Exterior view of Joe Louis Arena, Home of the Detroit Red Wings.

Joe Louis Arena is arguably the most storied arena in the National Hockey League now that the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens are defunct. (Strangely, it’s named after boxer and Detroit icon Joe Louis). No team has been more consistent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the last thirty years than the Detroit Red Wings. And when rumors started circulating that the Detroit Pistons could be moving downtown to share an arena with the Red Wings, I knew I had to rush to Michigan to see Joe Louis Arena in person. It didn’t take long after our visit for the city of Detroit to break ground on Little Caesars Arena which is scheduled to open in 2017. The rumors were true.

Photo of the Gordie Howe statue at Joe Louis Arena.

Our staff attended a Red Wings home game vs. the St. Louis Blues on a Sunday. I was hyped to have found free street parking maybe three blocks from the arena. This was my first visit to Detroit, I don’t recall any of the street names, otherwise, I would share its location. The main parking garage near the arena is $20 per vehicle. Fans are greeted with a steep hill of steps to climb outside of “The Joe’s” main entrance. The best part awaits you on the inside. There are beautiful statues of former Red Wings greats Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio just inside the arena’s main entrance aka the “Gordie Howe Entrance”. The mob of fans that stop for photo opportunities can really clog up the area. To avoid this, enter via the Southeast entrance off of Yzerman Drive down next to the river. The statues resemble the statues of former Detroit Tiger greats at Comerica Park, I would imagine the city used the exact same architects.

View of the Ice at Joe Louis Arena from the upper level.

Unlike other NHL arenas, everything happens on the lower level concourse at Joe Louis Arena. This is an intimate arena despite being the NHL’s second largest and the “upper level” really doesn’t feel like the upper level. There are no suites at Joe Louis Arena but you can count on that changing with the new Red Wings arena that’s on the way. Our seats were in section 208, 8th row if I recall correctly and we loved them. The 100 numbered sections were a little hard to come by since there are much fewer rows in those sections. No suites and one level of seats also means that the concourses are extremely crowded, especially when it comes time to buy food or go to the restroom. Our advice; go during play stoppages before face-offs. You will also get a kick out of the old school jersey and t shirt stands throughout the concourse.


It’s an absolute tragedy that most concessions in the arena don’t accept credit cards. When the cashier told me that at checkout, I had to pause and ask myself what year it was. If you have ever visited local Detroit establishments such as Hockeytown Café or Cheli’s Chilli Bar, they also have concession stands inside the arena. There is also Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts and Little Caesar’s Pizza at Joe Louis Arena. Overall, the food selection is above average and very affordable compared to other NHL arenas we’ve visited. The beer selection is pretty solid. Definitely try the beer “Motor City” for a taste of something local.

Photo of the old Seats at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.

When you arrive at your seats, one of the first things you will notice is how decorated the ceiling is with championship banners. The Red Wings have 11 Stanley Cup titles, good for third best in the NHL. There are also retired jerseys of players like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and recently retired captain Steve Yzerman. The replay board in upper center is way outdated but what’s the point of replacing it now with a new arena on the way? The seats aren’t the most comfortable. Your knees will likely be rubbing against the seats in front if you're above average in height. There are no cup holders, so hold onto your beer tightly and don't let anyone knock it over. The ushers are pretty thorough about checking tickets but many of them are very very friendly and have worked at The Joe for years from what I was told.

Photo of the Stanley Cup Banners at Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings.

The game we chose to attend was quiet possibly the most boring game in Joe Louis Arena history. The score was 0-0 through three periods with the St. Louis Blues scoring the game’s loan goal in the final two minutes of the game. The loudest the crowd got the entire day was when a fan threw an Octopus onto the ice during the third period. I was under the impression that this is only done during the Stanley Cup Playoffs but apparently not. To learn more about this awesome Red Wings tradition, please refer to the articles at the very bottom of the page. If you’ve seen the huge Octopus prop that drops down from the ceiling before Red Wings games, I hear they only use it during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sometimes it’s on display somewhere on the arena property for fans to take photos of.

Photo of Greektown in Detroit, Michigan.

There are really no bars or restaurants near Joe Louis Arena despite its downtown location. Most fans that want to dine before and after the game will park at the Greektown Casino in Greektown and ride the People Mover (transit system) over to Joe Louis Arena. There are plenty of great restaurants in Greektown to choose from, “Pizza Papalis” being my favorite. Greektown is the most happening region of Detroit's downtown along with the Renaissance Center. Hockeytown Café and Cheli’s Chilli Bar are popular on gamedays and are adjacent to each other in the neighborhood next to Comerica Park, Ford Field and the historic Fox Theatre. 

Exterior photo of Joe Louis Arena's main entrance, home of the Detroit Red Wings.

I loved the lack of a corporate feel at Joe Louis Arena but those days will likely soon come to an end. I would imagine a local company like Chrysler will purchase the naming rights to the Red Wings/Pistons new home arena and make it their own. I know I would like to travel back to Detroit to see "The Joe" one final time before it meets its demise and maybe this time, I will get to take in a Detroit Lions game at beautiful Ford Field. The city of Detroit is struggling financially but is undergoing a little bit of a comeback from what I've read online. I didn’t feel unsafe walking the streets at night, most people are friendly and there are still plenty of tourist spots to see. Just be smart and don’t drive into neighborhoods that are off the grid and you should be fine. Everyone is well aware of the city’s violent reputation but Detroit has a charm to it that can't be easily explained.