What does this have to do with genealogy you ask? Well, for me, quite a bit. Hockey has always been a big deal for us Michiganders, and for my family, we've been fans of team since the beginning.
NHL hockey got started in Detroit in 1926 with the Detroit Cougars. They actually played their first season in what Steve Perry, of the ‘rock’ band Journey, would call ‘South Detroit’, what the rest of the world calls Windsor, Ontario. They moved into their new home the Detroit Olympia (lovingly called the Old Red Barn) in 1927. In 1930 they changed their name to the Detroit Falcons and in 1932 officially became the Detroit Red Wings. They won seven Stanley Cups in the Old Red Barn.
My dad remembers walking there as a kid to watch Gordie Howe and his ‘Production Line’ teammates fly up and down the ice with no helmets and padding that would make today’s team doctors cringe. It was where Gordie Howe invented the ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’ (a goal, an assist, and a fight). It was the golden age of hockey.
When my Great-Grandmother came to this country in 1922 after watching her native country, Austria-Hungary, lose the Great War and be divided piecemeal, she instantly fell in love with the Detroit Cougars and cheered them on her whole life. My mother recalls seeing her small-in-stature grandmother screaming at the television in German if her beloved Red Wings were behind. A trait she passed down to me apparently (I may have gotten a noise complaint or two in college from yelling at the television during a Red Wings game).
The area around Olympia became increasing rough and in 1978, and after two nearby murders the Red Wings were looking for a new home. To prevent a move to the suburbs like the Lions and the Pistons, the City of Detroit offered very favorable terms at a new arena, to be named after a boxing champion born in Detroit, Joe Louis. On December 12, 1979, 62 days after I was born, the Red Wings took to the ice for the first time in their new home. So for me, Joe Louis Arena and Red Wings hockey are synonymous.
I grew up in a Red Wings home. When my dad was working late at the funeral home, I was in charge of recording the game for him on our Betamax and gave him an up-to-the-minute breakdowns of what happened since the last time he had checked in. The first, last, and only time I ever cussed out loud in front of my dad was while watching a Wings game. I remember hugging my dad when the Wings won the Cup for the first time in 42 years in 1997. My dad was only 13 the last time they won it, and there was enough terrible seasons since then that I am sure he questioned if they would ever win one again.
When my wife and I got married in 2002, the Red Wings were one win away from winning the Cup for the third time since 1997. Not knowing if his new daughter-in-law would be keen on letting me watch the last game of the Cup Finals during our honeymoon, he taped the game for me. For the record, my wife did let me watch the game without me even asking, and that’s when I knew ours was going to be a marriage for the ages.
Sports teams, though seemingly trivial, are a part of our lives, and were an important part of our ancestors lives too. When we learn about our ancestors, it may be worth the time to check out the history of local and regional sports teams. Did great-grandpa play on the local baseball team? Maybe he was a fan of the closest Major League team as well. Information on major professional teams is pretty easy to come by.
Here are a four potential sources to find information on local small town teams our ancestors may have played on:
2. Newspapers.com and Genealogybank.com Newspapers are such a rich source of information on our ancestors. You can check sports scores from a variety of teams, including local high school sports as well as professional teams of local interest.
3. Local Historical Societies and Libraries
I have found loads of information on my ancestors by searching in local (to them) libraries, historical societies, and history museums. To find them, a Google search is typically sufficient.
I am convinced there is a page for everything on Facebook, so check not only for local historical pages but also team pages as well for historic photos. Head to Katherine Willson’s Genealogy on Facebook list at: https://socialmediagenealogy.com/genealogy-on-facebook-list/
Did your ancestors play sports for any local high school, semi-pro or professional teams? Comment below.
 This is a parody of the famous Monty Python ‘Parrot Sketch’ which can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npjOSLCR2hE
 In the song, the story mentions a young man ‘born and raised in South Detroit’, which geographically is Windsor, Ontario, since it is directly south of Detroit along the Detroit River. Mr. Perry admits that he didn’t look on a map prior to penning the lyric, but just liked the sound of it. Full article here: http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/detroit/index.ssf/2012/01/steve_perry_finally_answers_th.html
 Ancestry.com. Michigan, Federal Naturalization Records, 1887-1931. Lehi, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2016. Image #373. Accessed on 4/11/2017.