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By Carol Cain
When it comes to which Detroit pro sports team was tougher – the Pistons “Bad Boys” known for physical play 25 years ago that won the NBA Championship or the Red Wings “Fight Night at the Joe” season 17 years ago where Darren McCarty and Claude Lemeiux battled in a pummeling that still rocks YouTube as the Wings won the Stanley Cup, the answer depends on who you ask.
“We were tough by committee,” McCarty said of his championship Red Wings team. “But they (the Pistons) had some bad ass dudes that loved playing. We both represented the city well.”
McCarty, who helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups, now lives in Clearwater Beach, Fla. and was in Detroit taping “Michigan Matters.”
He talked about his new autobiography, “My Last Fight: the True Story of a Hockey Rock Star.” He appeared along with Dennis Mannion, president of the Detroit Pistons, and Denise Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Enterprises.
For Mannion, the “two teams equally exemplified the tenacity of Detroit.”
Ilitch, whose family owns the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, said being tough and gritty are simply hallmarks of Detroit’s sports teams. The trio also discussed other issues including gay athletes in pro sports.
While Michael Sam is entering the upcoming NFL draft after announcing he is gay, and Jay Collins now playing for the NBA Brooklyn Nets as the first openly gay player in pro sports, there isn’t a single openly gay NHL player.
“No. It wouldn’t have made a difference,” said McCarty when asked if he ever played with a gay player. “I wouldn’t have had any problem playing with a gay guy.” “I don’t think it is a big deal. I support gay marriage,” McCarty said.
Mannion talked of the Pistons season and prospect of the team moving to Detroit. “The Pistons have had a tough season,” he said, including the firing of coach Maurice Cheeks 50 games into the season. “We’re the youngest team in the eastern conference and the second youngest in the NBA.”
Tom Gores, a private equity investor raised in Flint who purchased the team three years ago, has recently spent $40 million on renovations at the Palace.
When asked if that meant Gores was closing the door on moving to Detroit as fellow NBA owner Dan Gilbert (owner of Cleveland Cavaliers) has been encouraging him to do, Mannion said: “Tom is the kind of person who always keeps his options open.”
When asked for comment about the Red Wings’ prospects for the playoffs, McCarty said: “Despite the injuries, they are healthy coming down the stretch. I still believe they will make the playoffs.”
“Thank God they are in the Eastern Conference (this season) and not the Western Conference (which is tougher and they left last year),” he added.
Watch “Michigan Matters” 11:30 a.m. Sunday on CBS 62.
Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer/Host of “Michigan Matters” which airs 11:30 am Sunday on CBS 62. She also writes of business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.