COLE’S NOTES: Goodbye Joe
Speaking of lists, I have one that ranks all of my favourite venues and there are a select few that I wouldn't miss visiting for just about anything.
My top five venue list consists of Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers), Madison Square Gardens in New York, Yankee Stadium (which I got to see the year it closed in 2008), Wrigley Field with the ivy walls, and the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Which leads me to tell you about our latest sports adventure.The final hockey games were recently played at the Joe and I was lucky enough to see my Montreal Canadiens beat the Red Wings on the second to last night of the regular season.
I never really knew why exactly I had Joe Louis Arena in my top five but with its history, some of my favourite players wearing the red and white, and its age I knew it was a must. Then I arrived and quickly realized that it would have been worth a much longer drive if necessary.
Everything was so amazing! The sets of stairs painted with farewell artwork leading up to the front door, the blue steel rafters, the statue of Gordie Howe in the concourse, the old padded seats, the friendly staff, the perfect location just across the Ambassador Bridge that goes from Windsor to Detroit, the super old "jumbotron" above the ice that had rolling advertisements as opposed to a digital display, see-through rink board advertisements with red lights glowing inside instead of solid boards with peel away ads, media booths within arm’s reach of the top row of seating and historical memorabilia throughout the entire arena.
Better then everything else though was the atmosphere.
From the ceremonial faceoff where one-time captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, dropped the puck for Michigan native Jeff Petry and a future hall of famer in Henrik Zetterberg to the final buzzer when Alex Galchenyuk scored in overtime, for the Habs, the crowd was into it.
It was so contagious that even when Detroit scored I found myself jumping up and cheering with the rest of the crowd.
And what would a trip to the Joe be without seeing an octopus, or 10, thrown on the ice!
Part of these trips is trying the signature menu options and in the home of the Detroit Red Wings I had to try the Red Hot Wings. I went with the boneless wings and although they looked like chicken nuggets they tasted like hockey heaven. Ok, so I don't know what that means but they were frickin good!
You could tell that a lot of Canadians and Canadiens fans had the same idea as us because for one thing the city bus that we took across the border was half filled with bleu, blanc et rouge.
That trend continued when walking into the arena.Although it clearly wasn't an original idea it definitely was a good one. What an experience!
What I found most surprising about the whole experience is that the arena was only 38 years old. I know, in hockey arenas that is like 100, but with all of the hype and history surrounding the Joe I just assumed it was 50 or 60 years old. Mostly because it looked like it had been around for more than half a century.
Nonetheless, it was one of the oldest in the NHL and now it is no longer home to pro hockey. I’m so glad I got to be a part of its closing chapter. Part of their send-off they were handing out mini replicas of the arena as we walked in the door. I'm going to have to get a display case for that.
I didn't know you for a long time Joe Louis but I sure am going to miss you.
P.S. On the way home I stopped into the Peterborough Memorial Centre, for my first visit, to watch some OHL playoff action. Talk about old barns!
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