Joe Louis Arena: A Hockey Fans First Impression

Home of the 11-time Stanley Cup champions, Joe Louis Arena is one of the most well-known venues in the National Hockey League. Lined with banners in the rafters and playing past highlights before games, it’s clear the Detroit Red Wings and the city are truly fans of the game and fans of their storied history.

Putting The Red Wings Together

If there’s one thing that Detroit knows is coming every year, it’s NHL playoff hockey. At least that’s been how it’s been for the past 22 seasons – winning four Stanley Cups over that span. It’s something the city has grown accustomed over the past two decades.

As the team ages though, the question becomes how long this streak can continue. In fact, many believed that it could have come to a close during last year’s shortened season. Yet it didn’t.

The Red Wings aren’t your typical big-name team, either – at least not anymore. I mean, sure Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Jimmy Howard have played their names into households around the league – but think about where these guys were taken in the draft.

Zetterberg was taken in the seventh round – 210th overall. Datsyuk was a sixth round pick – 171st overall. Even Daniel Alfredsson – their big offseason acquisition – was taken in the sixth round.

Now, Zetterberg is their captain and currently their leading scorer. Datsyuk is possibly one of the most popular and classiest players both in the NHL. And Alfredsson and Johan Franzen are among the most consistent players in the league.

But that’s the way the team is built. Call them the misfits of the NHL – they are older, but more talented and determined to prove critics wrong and make the playoffs for a 23rd straight season. The fans at Joe Louis Arena have noticed that and will be right there for every minute of the season to cheer on their Red Wings and create an atmosphere worth experiencing – a sea of red throughout the city.

Red Wings History

Stepping into Joe Louis for the first time this season, sitting down in my seat, I looked up at the banners that hang from the old rafters above the ice surface. Ted Lindsay, Steve Yzerman, and Mr. Hockey himself are only a few of the names that hang in red and white. There are division titles, conference titles and those hard-to-come-by Stanley Cup banners covering the entire ceiling of the arena.

They honour their history. Entering the stadium, I had the chance to see Ted Lindsay. He was signing books – titled 7, his own story of his career in hockey. I approached the table and shook hands with him. I told him who I was and where I was from. We talked for about fifteen minutes before he shook my hand again.

Ted Lindsay Red Wings hockey player

Lindsay’s one of six Wings to have his number retired.

“It was great to meet you Andrew.” he said to me.

“It was great to meet you too Mr. Lindsay.”

But that’s what was so incredible – how proud these former players are to put on their Red Wing colours and come back to The Joe – to thank the fans with a simple appearance. The Wings honour them in return – letting everyone know they’re at the game and playing highlights from their career.

Detroit recognizes their past in red and white and continue to enjoy the culture of the game in the city.

Red Wings Atmosphere

On game days, it’s a sea of red – jerseys, hats, shirts – all over the city. It seems there isn’t a fan with 15 miles that isn’t wearing something to do with the Red Wings.

We’ve all seen what it’s like in the corporate cities – business suits in the lower bowl and empty to start each period while they file in. Detroit is much different. As the arena goes dark – the fans scream, clap, and yell. Karen Newman’s voice rings out as she serenades the crowd with the national anthem. The fans pass around Red Wing flags and cheer louder and louder as the Wings take the ice. That’s what it’s like to experience a game at Joe Louis Arena. That was my first experience.

The atmosphere of the game is incredible. Cheers ring out with every goal and every hit. The fans call the penalties from the stands and boos ring out when the game doesn’t go their way.

It’s a place full of passion – for the game and for their Wings. It’s a place – not just any rink – that every hockey fan should take some time to go and visit.

Andrew Forbes
I am a graduate of Western University's Master of Arts in journalism program. I have done work with CBC's Hockey Night in Canada - both in radio and television. I host and produce From The Sidelines - a podcast discussing some of the top issues in sports right now. You can find more of my work at http://andrewgforbes.wordpress.com/.
Andrew Forbes

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Joe Louis Arena: A Hockey Fans First Impression | Andrew Forbes

  2. I agree. It actually ADDS to the intimidation factor. I was there cheering on the Hawks, so as an opposing fan, it really makes it that much MORE uncomfortable. I can’t imagine what the players see in the locker room and on the bench (hint: they have 4 legs and are fast and ugly).

  3. I totally agree with you Andrew. The atmosphere in JLA is great. I went to my first Wings game last season when the Hawks put up a touchdown on them and even though they were out of the playoff race at the time, they were still engaged the whole game. It was Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday so I saw the book signing and shook his hand as well – they do love their history.
    My only complaint is that while it is a great atmosphere, the place is so old and dirty that they are just letting it go. My feet were sticking to the floor like it was a dive bar and I cut my finger open on the seat I was sitting in because there was a metal shard sticking out. I’m happy for Detroit that they are finding a new arena because that place has to go!

    • Douglas – thanks for your feedback and comment. I agree it can be quite the stingy place. But this is how I look at it – that’s part of it’s character. Yeah they need a new place eventually, but think of new Yankee Stadium or Chicago’s United Centre. Both were quite and flawed in the eyes of fans when they first opened because fans liked the history of their old stadiums. It’s like getting a new home – there’s sounds and sights and feeling that you need to get used to and some things will just never be the same. New Yankee Stadium will never have the locker where Thurman Munson sat – sure they can move it there from the old one, but it’s simply not the SAME place where he sat. That’s my take but I totally understand what you’re saying! Thanks again.

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