The Way It Was – Detroit Cougars, 1926

Detroit’s first NHL team played in Canada its first year
detroit cougars
Photograph courtesy of The Detroit Historical Society

1926 Sporting an Old English “D” suspiciously like the Detroit Tigers’ logo on their uniforms may have been a deliberate attempt to give the fledgling Detroit Cougars some professional sports credibility. After all, Detroiters were well familiar with the Tigers, but the city didn’t have a National Hockey League team before 1926, and the Cougars were eager to make a splash.

It’s a bit misleading that they were named the “Detroit” Cougars considering they didn’t even play in the city their first year. Instead, they competed across the Detroit River at Windsor’s Border Cities Arena (where this photo was taken) while Olympia Stadium was under construction. The Cougars’ first year was far from stellar; they ended up in the cellar with a grim 12-28-4 record. For the 1927-28 season, the Cougars’ home ice was at the spanking-new Olympia Stadium. Charles C. Avison, author of the 2008 book Detroit: City of Champions, quotes Detroit Times sportswriter Bert Walker’s breathless report the day after the Cougars’ debut in November 1927: “They squirmed, dodged, ducked, danced, and pirouetted on their flashing blades with such rapidity that at times the eye could not quite follow the maneuvers.”

In 1930, the team’s name was changed to the Detroit Falcons, an appellation that lasted until 1932, when the players became known as the Detroit Red Wings. Olympia, a cavernous yet intimate venue, was the team’s home until 1979, when they skated off to Joe Louis Arena. Since 2017, the team has played at Little Caesars Arena. Olympia, affectionately dubbed the “Old Red Barn,” came tumbling down in 1987.