Detroit Red Wings fans and the National Hockey League waived goodbye to the league's only "old barn" still standing on April 8th following a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979, was the second oldest arena in the NHL behind Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Rangers. Detroit Red Wings fans would have preferred to say the final goodbye following a 26th consecutive playoff appearance or perhaps a matchup vs. the Colorado Avalanche or an Original Six team. However, the crowd was loud and boisterous in an atmosphere that felt like playoff hockey.
Perhaps the final goodbyes were harder when Detroit Red Wings fans waived goodbye to Olympia Stadium; the team's home from 1927 to 1979. It didn't take long for the Red Wings organization to establish history at Joe Louis Arena which is named after boxing legend and Detroit native Joe Louis. All the same, history suggests it won't take long for the Red Wings to bring a Stanley Cup championship to Little Caesar's Arena which will have all of the newest bells and whistles. Little Caesar's Arena will also be home to the NBA's Detroit Pistons which brings even greater anticipation to a revitalized downtown Detroit.
I, for one, am ecstatic that I got to visit Joe Louis Arena four years ago for a home game vs. the St. Louis Blues. I knew the arena wouldn't survive much longer with the exploding popularity of the NHL and all of the revenue that club and luxury seating provides owners these days. I'll never forget walking those steep steps outside of the arena into the Gordie Howe entrance and seeing Red Wing great Ted Lindsay as soon as I walked in. The statues of the legendary Red Wings players were also memorable. What I liked most about Joe Louis Arena was the intimacy. The entire arena consisted of one level; you walked up the steps to the upper level and down the steps to the lower level. The crowd's knowledge of hockey astounded me which was slowly revealed in personal conversations throughout the game. I also loved the quietness of the crowd while the game was going on. For once, I discovered an arena where the game was more important than smart phones, the wave and trips to the concession stand.
Other highlights of the unforgettable night included the dropping of the game puck by Steve Yzerman, Tomas Holmstrom reading the official lineup to the Detroit Red Wings players in the locker room, the celebration of Henrik Zetterberg's 1,000th career game, the tossing of a record 35 octopi onto the ice and the sprinkling of legendary enforcer Bob Probert's ashes into the Joe Louis Arena penalty box. Joe Louis Arena will be missed. And while the Detroit Red Wings organization is definitely in rebuilding mode, it won't take long for the franchise to return to it's former glory.
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