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Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch dies at 87

Detroit won Stanley Cup four times during his leadership @NHLdotcom

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch died Friday at the age of 87.

Ilitch, a Detroit native, was the founder of Little Caesars Pizza and owner of the Detroit Tigers.

"With the passing of Mike Ilitch, the Red Wings have lost the consummate owner, the National Hockey League has lost a cherished friend and passionate builder, Detroit sports has lost a legend, and the city of Detroit has lost not only a devoted native son but a visionary and driving force in the rebirth of downtown," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Mike's commitment to excellence and to winning were unparalleled, and his commitment to the community was unrivaled, as was his boundless support of youth hockey. He was a prolific philanthropist, and, above all, a devoted partner and husband to his wife of 62 years, Marian. At this moment of heartbreaking sorrow, we send deepest condolences to the entire Ilitch family and to all who were privileged to know him, play for him or work for him."

Video: Remembering Mike Ilitch

Ilitch bought the Red Wings in 1982 and they won the Stanley Cup four times under his ownership (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 and into the International Franchise Association Hall of Fame in 2016.

"Mike Ilitch and his family made every player that had the good fortune of playing for him feel like a new member of his family," said former Red Wings player Brendan Shanahan, now president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "We saw the joyful tears in his eyes when [Steve Yzerman] first handed him the Cup in 1997. We watched him sit bedside with Vladimir Konstantinov after his tragic accident a week later. He was more than a team owner. It was personal. We were all his adopted 'boys' and he helped us all become men. His passing is extremely painful to all those who knew him and loved him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Marian, and the rest of his family. His legacy in hockey will live on. Thank you Mr. I. Rest in peace."

The Red Wings have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 25 consecutive seasons -- tied for the third-longest streak in NHL history -- and won 16 division championships and the Presidents' Trophy six times.

"My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family," said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc.

Video: NHL Tonight talks to Ken Holland about Mike Illitch

"He made such a positive impact in the world of sports, in business and in the community, and we will remember him for his unwavering commitment to his employees, his passion for Detroit, his generosity to others and his devotion to his family and friends. Together my family and the company celebrate the tremendous man he was, and we will continue to work hard to uphold his remarkable legacy. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to work with him to nurture and grow our businesses, but mostly, I'm grateful to have called him my Dad, and I know my siblings feel the same."

Ilitch, who was born July 20, 1929, served in the U.S. Marines from 1948-52 and played minor league baseball in the Tigers organization from 1952-55 until a knee injury ended his career. He bought the Tigers in 1992.

Video: Nick Cotsonika on the legacy of Mike Ilitch

Ilitch established the the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Program; the Little Caesars Love Kitchen, restaurants on wheels that have served more than 3 million people; and the Little Caesars Veterans Program, which provides support to help veterans open a franchise.

The Red Wings are playing their final season in Joe Louis Arena before moving to Little Ceasars Arena next season.

The family will hold a private funeral service and is planning an opportunity for the public to pay its respects.

Ilitch is survived by his wife, Marian, seven children, 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

 Outpouring of love on Twitter for Mike Ilitch

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