With the construction of the Detroit Event Center underway, it’s only a matter of time (hopefully) until the Detroit Red Wings pack their bags and move on from historic Joe Louis Arena. Since 1979, the Red Wings and their fans have experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows in the stadium named after one of Detroit’s most famous sports icons.
Moving into the new Detroit Events Center will usher in a new era for the Red Wings. Looking back on the time spent at Joe Louis Arena, certain events stand out as iconic Red Wings moments. Let’s take a look at the top five memories from Joe Louis Arena:
5. Yzerman’s Blue Line Blast
“Gretzky had it. Lost it. Yzerman picks it up. Yzerman moving. Blue line chance…SCORES! STEVE YZERMAN! DETROIT WINS!”
Even though fans at the Joe could not hear Gary Thorne narrating the play, they certainly erupted when Steve Yzerman blasted a clapper past Jon Casey in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semifinals against the St. Louis Blues. Yzerman and the Red Wings advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row after a record setting season. Though they had to wait another year for the ultimate prize, Red Wings fans could sense the makings of something special after The Captain, in his 13th year with the franchise, came through in the clutch.
4. Kozlov Propels the Red Wings Into the Finals
When Slava Kozlov slid the puck five hole on Ed Belfour, he propelled the Red Wings into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in a generation. To put that into perspective, there were only six teams in the NHL when the Sid Abel-coached Red Wings reached the Finals in 1966—only to lose to the rival Maple Leafs. At that moment, the Red Wings were closer to winning the Stanley Cup than most fans had seen in their lifetime.
3. Mr. Hockey Returns to Hockeytown
In the arena’s first year of existence, the Red Wings were lucky enough to host the NHL’s All-Star Game, which happened to feature a familiar face. In his final year in the NHL, #9 was selected to play in the game, representing the Hartford Whalers. Even before he hit the ice in the introductions, the entire arena erupted in applause, expressing their gratitude for all Gordie Howe had done for the city of Detroit. The seven-minute standing ovation was certainly a sign of that.
2. The Dream Team Completes Its Journey
Before the season started, there was a sense that the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings were going to take the NHL by storm. After signing aging superstars Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille, the Red Wings were poised to bring home their third Stanley Cup in six years. They delivered.
Note: After burying the empty net goal, Brendan Shanahan tackled Yzerman so hard that he broke Yzerman’s nose. He got cleaned up before hoisting the Cup though.
1. Lord Stanley Returns to Motown
Following Darren McCarty’s highlight-reel goal, the Red Wings were poised to capture their first Stanley Cup since 1955. Eric Lindros’s last-minute goal to cut the Red Wings’ lead to 2-1 put fans and players on edge, but it was too little too late. Yzerman, McCarty, and the 1997 Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in front of the hometown crowd. Lord Stanley finally made his grand return to Hockeytown.
What’s your take?
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.