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Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings Connection to Last Lions NFL Title

Son of Detroit NHLer played in Super Bowl



Mike O'Connell
Tommy O'Connell, father of former Red Wings D Mike O'Connell, played QB for Cleveland against the Detroit Lions in the 1957 NFL Championship Game.

The Detroit Lions are a win away from going to the Super Bowl for the first time and having a shot at their first NFL title since 1957. It’s a little-known fact that the father of a future Detroit Red Wings defenseman was playing a key role in that 1957 Lions championship win.

Detroit thrashed the Cleveland Browns 59-14 in the 1957 NF Championship Game. The starting quarterback for the Browns in that game was Tommy O’Connell. He’d led the NFL in passing that season Almost 30 years later, Tommy’s son Mike O’Connell would be traded by the Boston Bruins to the Red Wings.

Mike O’Connell would go on to play 270 games for Detroit from 1986-90. He posted consecutive 30-point campaigns in a Red Wings uniform in 1985-86 and 1986-87. O’Connell was part of Detroit clubs that reached the Stanley Cup final four in the springs of 1987 and 1988.

Tommy O’Connell’s 1957 afternoon before 55,263 at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium wasn’t nearly as successful. Appearing in the only NFL postseason game of his career, O’Connell was 4-for-8 through the air for 61 yards. He was picked off twice while racking up a passer rating of 35.9.

In the second quarter with Detroit ahead 31-7, Cleveland coach Paul Brown would replace an ineffective O’Connell with rookie Milt Plum, a future Lions QB.

NFL Super Bowl Colts Also Had Red Wings Connection

The Baltimore Ravens are favorites to win this year’s AFC Championship Game, but it was Baltimore’s first NFL team to reach the Super Bowl, the Colts, that did so with a Red Wings connection on their roster. Colts running back Tom Matte was the son of a former Detroit NHL player.

In 1929-30, Roland Matte played for the Detroit Cougars. A defenseman, the elder Matte would dish out one assist during 12 games that campaign.

Tom Matte was also an effective hockey player who used to suit up and skate with the AHL Baltimore Clippers while playing for the Colts. There was even a plan afoot to suit him up for a game. However, that was quickly nixed when the management of the Colts got wind of the idea.

On the gridiron, Matte was part of Baltimore teams that lost Super Bowl III to the New York Jets and won Super Bowl V over the Dallas Cowboys. For decades, he held the Super Bowl record for the longest run and highest per-carry rushing average.