To a sports fan, the words “Game 7” are magical.
Tonight, baseball fans will be treated to Game 7 of the World Series, and the Kansas City Royals are the fortunate hosts to the San Francisco Giants.
While it’s hard to dislike the Royals and their exciting brand of baseball, Tigers fans have to feel a little bitter knowing that the Tigers were a combined 1-8 in the 2006 and 2012 World Series while the new-to-the-party Royals already have won three games in just six tries.
So, Detroit fans, let’s take a walk back in history and revisit the top seven Game 7s in the history of sports in the Motor City.
No. 7: 1990 NBA Eastern Conference finals.
While it wasn’t the most exciting game, it was a key to the Pistons’ securing the second of their back-to-back NBA titles.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the opponents at The Palace, and the “Jordan Rules” were in full effect. The Bulls led by two after the first quarter, but the Pistons outscored Chicago 31-14 in the second quarter and rolled to a 93-74 victory to earn a spot in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year.
Isiah Thomas led the Pistons with 21 points and was one of five Detroit players to score in double figures. Jordan had a game-high 31 for Chicago but had little help as Horace Grant was next for the Bulls with 10 points.
No. 6: The 1955 Stanley Cup finals.
It was a rematch of the 1954 Stanley Cup finals with the Red Wings meeting Montreal. Detroit had a 3-2 lead after five games, but the Canadiens won Game 6 to force a deciding game. There was no overtime or last-minute goal, but the Red Wings did prevail 3-1 to win the Stanley Cup, and that has to count for something, right?
No. 5: The 1945 World Series.
The Tigers had to battle back on the road in World Series as the Chicago Cubs won two of three in Detroit and returned home needed just to split four games to win the Fall Classic. The Tigers won Games 4 and 5 in Chicago and had a chance to win the World Series in Game 6, but the Cubs pulled out an 8-7 victory in 12 innings to force Game 7.
The Tigers scored five runs in the top of the first inning and Hal Newhouser made the lead stand up as Detroit won its second World Series title with a 9-3 victory.
No. 4: The 1996 NHL Western Conference semifinals.
The Red Wings and St. Louis Blues were locked in a scoreless game after one overtime as goalies Chris Osgood and Jon Casey were putting on a show at Joe Louis Arena.
Early in the second overtime, Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman took the puck off the stick of Wayne Gretzky and unleashed a slap shot from the blue line that slipped past Casey into the net.
While the Red Wings did not get past the next round, it was another step toward their eventual goal of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1955 – and that is just what they did one year later.
No. 3: The 1954 Stanley Cup finals.
It was the game that immortialized Tony “Mighty Mouse” Leswick in Detroit Red Wings history. The Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens went into overtime at The Forum in Montreal, and at 4:29 of overtime, Leswick scored off Doug Harvey’s glove and the puck slipped past Gerry McNeil to give the Red Wings a 2-1 victory and the Stanley Cup.
More than 80 years have passed since Leswick’s goal, and there has never been another overtime goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
No. 2: The 1968 World Series.
The St. Louis Cardinals were the defending champions. They had held a 3-1 lead after four games, and they had the invincible Bob Gibson on the mound.
Most thought the Tigers didn’t have a chance against the star-studded Cardinals. Mickey Lolich and the rest of the Detroit crew thought differently. Lolich outdueled Gibson, and Jim Northrup broke the game open with a two-run triple in the seventh inning that was misplayed by center fielder Curt Flood.
Detroit won the game and the World Series 4-1, and Lolich was the World Series MVP as he pitched three complete games and recorded three wins.
No. 1: The 1950 Stanley Cup finals.
The Red Wings met the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals, and the boys in blue held a 3-2 lead when the series returned to Olympia Stadium in Detroit. However, the Red Wings were without star right winger Gordie Howe, who was sidelined by a fractured cheekbone and nose.
The Rangers had a one-goal lead late in the third period of Game 7 before Jim McFadden scored with 4:03 left to tie it up. The game eventually went to a second overtime before Detroit’s Pete Babando scored the winning goal.
It was the first time the Stanley Cup was won with an overtime goal in Game 7 of the finals, let alone two overtimes.
Could you imagine the excitement today if a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals went into double-overtime? Relive the greatest Game 7 moment in Detroit sports history below.