Before I became a Jackets fan, I was a Wings fan. Being raised in NW Ohio, it was in every hockey fans blood. With the building closing down today, I wrote an article that I have posted around the web, and thought I would take a minute to share with all of you as well.
Goodbye, Joe Louis Arena. Thanks for the memories...
Goodbye, Old barn.
For the last 37 years, the Detroit Red Wings have called Joe Louis Arena home. An arena that was built when the team was on the verge of moving. A building that inspired a city and provided its people with something to cling to as everything around it crumbled. Regardless of what was happening to the people of Detroit, they continued to fill the seats and cheer a team that gave them hope. The city was poor, jobs were leaving, and crime was rising. The history of The Joe is rich, people left with smiles on their faces, and the only thing rising in this small pocket of Detroit, were banners into the rafters.
Since the Red Wings played their first game at The Joe on December 27th, 1979, the people of Detroit have witnessed 1376 regular season games, a 25 year playoff run, 4 Stanley Cup Championships, 20 hockey hall-of-fame inductees, and innumerable memories. As one of hockey’s cathedrals closes tonight, I need to take a minute to reflect; an opportunity to say thank you for so many memorable moments.
Thank you, Joe Louis Arena, for the goosebumps you provided as I climbed the steps off Steve Yzerman drive and up into the Gordie Howe entrance. From the first step inside the doors when the smell of beer stained concrete hit you in the face, you knew regardless of where you were sitting you would be treated to some of the best sight lines in hockey. There wasn’t a bad seat in the place, which provided you 20,066 options to choose from. Whether you were sitting behind the glass or in the 25th row of the upper bowl, you felt like you were right there on the ice fighting with your team.
Joe Louis Arena, was built for one thing…hockey. There is nothing fancy about this building. It boasts a 30 foot concourse, grey walls and the perfect amount of grit that embodies this city and its people. It isn’t pretty, but it is OURS. The Joe, has hosted many events throughout its history, including; wrestling, boxing, thousands of concerts, and the 1980 Republican National Convention. An event that saw the nomination of Ronald Reagan, a man who would bring an end to the Cold War. How fitting that on October 25th, 1995, Joe Louis Arena, gave birth to the Russian Five.
The Russian Five, Fedorov, Larionov, Kozlov, Fetisov, and Konstantinov, led the Red Wings to a 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames that night. They would go on to lead them to multiple Stanley Cups as well. Scotty Bowman, changed the face of the Red Wing organization and eventually the NHL forever. During the 1995-1996 season, the Russians guided the Red Wings to an NHL record 62 wins. While teams were playing the traditional NHL style of dumping the puck into the zone and establishing a forecheck, the Russians played a game that focused on puck control, speed, and no set positions. The emulation of the Soviet style provided a multitude of scoring chances, and confused opponents. The Russians believed that if you control the puck, you control the game. That emphasis on puck movement, quick passing, and possession has become the identity of the Red Wing organization. The following season, the Russians were instrumental in bringing the Stanley Cup to Detroit. The teams first in 42 years.
The 1997 Stanley Cup was the first for Joe Louis Arena. During its time, the Red Wings would win three more. The 1998, 2002, and 2008 seasons would also result in Stanley Cup Championships for the Red Wings. The 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cups mark the last time a franchise has won the championship in back to back seasons. The franchise itself is steeped in tradition, but in the 37 years since the inaugural season of at Joe Louis arena, 20 members of the hockey hall of fame have donned the winged wheel; Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Paul Coffey, Bernie Federko, Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Mark Howe, Brett Hull, Igor Larionov, Nick Lidstrom, Mike Modano, Larry Murphy, Adam Oates, Brad Park, Luc Robitaille, Borje Salming, Brendan Shanahan, Darryl Sittler, and The Captain, Steve Yzerman.
Thank you Joe. Thank you for some of the greatest moments in NHL history. Thank you for Gordie’s last All-Star game. Thank you for being the fabric of a city that needed you when the auto industry suffered. This year has seen the 25 year playoff streak end, the death of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, and the passing of Owner, Mike Illitch, a man who loved the city of Detroit more than anyone. It is only fitting that one of the most historic arenas in hockey history closes its doors and says goodbye as well.
Thanks for the memories, Old Barn. We will miss you.