Detroit Red Wings great Dino Ciccarelli didn't hate Scotty Bowman, wishes he won Cups

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Bill Dow
·9 min read
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As part of his series on former Detroit sports figures, Bill Dow caught up with hockey hall of famer and former Detroit Red Wings Dino Ciccarelli.

How we remember him

One of the greatest undrafted players in NHL history was a prolific goal scorer who made his living as a right winger camped in front of the net as he tipped in shots and rebounds while often being cross checked by much bigger defenseman.

His toughness and relentless tenacity made him a hit in Motown when the Wings acquired him in 1992 from Washington for Kelly Miller. He made an immediate impact, scoring 41 goals and 97 points in the 1992-93 season. In four years with Detroit, he scored 107 goals, 133 assists, and 24 playoff goals while helping the Wings win the President’s Trophy in 1995 and 1996.

The Sarnia, Ontario, native first made his mark as a 16-year-old playing for the OHL’s London Knights when he scored 72 goals with 147 points, narrowly beating out the Soo Greyhound’s Wayne Gretzky for the scoring title.

1994-95: The Red Wings finished 33-11-4 in a lockout-shortened season, winning the President's Trophy, but losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in four games to the New Jersey Devils. Pictured is Dino Ciccarelli.
1994-95: The Red Wings finished 33-11-4 in a lockout-shortened season, winning the President's Trophy, but losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in four games to the New Jersey Devils. Pictured is Dino Ciccarelli.

After severely his leg the next year and undergoing extensive rehabilitation, Ciccarelli recovered but was undrafted due to concerns with his injury and relatively smaller size.

In his first full NHL season, he scored a career high 106 points with 55 goals. After nine seasons with Minnesota, the four time All-Star began his five seasons in Washington when he was dealt with Bob Rouse for Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy.

After the Red Wings

Two months after losing to New Jersey in the 1996 Stanley Cup finals, the Wings traded him to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round draft choice. He retired in 1999 after playing parts of two injury-plagued seasons with the Florida Panthers. He finished his career with 1,200 points while his 608 goals rank 19th all-time in NHL history, just two goals behind Bobby Hull. In 2010, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Now what?

Ciccarelli, 61, lives in Macomb County and for 17 years has operated his restaurant, Ciccarelli’s, in Shelby Township, formerly called Club 22. He has four daughters, Jenna, Robin, Ashley, and Kristie with a ninth grandchild due later this year.

Growing up a hockey fan

“Growing up in Sarnia, even though we could pick up the Wings on television and radio, I was a Maple Leafs fan and if I have to pick one favorite player it would be Dave Keon. I liked his style because he was tenacious and a go to guy. I liked the other guys too like Paul Henderson, Ron Ellis, Norm Ullman, that group. I remember my dad taking me to my first NHL game when I was around twelve and it was at Olympia Stadium with the Wings playing the Leafs. I remember it like yesterday. We got there before warm up and my dad wanted me to go with him to get something to eat but I stayed because I wanted to watch the warm up. Like any kid I dreamed about playing in the NHL. In Pee Wee I wasn’t good enough for the major Pee Wee team but then my dad got a call from the coach at a tournament in Niagara Falls because a couple of kids got hurt so I filled in and ended up staying. The next year I played Bantam at 14 and played in a major international tournament in British Columbia and competed against Jari Kurri, Mats Naslund, and Larry Murphy. At 15 I was playing Junior B in Sarnia against guys up to 21 years old and it was a great stepping stone for me before I played four years in Juniors at London.

The injury that nearly ended his career

“I had just beaten out Wayne Gretzky in the OHL with 72 goals and then I badly broke a leg. The doctors were setting me up to say that I might not be able to play again and it was very discouraging. I was away from home, going to school, couldn’t play, and was going to rehab all the time. But my parents, my host parents, and trainer kept on encouraging me. The big hurdle for me was my first game back a year later playing in Windsor, our huge rival with around 5,000 in the stands. On my third shift someone nailed me and I got right back up again and I can still remember that hit. It gave me confidence that I wasn’t going to injure it again. I went two drafts without being picked up probably because of concerns with my leg and my size. It was like no one wants to buy a horse with a broken leg. But Lou Nanne and the North Stars signed me and I made the best of it.”

His success as a goal scorer

“I always had a passion for scoring goals and to do it you have to go into the dirty areas so I set up in front of the net. A few guys do it today like Matthew Tkachuk of the Flames and Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher but I guess it’s a lost art. The key to it is being fearless and knowing that if defensemen are good, they’re going to try and clear you out. I got whacked a lot by defensemen and goalies but I have it back too. It’s just part of the game. While I was standing there and there’s a lane for guys to shoot, I wanted them to throw the puck at the net constantly. The art of tipping the puck is really not that different from bunting a 95-mph fastball. Almost anybody can square up and bunt the ball. I practiced it every day. These goalies are too good and you need traffic in front of them and change the direction of the puck.

The 1998 stick-swinging incident

“They don’t show you the clips before it happened and what set me off. Luke Richardson is 6 feet, 5 inches and I’m 5 feet, 10-inches and he cross checked me right about the hockey pants and I thought I broke my ribs. I looked over at the referee and there was no call on the play. I guess the Italian blood came out of me. I approached him and we got our sticks up. I learned that to survive, with that kind of size difference, you have to be tough and keep your stick up because guys are going to take liberties on you. I went overboard a little bit but that’s how you get respect in the league. If the same play happened again, I would do the same thing. Guys learned to leave me alone because they knew I wasn’t going to be intimidated. It was a media circus and I really didn’t care. I was sentenced to a day in jail but spent just two hours in it signing autographs and they let me go."

The trade that brought him to Detroit

“I was ecstatic to come to the Wings because they had a great team, I was close to home and they were one of the Original Six, so it was a dream come true. I did more setting up in front of the net with Detroit because we had great perimeter players. I wondered how am I going to get on the power play when you have Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom and Coffey, so I stuck my nose even more in front of the net so I could be on the top power play. I think the fans took to me a little bit because it’s a blue-collar town and they liked how hard I played. We had some great teams, and we were like a machine, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it done when I was there.”

His relationship with Scotty Bowman

“Everybody thought I hated Scotty. I didn’t, but we did butt heads a bit. We get along great now. A lot of it was my fault because Scotty wanted to rest me and get me ready for the playoffs but I was too stubborn. I was too proud to be sat down and I wanted to play. If I had kept my mouth shut, I probably would have won a couple of Cups with the Wings. I think another reason I was traded is because we had a lot of younger right wingers who had been drafted like Martin Lapointe, Matthew Dandenault and Kirk Maltby, and that’s just part of the game. I ended up having a good year in Tampa and was the starting right winger for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game. I was happy for my former teammates and the fans in Detroit when they won those two consecutive cups but it still hurt because I had been a part of the growing pains and I wanted to be part of the celebration.”

Red Wings right wing Dino Ciccarelli, left, takes a shot against Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy during the second period of the Wings' 5-2 loss in the alumni game Friday at Coors Field.
Red Wings right wing Dino Ciccarelli, left, takes a shot against Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy during the second period of the Wings' 5-2 loss in the alumni game Friday at Coors Field.

Dino's best netminders

“The best goalies I faced, in this order, were Marty Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, and Patrick Roy. Marty was the toughest to score on but Patrick was the most competitive, and you can only respect that. I’ve seen Marty and Dominick but Patrick still seems to hold a grudge against everybody but I know he’s a good guy.”

Entering the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010

“For eight or nine years the calls came in saying we think you are going to be elected, then you don’t get in and it is disappointing. When the call came in, I saw the 416-area code and it was Ron Ellis and the committee calling to say I got in. I pulled off to the side of the road and I got kind of emotional thinking of my parents and everyone who helped me along the way. I had lost my dad in 2006 and it would have been nice to have had him around for that. I was later told that a big reason I got in was because Scotty Bowman had stood up in a meeting and told everyone that he’d never seen a player play the position like I did. That is pretty cool coming from the best coach in NHL history. I really would have liked to have celebrated winning a Cup but I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to do that so when I did was inducted into the Hall it gave me a lot of satisfaction.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings great Dino Ciccarelli didn't hate Scotty Bowman