Detroit has been suffering city in a lot of ways over the past few decades, particularly with regards to the auto industry. But in 1997 it was on top of the world. It wasn’t a bailout that got them there, but a run of championships by teams that had been waiting a long time.
The Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup since 1955 and did it coming off three previous seasons that had been marked by high hopes and playoff frustration. Then in the fall, the Michigan Wolverines football team took home their first national title since 1947-48.
Any good movie requires solid supporting actors working behind the stars, and a good sports culture is no different. The performance of the Lions and Pistons wasn’t going to make history. But each had a good run of success.
On the football field, the Lions got into the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. And the Pistons spent better than half the NBA season looking like one of the league’s best. A lack of depth was ultimately their undoing, but it was still a solid season.
Excellent individual performances combined with the team success. Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy for Michigan—a defensive player, no less, though Woodson’s special teams’ prowess and occasional offensive contributions put him over the top. Detroit also produced the NFL MVP—Barry Sanders, one of the great running backs of all time, had his best year, and shared the award with Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre.
From championship teams, to solid playoff contenders, to big individual awards, Detroit was the place to be in 1997.
Read more about the 1997 Detroit Red Wings
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