Farewell To The Joe: My 38 Greatest Memories
By Raymond Bennett
Detroit Sports 105.1 Hockey Insider
Just recently, I committed to my 9th season as a Detroit Red Wings season ticket holder. But this season isn't going to be like any other season. This will be the final season at Joe Louis Arena. I, like many of you, have many great memories of “The Joe”. So I figured why not share some of them. Better yet, how about 38 of them. Because 2017 is the year the doors will be shuttered forever, and that would make 38 years “The Joe” has been around. By all means, if you don't want to read all 38, I understand, but the one thing I realized while making this list, so many other forgotten memories pop up as you go along. So for your benefit, please read and even share some of your memories as well. You can send your memories to me at [email protected] or tweet to me @RaymondXBennett and I will post some of them in a future article. So without further ado, here are my 38 favorite memories of Joe Louis Arena.
- Detroit Jr. Red Wings vs Soo Greyhounds 1993 OHL Playoffs – My first ever time going to Joe Louis Arena. During this semi-final matchup in the OHL Playoffs, the Jr. Red Wings picked up their only victory of the series. The highlight of the game came with 3 seconds left in the game when goaltender Fred Brathwaite scored a goal.
- 1995 Red Wings Rally – The Red Wings Rally was a fan event similar to “Hockeyfest” that is held at Joe Louis Arena currently before every season. 1995 was a very special one to me because it was the first time I met Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom. My 2 favorite players at the time.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche Game 6, 1997 Western Conference Finals – Earlier that day, at a local sporting goods store within blocks of my home, the NHL put on a traveling fan exhibit called “NHL Street”. Tons of interactive games and free samples of Surge were all the rage at this event. There was also a giveaway of 2 tickets to Game 6 of the WCF that night, where the Red Wings could eliminate the Avalanche and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals. As luck would have it, I was the winner of those tickets and attended the game that night. I had never heard Joe Louis Arena that loud in my short experience in going there.
- Joe Vision – Detroit Red Wings vs Washington Capitals Game 4 1998 Stanley Cup Finals – I never really could get access to home playoff tickets growing up, but Joe Vision to me was the next best thing. For $5, you'd get all the sights and sounds of a Red Wings Home Game without the players on the ice. You would watch the game on the scoreboard at center ice. The Red Wings would easily dispose of the Caps and clinch their 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup. I still have some of the confetti that fell from the ceiling that night.
- WWF Raw is War September 1998 – The first non-hockey related event on the countdown. My first time ever at a WWF show didn't disappoint. The night before was the “WWF Breakdown” PPV. While the atmosphere was incredible the whole night(can't even begin to describe the crowd noise), this night is mostly remember for Stone Cold Steve Austin crashing the ring on the Zamboni. It was an incredible moment in not only WWF/E history, but Joe Louis Arena history.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes, January 9, 2001 – Not a very memorable night in history, but this game marked my first regular season game I ever attended at Joe Louis Arena. The game ended in a 2-2 tie. Sergei Fedorov and Kirk Maltby scored for Detroit.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche Game 5 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals – I never made it to a game during the regular season of the year(I was in the midst of a cancer battle for the majority of the season), but through a contact at the Make-A-Wish foundation of Michigan, I was given a pair of tickets that were donated to them. It also marked the first time seeing my 2nd hockey idol, Dominik Hasek play. The Wings lost 2-1 on a Peter Forsberg OT winner, which to this day I still have no idea how he sneaked that puck in.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Toronto Maple Leafs 2002 Preseason Opener – This is a memory because this was the unveiling to the Joe Louis Arena crowd of a young 22 year old Swedish prospect that went by the name Henrik Zetterberg. Much had been talked about the previous season about another European prospect by the name of Pavel Datsyuk. Zetterberg was the 2nd piece of the 2 players who would take over for Yzerman and Fedorov. I believe Zetterberg did score in this game, but I can't remember nor find a box score, but it was prevalent that night, this kid would be special.
- Detroit Red Wings vs St. Louis Blues December 31, 2002 – I got to watch this game from Curtis Joseph's suite he had sponsored for kids with terminal illness(which I had at the time). The Red Wings won 5-1, but the memory from this game was in the 3rd when 2 fights were happening simultaneously. A shirtless Darren McCarty and Maxin Kuznetsov battled against Bryce Salvador and Reed Low. It felt like the Bash Brother days, which I never truly got to experience live.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Tampa Bay Lightning March 8th, 2004 – Once again, not the most memorable game, but this was my 1 year anniversary gift to myself for surviving cancer and being in remission. The Red Wings and Tampa were tied in points in the chase for the President's Trophy, and this game did nothing to change that as the game ended in a 1-1 tie. The next played season, the NHL would bring in the shootout to end games. I feel this game slightly accelerated that process because it was a great game that had no winner. Ultimate buzzkill.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Dallas Stars March 13, 2004 – Before the game, the Red Wings congratulated and celebrated Nicklas Lidstrom playing in his 1,000th career game on February 29th, 2004. This was the first time I ever was brought to tears inside Joe Louis Arena. The video had that effect on me.
- Detroit Red Wings vs St. Louis Blues 2005 Home Opener October 5th, 2005 – After a 1 season absence, the NHL was back! And this would also begin a turn where I had a job and could buy tickets to as many games as possible. Red Wings won this game, Shanahan had a fight, and the Wings looked like the always have, dominant.
- Detroit Red Wings vs San Jose Sharks October 17th, 2005 – An overtime winner, my first time experiencing a OT win at the Joe. Jiri Fischer scored the winner in overtime, this would be the final goal “Fish” would score as he would have a tragic health scare a month later. I didn't go to that game that Jiri had the health scare, but I went to every other game that month.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Edmonton Oilers November 3, 2005 – The Red Wings ended up losing this game 4-3, but it wasn't the game that was memorable for me. It was during the warm-ups where I mercilessly booed overrated peasant Chris Pronger. Warm-ups usually last 15 or so minutes(it seems like it at least), and Pronger was out there for the majority of it. I didn't stop till he walked off the ice and flashed the yap sign at me as he ran off. It was a liberating feeling. I got under his skin.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Pittsburgh Penguins December 12, 2005 – This game marked the first look at a rookie named Sidney Crosby, who would later become Public Enemy #1 in Detroit. I actually have a ticket from this game signed by Sid somewhere around the house. Crosby would register an assist. I didn't think on this night, he would later be celebrating a Stanley Cup Championship on this ice...but it happened.
- Detroit Red Wings Open Practice – A rare occurrence. The Detroit Red Wings held a open practice for fans of their fan club. Definitely an interesting experience to see how a NHL practice is run. I got a puck from Mike Babcock, which I later would get signed by him.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Philadelphia Flyers January 12, 2006 – Red Wings win this game by a score of 6-3, but the action carried over into the stands as well. My first “Fan Fight” experience. If ever there was a Civil War between a fan base, this was it. As the story goes, apparently one guy said some unpleasant things to another guys lady friend, and that's when the fists started to fly. I call this a Civil War because one fan had a Downriver look to him, while the other, for some strange reason, was wearing a lime green silk button up shirt. Now, he could've for all I know got beat up because of the shirt, but who knows(I would've beat him up for wearing that shirt). But what really amazed me was, nobody tumbled down the steps. Anyway, security broke it up while one small old lady locked in a Rear Choke Hold on one of the combatants.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Vancouver Canucks October 5, 2006 – We all knew it would be Nick, but they didn't announce it till this night, and I had to be there...by any means necessary. Steve Yzerman had retired the previous summer, so the Red Wings needed a Captain. Well, Lidstrom was the obvious choice and had to be there to see my idol “graduate”. Problem is, I was on a family vacation to Kentucky at the time. So I did what any normal hockey fanatic would do. Hop on a Greyhound bus in Berea, KY at 6am, and make my way home. And that's exactly what I did. I got to Detroit around 4pm, met up with my neighbor who was going to the game as well as picking me up at the bus station. I got to the game, saw the festivities, a 3-1 loss to the Canucks with new goaltender, Roberto Luongo. Went home, took a nap, then bused it to Cincinnati where my parents would pick me up. Best. Trip. Ever.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks January 2, 2007 – I always have paid face value for a ticket...till this night. Of course, this was Steve Yzerman Night. And amazing ceremony where memories were remembered and tears we shed. We paid tribute to the Captain. Wings win 2-1, but who cares, it was Stevie's night.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks May 11, 2007 – I won tickets to this game thanks to a text trivia contest. I answered 3 questions and won tickets to this playoff game. A spectacular playoff contest between the 2 teams favored to win the cup. Wings won 2-1, but Anaheim would go on to win the series and the Stanley Cup...oh, what might have been.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Toronto Maple Leafs Preseason 2007 – Wings won this game, pretty easily. But this night officially clicked something in my head, this team will win the Stanley Cup this year. They just had IT.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Minnesota Wild January 10, 2008 – Just your average crazy 6-5 loss in a shootout by the Red Wings, but I finally got to see in person the famous Brian Rolston, “Just skate up to the goalie and fire a slapper past him” move in the shootout. If you don't know what I am talking about...YouTube “Rolston Slap Shot”. The move is deadly.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Atlanta Thrashers January 15, 2008 – The rumor mill for the NHL Trade Deadline had been churning out a doozy of a suggestion that the Red Wings were interested in Thrashers Star Forward Marian Hossa. Well, if this were an audition, he didn't disappoint. Hossa scored a Hat Trick, and put on quite a show. I miss this guy. More on him shortly.
- Joe Vision – Detroit Red Wings vs Penguins Game 6 Stanley Cup Final June 4, 2008 - “Oh what a night.” Not as packed as in previous Joe Vision experiences, but, it didn't need to be. After a 6 year hiatus, the Cup was back home.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Toronto Maple Leafs October 9, 2008 – After missing the home opener the prior season, this year was different. I officially became a Season Ticket Holder for the Red Wings. So why not kick it off with putting the 11th Championship Banner in the rafters. Seeing a championship banner raised is beyond special. If you haven't experienced it, I suggest it. It...once again...made me cry tears of happiness.
- Detroit Red Wings vs New York Rangers October 18, 2008 – The biggest FA acquisition by the Red Wings in quite some time, Marian Hossa, scored his 1st goal as a Red Wing this night, an OT winner at that. I jumped out of the roof that night. “HOSS” had arrived.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Atlanta Thrashers October 28, 2008 – Marian Hossa scored what still to this day is the prettiest goal I have ever seen scored live. After speeding his way around former Red Wing Mathieu Schneider, Hossa would continue around the net, but tuck it in just as he got to the short side. An unreal display of skill. I miss him.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Pittsburgh Penguins Game 1 Stanley Cup Finals May 30th, 2009 – My first time seeing a Stanley Cup Final game in person, Red Wings won 3-1. A rookie by the name of Justin Abdelkader would score his first NHL goal. The series though...we won't discuss.
- Detroit Red Wings vs LA Kings October 15, 2009 – On this night, Nicklas Lidstrom scored his 1,000th point on a deflected shot by Henrik Zetterberg. Proud accomplishment, and even more proud to be in the audience that night.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Atlanta Thrashers November 25, 2009 – Red Wings lost this game. But during the intermission, I participated in Score-O. I missed all 3 shots. I couldn't handle the pressure. To make up for it though, I did go 3 for 3 in my backyard the next day.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks Season Opener October 8, 2010 – Red Wings shut out the Ducks on the opener to the 2010-11 season. But the highlight without a doubt was the fight between Pavel Datsyuk and Corey Perry. Which most say Pavel won. I have a photo of the fight signed by Pavel. The crowd was beyond crazy for this moment.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Calgary Flames November 21, 2010 – A wild game that went back and forth. Red Wings were down by 2 goals with 10 minutes left in the 3rd and came back to tie it with 4 seconds left. Nicklas Lidstrom would score the OT winner on a beautiful show of skill and patience. The goal, I feel, epitomizes Lidstrom's style.
- Detroit Red Wings vs St. Louis Blues December 15, 2010 – Red Wings defeat the Blues 5-2 as Nicklas Lidstrom finally records his 1st career Hat Trick. I always told myself that I would throw my hat on the ice for 1 players Hat Trick. So when the time came, I ran down 22 rows of steps in the Upper Bowl of Joe Louis Arena, made my way up to the glass and tossed my hat onto the ice. Interesting post script to the story though, is I was able to retrieve the hat back after the game and haven't worn it since. I also had Nick sign it for me as well.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Pittsburgh Penguins March 21, 2011 - The Penguins jumped out to a 4-0 lead in this game. Everybody thought for sure this was over. But miraculously, the Red Wings came back to tie the game up 4-4.The silence before Mike Modano teed up his shot and the puck went in for the tying goal was followed by one of the loudest roars from the crowd I had ever heard. The Red Wings eventually lost in a shoot-out, of course.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Columbus Blue Jackets March 26th, 2012 – The Red Wings defeat the Jackets 7-2, but on this night you would see Nicklas Lidstrom score his final NHL goal, and rookie Gustav Nyquist score his 1st NHL Goal.
- Detroit Red Wings vs LA Kings February 10, 2013 – The Red Wings had mucked and grind their way through this game, clinging to a one goal lead when Rochester native, Alec Martinez tied it up for the Kings with 54 seconds left in the game. Then with 5 seconds left in the game, Jonathan Ericsson would give the Wings the lead and the win as the puck just rolled past the goal line and laid there about an inch from it.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche March 6, 2014 – On this night, Number 5 joined the rafters with 1,7,9,10,12,19. A classy ceremony for my idol. It was the culmination of Nicklas Lidstrom's career, and I was proud to be a fan of his since the OT goal vs Chicago in Game 1 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals.
- Detroit Red Wings vs Toronto Maple Leafs October 9, 2015 – Mike Babcock had left the Red Wings during the offseason, and returned immediately for the home opener of the 2015-16 season. Just in time to get a good look at rookie phenom, Dylan Larkin. Who was as advertised on this night, registering his First NHL Point and Goal. It's only the beginning for him.
HONORABLE MENTION – AT&T Skate Party March 30, 2015 – A piece of advice, show up as early as possible to any event you ever attend. You never know what circumstance may come up. On this day, I showed up early for a Skate Party on the ice at Joe Louis Arena. I was able to skate on the ice by myself for about 10-15 minutes. After some friends showed up, they asked if I was going back out. I said no. And the reason why? I just had a memory that will last forever. How many non-players or non-employees can say they skated on the ice all alone for 10 minutes? I know I can.
So there you have it, 38 of my finest memories at Joe Louis Arena. If you read through all of them, god bless you and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Do I have more? Sure, I have hundreds of them. And if you have been there as many times as I have, you too would have just as many. Although it's outdated, in some disrepair, and some of the smells that emanate from the streets below I could live without, it still has been like a second home to me for many years. People know me by first name. I've built friendships with the ushers, merchandise booth attendants, and of course, other fans. But when “The Joe” meets the wrecking ball, a piece of me will be gone, never to return. But, a new piece of me will grow, and many more great memories and experiences await. But “The Joe” will always be home.