The day the Detroit Red Wings went to jail

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This Zamboni Time Machine flashbak looks at the time the Detroit Red Wings played a game in a most unusual setting.

Sports and advertising have gone hand in hand for as long as anyone can remember. On February 2nd, 1954, that relationship would cause the Detroit Red Wings to play a game in a setting that was far from the NHL arenas they were used to playing in.

In 1953, Red Wings General Manager Jack Adams and team captain “Terrible” Ted Lindsay were on a promotional tour of Michigan’s upper peninsula for Stroh’s Brewery. During the tour, they made a stop at the state penitentiary located in Marquette.

The reason for the visit is unknown, but what is known is that incarcerated in this particular prison were Ray Bernstein and Harry Keywell. Bernstein and Keywell were members of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang and also happened to be huge Red Wings fans. During the visit, the gangsters asked Adams about having the Wings play a game in the jail – an idea the warden liked as well. Adams jokingly agreed, thinking there was no way an ice rink could be built in the jail.

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The Red Wings GM was in for a surprise though, as somehow they managed to get a regulation-size outdoor hockey rink complete with wooden boards built in the prison yard. Adams kept his word, and on the aforementioned date, the Detroit Red Wings, including Hall of Famers Ted Lindsey, Gordie Howe, and Terry Sawchuck showed up at Marquette State Prison to play a team made up of prisoners.

As one can imagine, it wasn’t much of a game. It was 18-0 at the end of the first period, so for the second period, teams made up of a mixture and Red Wings played each other. For the third period, it was the Red Wings only playing an intrasquad scrimmage. After the game, Red Wings players were each given a leather wallet with the players’ names and the Red Wings logo sewn in – all hand-made by the prisoners. That would conclude the hockey version of “The Longest Yard”.

For more about this story, type “The Jailhouse Rocked When the Red Wings Played in a Prison” by Bill Dow into your favorite search engine.


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