a ride that has been incredibly great. And as a player, the trade helped me spread my wings, no pun intended.”
One of Hockey’s Great Goal Scorers
As a speedy skater with an incredibly hard wrist shot and a remarkable and seemingly natural ability to find the net, in his first three full seasons in Detroit, Redmond scored 145 goals while becoming one of the game’s great goal scorers.
After netting 42 goals in his first full Detroit season (’71-’72), he became the first Red Wing to net 50 goals and the third player in history behind Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito to have back-to-back 50 goal seasons when he scored 52 in ’72-’73 and 51 in ’73-’74.
“I was very fortunate to have great centers, Alex Delvecchio, Bill Hogaboam, and on the power play, Marcel Dionne, “said the two-time All-Star who became the first $1 million Red Wing player when he signed a five-year, $1 million deal in June of 1973. “Having centers like that feeding you is really the key to your success. Getting the chances is one thing, and they gave it to me, but then you have to being able to finish it.”
Growing up in playing hockey on the icy streets of Peterborough Ontario, as a 12-year-old he served as a stick boy for the Petes, his hometown’s Junior A hockey team.
“Scotty Bowman was the coach and every game he paid me $2 and gave me a stick,” said Redmond. “That was like a bar of gold.”
By age 15, Redmond was playing for the Petes where he starred for four seasons before cracking Montreal’s lineup in 1967.
“I had a tremendous opportunity as a rookie to learn from Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, John Ferguson and others,” said Redmond. “And then later to play with Gordie, Alex, Gary Bergman, Nick Libett and that bunch was really special.”
Redmond credited Gordie Howe for a big part of his success.
Received Advice from Mr. Hockey
“In my first year in Detroit, (Howe’s last) he pulled me aside at practice while we were 20 feet from the net and pointed out that as right-handed shooters the ideal place to shoot the puck was up high into the little triangle right near the left shoulder of a left gloved goalie. He said, ‘the way you shoot the puck, if you put it there, he’s not going to stop it.’ I still give that advice to kids today.”
On his way to what many believe would have been a hall of fame career, in November of 1974 Redmond began having severe pain in his back and right leg. A month later he was lost for the season after having surgery for a ruptured disc. He tried to play the following season and had scored 11 goals by February, but Red Wing management accused Redmond of not wanting to play for Detroit. After he was suspended, and then placed on waivers, he quickly retired from the game at just 28 years old.
“What was said was very disappointing,” said Redmond. “I had permanently lost strength in my right leg and the ability to cut in on people. That changed the whole game for me. The hardest part was to realize that I couldn’t compete at the level I once did and should have,” said Redmond who never had the opportunity to compete in a playoff game for a dismal franchise with perennial losing records.
After first opening a travel agency in 1976, Redmond then embarked on his successful hockey broadcasting career in 1979, first locally on cable with ON TV and then with CBC’s “Hockey Night In Canada” before joining the Red Wing telecasts full time in 1986 where he soon became a beloved broadcaster appreciated for his informative insights such as “this is no place for a nervous person,” and “he hit ‘em with a B.C. two-hander.”
In 2011 Redmond was the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, an annual accolade that honors a member of the hockey broadcasting and he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.
Redmond shared his thoughts on becoming a top goal scorer:
“You have to look for the goaltender’s vulnerability and weaknesses. My dad taught me to pull it and snap it. When you pull the puck it does something to the goalie and it makes him move. When I played most of them were standup up goalies and the masks were tight to the face and they still didn’t want to get hit there. When a goalie is moving his body upward because he doesn’t want to get hit in the face he can’t move his legs sideways. Sometimes I would often waste a few high and then go low. Today a lot of the goaltenders are down and to me if you can hit that top corner you are going to score a lot more.
Colorful Career as a Broadcaster
Redmond was also happy to share his color commentary philosophy:
“It’s very important from a credibility stand point to call it like it is but to be as fair as possible for everyone involved. You can’t ignore a bad play, but there’s a way to do it without cutting a guy a new rear end. All of us who have played have all made the same mistakes 100 times over. I think it’s important that people don’t think you’re a 100% homer covering things up. As for my so called “Mickeyisms”, they are just spontaneous and it comes from my enthusiasm and I think people enjoy it. We are there to entertain people and if we can get people smiling, and laughing and feeling good it gives people an outlet for a short period of time away from a lot of the negative stuff going on in our world.”