Professional Sports Teams in Michigan – April 2024 List

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Sports Teams in Michigan

Sports in Michigan has a long history and the oldest professional sports franchise is the Detroit Tigers of MLB that had their first season way back in 1901.

Besides the Tigers, Michigan has three other teams from the major sports leagues in the Detroit Pistons (NBA), Detroit Lions (NFL), and the Detroit Red Wings (NHL). There are also quite a few other teams from minor leagues in the Wolverine State that we have listed below.

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Michigan Professional Sports Teams

Michigan is home to quite a few professional sports franchises across the major and minor leagues. We’ve looked into each Michigan sports team representing the state in their respective sports. You’ll find each team’s complete information and a short look into their history and notable achievements.

🏈 Michigan Football Teams

The only professional football team in Michigan that plays in the NFL is the Detroit Lions. However, there are some semi-pro and minor-league Michigan professional football teams in the state.

🏈 Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions
Year established 1929
League NFL
City Detroit
Venue Ford Field
Notable achievements
  • Won four NFL championships in 1935, 1952, 1953, 1957
  • Have made 18 playoff appearances
  • Won three Central Division titles (1983, 1991, 1993)
Website https://www.detroitlions.com/

The Lions didn’t take long to flourish, winning the NFL championship in their second year in 1935. The achievement set a solid start for Michigan pro football team history. However, while they went on to win two more NFL titles in the 1950s they are one of 12 teams to never win a Super Bowl and they are the only team in the NFC that has never won or hosted an NFC title game.

The team began as the Portsmouth Spartans in Portsmouth, Ohio before moving to Detroit and becoming the Lions in 1933 due to financial struggles. While in Detroit they have played at four venues in the University of Detroit Stadium (1934-1940), Tiger Stadium (1938-1939, 1941-1974), Pontiac Silverdome (1975-2001), and their current location in downtown Detroit in Ford Field (2002-present).

⚾ Michigan Baseball Teams

The state is home to four professional baseball Michigan sports teams, including the Detroit Tigers of the MLB, along with the Minor League Michigan teams of the Great Lakes Loons, Lansing Lugnuts, and West Michigan Whitecaps.

⚾ Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers
Year established 1894
League MLB
City Detroit
Venue Comerica Park
Notable achievements
  • Won four World Series titles (1935, 1945, 1968, 1984)
  • Won 11 AL Pennants
  • Won four Central Division titles
Website https://www.mlb.com/tigers

Although the Tigers debuted as a major league franchise in 1901, the team was established in 1894. The Detroit Tigers, as the Michigan MLB team, would play at Boulevard Park and became the founding members of the Western League. George Vanderbeck then built Bennett Park to support the team.

The Tigers played their first Western League game at Bennett Park in 1896, defeating another local professional team, the Athletics. Despite the lack of exposure, the name Tigers was already well-known. There’s a famous story regarding the name, which attributes it to a Detroit Light Guard unit nicknamed “The Tigers”, who played an important role in battles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. The team currently plays at Comerica Park, which has been their home since 2000.

⚾ Great Lakes Loons

Great Lakes Loons
Year established 2007
League Single-A Minor League
City Midland
Venue Dow Diamond
Notable achievements
  • Won the Minor League title in 2016
  • Won one division title in 2023
  • Won two first half-titles in 2022 and 2023
Website https://www.milb.com/great-lakes

The Great Lakes Loons started as a public-private partnership of the Michigan Baseball Foundation, a non-profit organization under Dow Chemical, who wanted to bring pro baseball to the city where its headquarters are located. The foundation bought the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays and moved them to Midland in 2007 and were renamed the Great Lakes Loons. The team has been associated with six MLB teams and have been affiliated with the L.A. Dodgers since 2007.

MLB’s 2021 Minor League Reorganization later raised the Loons. The reshuffle aimed to lower distances between farm teams and their parent clubs, but while that was the case, the Dodgers wanted to keep their relationship with the Loons going.

⚾ Lansing Lugnuts

Lansing Lugnuts
Year established 1996
League Midwest League
City Lansing
Venue Jackson Field
Notable achievements
  • Won nine league titles with the most recent in 2003
  • Won the Midwest League title in 1997 and 2003
Website https://www.milb.com/lansing

The Lugnuts had settled in Lansing in 1996, but since its inception the team has also played in Lafayette Indiana, Waterloo Iowa, and Springfield Missouri. While in Springfield, the Lugnuts were an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in 1995. The team was also referred to as the Sultans of Springfield.

Due to low attendance, the Kansas City Royals relocated the team to Lansing, giving them the name Lugnuts. The relocation successfully increased attendance, and the team won the Midwest League Eastern Division in 1996 and the Midwest League title a year later.

The affiliation between the Lugnuts and the Royals ended after the 1998 season. The team has been affiliated with seven MLB teams and have been part of the Oakland A’s organization since 2001.

⚾ West Michigan Whitecaps

West Michigan Whitecaps
Year established 1994
League Midwest League
City Comstock Park
Venue LMCU Ballpark
Notable achievements
  • Baseball America’s Third Best Minor League Team of the Decade and Best A Team of the Decade (1999)
  • Six league titles
Website https://www.milb.com/west-michigan

The West Michigan Whitecaps was born due to the question raised by a local newspaper columnist in 1980. The writer wondered why Grand Rapids couldn’t be a home to Michigan professional sports teams.

The article sparked the interest of West Michigan-based businessmen who began pursuing the creation of a Minor League team for the city. As soon as the West Michigan Baseball Development, Inc. was formed in 1987, the progress accelerated.

The Wausua Timbers were chosen to relocate to a stadium in Geneva, Illinois with a plan to take them to Grand Rapids after construction. However, the project fell short until 1992, when the company negotiated with the Madison Muskies. The Muskies later moved to Comstock Park and became the West Michigan Whitecaps. The team was relocated to the newly built Old Kent Park, which was renamed LMCU Ballpark. They have been affiliated with two MLB teams and the Detroit Tigers since 1997.

🏀 Michigan Basketball Teams

Representing professional sports teams in Michigan on the basketball court are the Detroit Pistons of the NBA alongside the Grand Rapids Gold of the NBA G League. Let’s examine these two NBA teams in Michigan and their history in the state.

🏀 Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons
Year established 1941
League NBA
City Auburn Hills
Venue Little Caesars Arena
Notable achievements
  • Won NBA Championship (1989, 1990, 2004)
  • Won five conference titles
  • Won 15 division titles
Website https://www.nba.com/pistons

When the Detroit Pistons were established in 1941, the team started as the Zollner Pistons. The team resided in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and initially played for the National Basketball League. The Pistons later joined the BAA (Basketball Association of America) for the 1948-1949 season and stopped using Zollner for their team name. The Pistons became a part of the NBA in 1949 when the league was born from the merging of NBL and BAA.

The Pistons relocated to Detroit in 1957 as they were looking for a larger market. The team struggled for decades and did not make the big time until the 1980s and the “Bad Boys”, which was their nickname for their tough style of play, won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.

🏀 Grand Rapids Gold

Grand Rapids Gold
Year established 2006
League NBA G League
City Grand Rapids
Venue Van Andel Arena
Notable achievements Won NBA G League Central Division (2018 – 2019)
Website https://grandrapids.gleague.nba.com/

The Grand Rapids Gold started as the Anaheim Arsenal in 2006. The team was an expansion team for the NBA Development League, playing at the Anaheim Convention Center. However, Arsenal never had a winning season and the team then relocated to Springfield Massachusetts in 2009.

The Arsenal changed its name and became the Springfield Armor. Despite getting picked first by the NBA Development League Expansion Draft 2009, the Armor had the worst record in the league in their inaugural season.

The SSJ Group bought the Springfield Armor in 2014 and relocated the team to Grand Rapids. Again, it changed its name to Grand Rapids Drive. The Drive looked for a new affiliation after the end of 2020-21, which led them to become the Grand Rapids Gold under their affiliation with the Denver Nuggets of the NBA.

🏒 Michigan Hockey Teams

Michigan is home to six professional and junior hockey clubs, including the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL, as well as the Flint Firebirds, Grand Rapids Griffins, Kalamazoo Wings, Saginaw Spirit, and Muskegon Lumberjacks.

🏒 Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings
Year established 1926
League NHL
City Detroit
Venue Little Caesars Arena
Notable achievements
  • 11 Stanley Cups
  • 19 division championships
Website https://www.nhl.com/redwings

Before becoming the Detroit Red Wings, the team started as an expansion called the Detroit Cougars in 1926. The team’s home arena was in Windsor, but they struggled during the 1930-31 season when Coach Adams changed the team’s name to the Detroit Falcons. After getting a new investor in 1932, the team once again changed its name to the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings won their first two Stanley Cups in 1936 and 1937. After playing for 52 years at Olympia Stadium the club played at Joe Louis Arena from 1979 until 2017 and since then their home ice is Little Caesars Arena. The Red Wings have the most Stanley Cups of any US based NHL team and they are known for their tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice in the playoff games for luck.

🏒 Flint Firebirds

Flint Firebirds
Year established 1990
League Ontario Hockey League
City Flint
Venue Dort Financial Center
Website https://flintfirebirds.com/

Like other Michigan pro teams on the list, the Flint Firebirds started as an expansion franchise for the 1990-91 season. The team played under the name of Detroit Compuware Ambassadors until 1992, before it changed its name to Detroit Junior Red Wings. The Red Wings played for three years before it changed ownership and became Detroit Whalers in 1995. The Whalers later became Plymouth Whalers in 1997 and played under the same name until 2015, the year of the Flint Firebirds’ birth.

The team has never won a league title and in the 2021-2022 had their best season losing in seven games in the conference finals.

🏒 Grand Rapids Griffins

Grand Rapids Griffins
Year established 1996
League American Hockey League
City Grand Rapids
Venue Van Andel Arena
Notable achievements Won AHL Calder Cup Twice (2012-2013, 2016-2017)
Website https://griffinshockey.com/

The Grand Rapids Griffin started its history in 1996 as a member of the International Hockey League. The team operated for three seasons as an independent club before the Ottawa Senators came in 1999 with a three-year affiliation offer.

The Griffins entered the American Hockey League in 2001 and made the first logo change in 2002. The logo ditched the green color and substituted it with red in celebration of their affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings. The team won the AHL Calder Cup in 2012-2013 and 2016-2017 seasons.

To celebrate the team’s 20th season, a new anniversary logo was introduced in 2015 that included the original Griffin.

🏒 Kalamazoo Wings

Kalamazoo Wings
Year established 1973
League East Coast Hockey League
City Kalamazoo
Venue Wings Event Center
Notable achievements
  • Won Central Division Championship and Tarry Cup (2006)
  • Won the Colonial Cup (2006)
  • Won the Eastern Conference Championship (2011)
Website https://www.kwings.com/

The Kalamazoo Wings began as an IHL expansion and played their first home game in 1974. The Wings won its first championship and the Turner Cup in 1979 against the Grand Rapids Owls in seven games.

The Kalamazoo Wings franchise was renamed to the Michigan K-Wings in 1995. However, when the Dallas Stars ended their affiliation with the franchise, the team went inactive in the IHL in 2000. When the Madison Kodiaks under the United Hockey League relocated to Kalamazoo several months later, the name Kalamazoo Wings replaced Kodiaks.

The franchise won their first Central Division Championship in 2006 and took home the Tarry Cup. Three years later, the team joined ECHL. The team is currently affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL.

🏒 Muskegon Lumberjacks

Muskegon Lumberjacks
Year established 2010
League United States Hockey League
City Muskegon
Venue Mercy Health Arena
Website https://www.muskegonlumberjacks.com/

The current Muskegon Lumberjacks replaced the original franchise on the IHL under the same name. The purpose of disbanding the first franchise was to make room for a team set for the United States Hockey League to enter the 2010-2011 season. The Lumberjacks were owned by Lou and Josh Mervis of the Blue Ox Hockey but were sold to three former NHL players in 2013.

The franchise started in Rochester, Minnesota and was known as the Rochester Mustangs. The Mustangs competed in the USHL from 1985 to 2002. The Lumberjacks made the Clark Cup playoffs in their inaugural season.

🏒 Saginaw Spirit

Saginaw Spirit
Year established 2002
League Ontario Hockey League
City Saginaw
Venue Dow Event Center
Notable achievements Won the OHL West Division three times (2010-11, 2018-19, 2019-20)
Website https://saginawspirit.com/

Garber Automotive Group bought the North Bay Centennials and moved them to Saginaw, Michigan in 2002. After the relocation, the team changed its name to Saginaw Spirit. The purpose of the team was to support the economic viability and restore the image of the downtown region of the city. The team’s arrival led to the renovations of the Dow Event Center, Morley Plaza, the Temple Theater, and more downtown locations. The area is also home to Saganing Eagles Landing Casino, one of the popular gambling destinations in MI.

The Spirit first took part in the first outdoor game in OHL history in December of 2013. The team has qualified for the playoffs in 13 of their 17 seasons and has won the West Division three times. The Spirit went on the longest playoff run in its history by advancing to the 2019-20 OHL Western Conference Final where they lost in seven games.

❓ FAQ

Does Michigan Have an NFL Team?

If you wonder if Michigan has an NFL team, the answer is yes. The Detroit Lions are the only NFL team in the state and while they have won four NFL championships, the last in 1957, they have never appeared in the Super Bowl. Their best season in the Super Bowl era was advancing to the NFC title game in 1991 where they lost to the Washington Redskins.

Does Michigan Have an NBA Team?

One of the most commonly asked questions about the sports teams in Michigan is, does Michigan have an NBA team? The Detroit Pistons is Michigan’s NBA team, who have won the NBA title three times in 1989, 1990, and 2004.

What Are the Major Sports Teams in Michigan?

There are four major Michigan pro sports teams: The Detroit Tigers (MLB), the Detroit Lions (NFL), the Detroit Red Wings (NHL), and the Detroit Pistons (NBA).

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