Marguerite Norris was just about as close as you can get to hockey royalty. Her dad was the legendary James Norris, who in the 1930s purchased the Detroit Falcons franchise—promptly changing the name to the Red Wings.
Despite owning the team, the Norris family didn’t often make it out to games. James had a heart condition, which forced him to stay in Chicago for much of his tenure as team president. Still, he managed to stay plenty informed about the goings on of the team, connecting with coach/GM Jack Adams (yup, that Jack Adams) by phone after each game.
While unable to travel far from his home in Lake Forest, Illinois, James taught his family to love the game of hockey as well. Standing just one inch shy of six feet tall, Marguerite used to play goalie during family hockey games. Although she shared her father’s interest in the game, Marguerite pursued her owns interests as well, earning a degree from Smith College, then working for Dun & Bradstreet in New York and West Farm Management in Chicago.
When James passed away from a heart attack on December 4, 1952, Marguerite took over control as president of the Red Wings per her father’s wishes. Although she had attend many games in Chicago and New York, the game she attended on December 18 of that year was first Red Wings game she had seen at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium in 20 years (in case you were wondering, the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs tied 1-1).
Not much has been documented about Marguerite’s time with the Red Wings, but the team finished in first place during the three seasons she was at the helm. Marguerite was not shy about her disdain for coach Jack, but Mr. Adams remained the Red Wings head coach and guided the team to two Stanley Cups under Marguerite’s reign (1954, 1955). During the 1955 off-season, Marguerite lost an intrafamily struggle to her brother Bruce, who took over the team until 1982.
After leaving hockey, Marguerite moved to Connecticut and pursued an interest in raising cattle and horses. In her adopted hometown of Southbury, she was introduced to John Riker, the man she would marry in 1960. John was a graduate of the University of Alaska, had a master’s degree from Columbia University, and worked in the television business. While running their farm, the Rikers established themselves as leaders in the American Quarter Horse community. They were instrumental in introducing English events to the circuit and developed a popular breed of horses.
Marguerite died from heart failure in Connecticut on May 12, 1994. Her memory is honored each year with a scholarship to a graduating student at Nonnewaug High School—an agricultural high school not far from where she and John owned their farm. The scholarship goes to a student who excels in math, science and athletics and has financial need.
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