For the past 30 years the ice at Joe Louis Arena has been the platform on which Detroit’s most storied hockey personalities have plied their trade. In the Joe’s first season in operation Gordie Howe received a 10-minute standing ovation by a then record-breaking crowd of 21,002 when he was announced as a starter for the Wales Conference at the All-Star Game. Steve Yzerman, arguably Detroit’s most prolific player, called Joe Louis Arena home for 23 seasons. Bob Probert and Joe Kocur busted chops — not to mention numerous knuckles, noses, fingers, and teeth — there for years, and Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in all of hockey and the only coach in all of professional sports to ever win a championship with three different teams, led Detroit to its first Stanley Cup in 42 years on the frozen water of Joe Louis Arena.
Banners hang from the rafters and memories cling to its walls, but come June 30, 2010 all of that could cease to exist.
According to reports coming out of Detroit the Red Wings organization has informed the city that it has decided not to renew its lease at the end of the 2009-10 season, opting instead to search for a more “competitive arena lease” with which to showcase Red Wings games. Whether that means uprooting the Red Wings from the Joe and moving the team into a new arena or performing renovations on Joe Louis Arena as it stands now has yet to be determined.
The arena is owned by Olympia Entertainment, a subsidiary of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., which also owns the Detroit Tigers and the Little Caesars pizza franchise.
“Detroit is our hometown, and we have a strong desire to stay here,” Ilitch Holdings President and Chief Executive Christopher Ilitch told the Associated Press yesterday. “As it relates to Joe Louis, we have really taken a lot of care and concern and tried to think of our fans and our community.
“Regardless of our discussions, we know we are going to be playing the upcoming season at Joe Louis.”
The Ilitch family has been touting a new arena — or at the very least a few upgrades to the current one — for years, and considering the Joe is the fourth oldest arena in the National Hockey League proponents of such changes are in the majority.
Detractors, on the other hand, consider Joe Louis Arena to be one of the last remaining vestiges of a much simpler time, when entire franchises didn’t whore themselves in an effort to attract more advertising dollars.
But sadly, much like life itself, the majority rules the vast majority of the time.