Monday, April 10, 2017

Joe Louis Arena - "The Joe"

Yesterday, the Detroit Red Wings played their final game at Joe Louis Arena, a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Joe Louis Arena
Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena opened on December 12, 1979 and was named after the Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit. "The Joe" is the second oldest arena in the NHL and was built to replace the Red Wings long time home, the Detroit Olympia, which dated back to 1927. The Red Wings played their first game at The Joe on December 27, 1979, hosting the St. Louis Blues.

Joe Louis Arena interior

Later that same season, the NHL All-Star Game was held there on February 5, 1980 before a record crowd of 21,002, a game made memorable for the standing ovation given to Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, then with the Hartford Whalers, before his 23rd and final All-Star Game.

After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1966, Detroit entered an extended down period, which earned them the derisive nickname, the Dead Wings. Through the 1982-83 season, a span of 17 years, the club only made the playoffs twice. That era came to an end with the 1983-84 season Detroit made the playoffs in two consecutive seasons for the first time since the mid 1960s. While they did miss the postseason in 1986 and 1990, the Red Wings began a run of success while playing at the Joe Louis Arena, making the playoffs for a record 25 consecutive years. While it did begin at the Olympia back in 1952, the tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice in celebration of the Red Wings playoff success has been an integral part of the Joe Louis playoff experience.

Red Wings fans hurling an octopus on the ice

Steve Yzerman would set the Red Wings single season scoring record while playing at Joe Louis Arena with a 65 goal, 155 point season in 1988-89.

Steve Yzerman Red Wings
Steve Yzerman set the Red Wings all-time single season scoring record

The Stanley Cup Finals were played at the Joe Louis Arena six times, with Detroit winning championships in 1997, ending a 42 year drought, and again in 1998, 2002 and 2008, with the clinching games happening on the ice at The Joe in 1997 and 2002. In 1987, it hosted the NHL Entry Draft, the first to ever be held in the United States.

Joe Louis Arena Banners 2
Some of the many Red Wings banners hanging at The Joe

In addition to the Stanley Cup victories, one of the most memorable games at Joe Louis Arena was "Fight Night at The Joe" when the Red Wings battled the Colorado Avalanche at the peak of their 1990s rivalry in retribution for Claude Lemieux's check from behind that severely injured the Detroit's Kris Draper. In addition to Darren McCarty's attack on Lemieux, goaltenders Mike Vernon and Patrick Roy famously fought at center ice during the melee.

McCarty Lemieux
McCarty attacking Claude Lemieux in 1997

Fight Night at the Joe
Moments later Patrick Roy was throwing haymakers with Mike Vernon

In November of 2006, the arena's West Entrance was renamed the Gordie Howe Entrance and a statue of Howe was put on display inside the arena.

Joe Louis Arena Gordie Howe Entrance

Howe Statue

In addition to the NHL's Red Wings calling The Joe home, the arena was an important part of the college hockey scene. The NCAA Frozen Four was held at Joe Louis Arena on three occasions, in 1985, 1987 and 1990. In 1982, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association moved their tournament finals moved there through 2013. With the end of the CCHA, the Big Ten Conference Tournament was then held there in both 2015 and 2017.

Additionally, the annual Great Lakes Invitational holiday tournament called The Joe home from 1979 to 2016, featuring Michigan Tech, the University of Michigan and Michigan State plus a fourth team, quite often another one from Michigan, such as Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, Ferris State or Lake Superior State.

GLI 2016
Western Michigan won the last Great Lakes Invitational
at the Joe Louis Arena in 2016

Other tenants of The Joe included the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors junior hockey team, then renamed the Detroit Junior Red Wings, who played in the Ontario Hockey League for four seasons, winning a championship in 1995.

The Detroit Drive of the Arena Football League played at Joe Louis Arena from 1998 to 1993, playing in the finals in all six of their seasons, which included winning four championships including winning two in Detroit.

Other notable events held at Joe Louis Arena were the Republican National Convention in 1980, the decisive game of the 2006 WNBA Finals, the 1994 U. S. Figure Skating Championships (memorable for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan by associates of rival Tonya Harding) and other sporting events such as the Detroit Turbos indoor lacrosse team from 1989 to 1994, the Detroit Rockers indoor soccer team from 1996 to 2000, professional wrestling matches, various basketball and concert events, particularly during its early years.

Today's first featured jersey is a 1996-97 Detroit Red Wing Steve Yzerman jersey as worn the first time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup at the Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit Red Wings 1996-97 B jersey
Detroit Red Wings 1996-97 F jersey

Today's second featured jersey is a 2001-02 Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty jersey as worn the second time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup at the Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit Red Wings 2001-02 F jersey
Detroit Red Wings 2001-02 B jersey
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1991-92 Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman jersey. To celebrate the NHL's 75th anniversary, the Original 6 clubs all wore throwback jerseys to mark the occasion, with the Red Wings wearing the jerseys worn by the 1927-28 Detroit Cougars, the year their original arena, the Detroit Olympia opened.

Detroit Red Wings 1991-92 TBTC F
Detroit Red Wings 1991-92 TBTC B

In today's video section, the conclusion of Game 7 of the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals played at the Olympia, the first cup finals to end in sudden death overtime.

In today's video section, the lengthy ovation Howe received at the 1980 NHL All-Star Game.

Here are highlights of the Red Wings winning their first Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena in 1997, their first in 42 years.

This next video is the end of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals as Detroit wins their second championship on home ice.

Next, a brief look at the tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice in Detroit.

Next, a nostalgic look at the history of the building by Al Sobotka, the Building Operations Manager of the Joe Louis Arena, famous for being the one who picks up the octopi and twirls them around his head after they are thrown on the ice.

Here, broadcaster "Doc" Emrick reviews the history of Joe Louis Arena.

Finally, Reily Sheahan scores the final goal at The Joe.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff but something that has puzzled me forever: Why did the Pistons and Wings never share an arena...even in the Olympia and Cobo Hall days? They both finally will in the new arena so welcome Detroit to Econ 101 sense.


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