Detroit Red Wings History: The First Lady Of Hockeytown – Marguerite Norris


Since their inception almost 90 years ago in 1926, the Detroit Red Wings have set many historical benchmarks in the NHL. The Red Wings have not only set many historical firsts on the ice, but also off the ice as well.

In the past, the world of professional sports has mainly been associated as an industry driven, operated and played by men. But there have been many powerful and influential women who have contributed their fair share to the sporting world. One such woman is Detroit’s Marguerite Norris.

Marguerite comes from the famous Norris family who were pivotal to the success and growth of the NHL during the Original Six era. Marguerite’s father, James Norris Sr., was a lucrative Canadian-American businessman who had tried and failed to purchase NHL team’s in Chicago, St. Louis and Ottawa. In 1931 James would finally become an NHL owner after he was approved to purchase the financially struggling Detroit Falcons.

Norris Sr. would provide the much-needed financial backing and stability to the Detroit organization that would turn them into an NHL powerhouse. Norris also was responsible for changing the team name from the Falcons to the Red Wings, as well as introducing the winged-wheel logo that we have all come to know and love.

After her father’s death in the winter of 1952, Marguerite took over control of the Red Wings and became the first female chief executive in NHL History. Marguerite would remain the only woman to head an NHL franchise until the 2006-2007 season.

There isn’t a lot of documentation about Marguerite’s time spent in Detroit but during her first full-season as president of the Red Wings in the 1953-54 season, the Wings finished in first place and defeated the Montreal Canadiens to win their sixth Stanley Cup Championship. By having her name engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup, Marguerite would become the first woman to officially have her name engraved on the historic trophy.

The Red Wings would continue to be a dominant hockey club under Marguerite’s watch, and much like they did in 1997-98, the team repeated as Stanley Cup Champions in 1954-55. For the second consecutive year Marguerite Norris would get her name etched on The Cup. Norris would remain the only woman to have her name inscribed on the Stanley Cup until 1989 when Sonia Scurfield was immortalized along with the Calgary Flames.

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After the 1954-1955 season, Marguerite resigned as president of the Detroit Red Wings but remained on board as vice-president of the club until 1957. The team would remain under control of the Norris family as Marguerite’s brother, Bruce, took over control of the Wings. Although her time in Detroit was brief, Marguerite Norris left a historical impact on the history of the Red Wings and the NHL.

Aside from the aforementioned feats/firsts accomplished by Marguerite, I think it’s important to keep in mind that Ms. Norris did this all as a 25-year-old single woman in the early 1950’s. In an era and at an age where most women were homemakers and stay-at-home mothers, Marguerite used the lessons she learned from her father to break the mold of both social and gender stereotypes.

According to Marguerite,

"“I was supposed to be a debutante and marry a Vanderbilt boy.”"

Had Marguerite Norris not chose to step-down as president of the Detroit Red Wings in 1955, there’s no telling how much more legendary her name would’ve become in the NHL history books. Her time in Detroit was short, successful and historic, and for that Hockeytown salutes and remembers Marguerite Norris.

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