Island View

As fans for 65 years and counting, John and Shirlee Burgan have accumulated a wealth of fond memories and exciting stories about the Detroit Red Wings

For the past 15 years, they have been acquiring Red Wings memorabilia, lining the walls of their spare bedroom with countless collectibles.

John’s passion for hockey started 65 years ago, a passion which he later introduced to his wife. “[Shirlee] got it through me. I’d get tickets from work. We went to the games, and one thing led to another,” he recalls. For the past 15 years, John and Shirlee have bought 10-game season ticket packages and plan to continue that tradition. Nowadays, their son, John Jr., accompanies his parents to the games.

John and Shirlee have been married for 65 years and have six children, 12 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren, and one on the way. “They are our rock, role models, heroes and the true definition of perseverance and commitment to their love of each other and to their entire family,” says John Jr.

Their love for one another and their bond over the Red Wings is noticeable even to other fans. “Almost every game we go to, someone asks for our picture,” explains Shirlee.

Their loyalty to the Red Wings hasn’t gone unnoticed to the organization, either. “I wrote to Chris [Ilitch] after his father passed, and he wrote back,” she explains. The letter, among others she has received from others in the Red Wings organization, is framed in the memorabilia room. “I used to send cards and letters to players when something special would happen,” says Shirlee.

Throughout the years, they have supported the Red Wings through plenty of changes, having watched many beloved players and two captains retire. Although this year brought the most dramatic change yet–saying goodbye to the Joe Louis Arena–John and Shirlee are enjoying the new season, Little Ceasars Arena, and all of the memories to come.


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