Calling something the “end of an era” can often be overstated. But for Detroit sports fans, an era truly did end on Monday night when the city’s original sports talk station, WDFN 1130 AM, was taken off the air in a format change by iHeartMedia.

News of the switch was first reported by Detroit Sports Nation, based on a Facebook post by former Detroit sportscaster Mark Wilson, who had two stints as an on-air host at WDFN with FS1’s Rob Parker.

According to RadioInsight, the iHeart Media conglomerate will be switching the format for 15 of its stations in markets with larger Black populations to the “Black Information Network,” featuring programming geared toward African American listeners. Sports talk stations in Augusta and Macon, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; and New Orleans are also affected.

As of Monday night, WDFN and other stations changing formats were playing speeches and audio clips from acclaimed Black figures such as former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Malcolm X. Listeners were told to tune in Tuesday afternoon at 12 p.m. ET for “an important announcement” about the station’s future.

WDFN went on the air (switching from a simulcast of an FM country music station) with its all-sports format in July 1994. Branding itself “The Fan,” it was Detroit’s first sports talk station. (Other stations in the market, such as WJR and WWJ, had sports programming at night or on weekends, but not 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

The original lineup was Butch Stearns and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Lary Sorenson in morning drive-time, ESPN Radio’s The Fabulous Sports Babe for the late morning, Van Earl Wright during mid-day, Mike Stone and Rob Parker (then a columnist for the Detroit News) for afternoon drive-time, and former Michigan State football player Ike “Mega Man” Griffin in the evenings.

Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski later took Parker’s place as Stone’s co-host and the “Stoney and Wojo” show became the top sports radio show in the market. And after several attempts that never quite connected with listeners, a local morning show soon gave way to “Mike & Mike” eventually took over, as was the case for many ESPN Radio affiliates.

ESPN’s Dave Pasch is arguably WDFN’s most famous alumnus, working at the station as a news anchor, on-air host, and play-by-play announcer for the market’s International Hockey League team, the Detroit Vipers. CBS Sports Radio’s Brandon Tierney hosted midday in the early-2000s. Matt Shepard, now the TV voice of the Detroit Tigers, had several roles at the station, including a morning show after WDFN became a Fox Sports Radio affiliate.

For Detroit fans, a dedicated sports talk radio station felt like affirmation.

A city with teams in all four major professional sports — Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings — with big-time college teams like Michigan and Michigan State deserved the same kind of outlet that markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago had. And in the days before the internet took hold of the culture and social media was established, there were very few platforms for Detroit sports diehards to vent their opinions and join in fan camaraderie.

Not only did WDFN give Detroit sports fan a voice, but its on-air personalities gave voice to the frustrations and joys of following the city’s teams. Each demoralizing loss by the Lions was somewhat relieved by the outrage expressed by Art Regner and Gregg Henson on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Regner became the voice for Red Wings fans when the team finally broke its decades-long Stanley Cup drought with titles in 1997 and 1998, and went on to broadcast for the team through later championship runs. (Detroit Free Press beat writer Keith Gave co-hosted in the mornings during that era as well, giving fans reporting and insight on a beloved team.)

Growing up and spending most of my life in the metro Detroit area, WDFN meant a lot to me personally. The station and its hosts were my companion throughout the day, especially when commuting to school and work. (Sports talk was especially meaningful when I drove a delivery truck.) After a big win or loss, or major news like a trade or free-agent signing, it was the first place to go for reaction to those events.

I remember calling in to the station early Sunday morning the day after Colorado shocked Michigan in 1994 with that Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass. Not only was I commiserating with fans, but as an aspiring sportswriter, I wanted to pick Bob Wojnowski’s brain on how he handled the story changing in an instant.

When I got one of my first professional assignments covering a Tigers game, Matt Dery — then the sports director at WDFN — was someone I knew through emails and phone calls. He could see a novice overwhelmed in that setting for the first time and provided welcome help and support. Engineer Albert Dale was another buoy for me the first time I covered a Pistons game.

Even after leaving Michigan, I occasionally corresponded with Mike Stone to keep up on the sports and media scenes.

For many, including those who worked at the station over the past 26 years, WDFN effectively ended when it was first taken off the air in 2009 (during Barack Obama’s inauguration). Personalities like Stone, Wojnowski, Henson, Terry Foster, and Jamie Samuelsen jumped over to the competition. Though the local sports format was later revived, the station was never quite the same. The decline had already been happening for years.

WXYT had become the dominant sports talk station in town, especially when it moved to FM (97.1 The Ticket) and could reach a much wider audience. The Ticket also had the considerable advantage of becoming the flagship station for Detroit Tigers baseball. WDFN argued that it could be a more objective voice since it wasn’t partnered with a team, but fans tuned in for the games and typically didn’t turn the dial afterward. Mike Valenti’s show dominates afternoon drive-time.

Despite that, there’s a finality to WDFN going off the air this time. It’s not coming back. The Detroit radio scene is far different. (Another sports station, Detroit Sports 105.1, didn’t even make it three years on the air.) And sports talk, in general, has changed. Though radio is still readily accessible (especially online), fans get their fix through social media, message boards, blogs, websites, and podcasts now. Most, if not all, good things eventually come to an end, right?

But you always remember your first. Long before this format change, WDFN wasn’t the station that it once was. Yet it filled a major void in Detroit for a sports fanbase that was starving for that kind of programming. That’s certainly worth remembering and celebrating.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and Asheville's Mountain XPress. He's written for Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.