Joe Louis Arena: What Will I Miss Most?

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, NHL
Joe Louis Arena is clearly outdated but there’s still a lot to love about the old building.  (Photo by Andrew Forbes)

This weeks announcement of the Detroit Red Wings’ plans to move to a new home in 2017 got me reflecting about what I will miss most about Joe Louis Arena. Since attending my first game at The Joe at 6-years-old there’s a lot of things I’ve grown fond of about the old rink over the years.

So, here’s a snapshot about some of the qualities I love most about Joe Louis Arena:

5. Location 

For Canadians like myself who cross the border to attend games at The Joe, there is really no better location. My pre-game ritual is one that a lot of Red Wings fans north of the border can likely relate to: park the car in Windsor, jump on the tunnel bus, cut through Cobo, walk along the river past the buskers and panhandlers, and hike up the stairs to reach the JLA entrance.

Riding the tunnel bus back to Canada after a big Wings victory is always a good time too because it’s usually pretty rocking. Fortunately, Canadian customs is a little more laid-back with our drunken antics then our American neighbours.

Also, the view of JLA from Windsor is spectacular. Looking out across the river and catching a glimpse of JLA before a big game is enough to give any true Wings fan goose bumps.

4. Standing Room

There’s really no place I’d rather be in JLA then with my back against the wall, wrist band on, between the upper and lower bowl, at the end where the Red Wings shoot twice. For my money this is the best spot in the rink.

Sure, the back gets a bit stiff after a while but for the price and the view it’s totally worth it. The truth is you would be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck then standing room at JLA. Unfortunately, standing room is probably as good as gone at the new rink.

Yet, it’s such a great spot for socializing with other Wings fans. From my experience you’re not going to find too many fair-weathers in standing room. Plus, when the Wings score a goal you get a high-five from one of the JLA ushers…pretty cool spot if you ask me.

3. People 

As campy as it may sound the people at JLA is what makes the rink such a special place. What other NHL clubs have famous fans? Through the years personalities like Mo Cheese, the Orange Hat Guy, and the old Knitting Lady have made The Joe one of the most unique sports venues in all of professional sports.

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I’ve made friendships at JLA over the years that have lasted until today. From the ushers to the vendors I’ve really become quite sentimental about the people of JLA and it just won’t be the same fraternizing anywhere else.

Don’t forget about Karen Newman either.

2. Atmosphere

There’s a certain smell that is so recognizable when you enter the JLA doors. It’s some combination of hot dogs cooking, stale beer on the floor, an overflowed toilet, sweat, and freshly scraped ice… whatever it is I love it.

As far as playoff hockey atmospheres go The Joe is second to none. The DJ is always on the ball and it seems like he has a song for every situation in the game. Whether it’s Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” after an away goal, or a little “Open Your Eyes” from Tonic after a Wings penalty, the Wings’ DJ knows whats up.

And, let me be clear that I’m not a Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” fan. But, when the fans sing-a-long to that tune near the end of a big Wings playoff win it always gives me chills.

Ultimately, when it comes to the atmosphere at JLA Kid Rock said it best: ain’t no party like a Detroit party.

1. Sight Lines 

There is know NHL arena with better sight lines then JLA. The 2-bowl layout makes for much better viewing then the 3-bowl construction of modern arenas where you feel like if you fall out of your seat it’s certain death.

In the upper deck of these new arenas often times you have a better view of the top of the scoreboard than the ice surface and that’s definitely not the case at JLA. Even when sitting up at the top of The Joe you don’t feel as though you’re that far removed from the action. It’s still a great vantage point to watch a professional hockey game from.

Yet, there’s no question JLA is outdated, and the new rink will bring a lot of things to like along with it. However, one thing it won’t have is the sight lines of JLA. So, enjoy it well you can folks because it’s the last of a dying breed.

Oh, and enjoy the cheap ticket prices at JLA because that’s surely a thing of the past too.



11 thoughts on “Joe Louis Arena: What Will I Miss Most?”

  1. I love going to the JLA. For Concerts and of course Red Wing games!

    No joke. But I think the All Star game in the 2015-2016 Season should be at the JLA. No doubt.

    The things I will not miss about the joe… The restrooms, the exits.

    The things I will definently miss about the Joe… The seats. There is not one bad seat in the joe. Unless you are sitting behind 2 very tall people. The Atmosphere. Very goodx atmoshphere indeed. The location, you don’t have much noise when you leave the arena. Plus, you get to see the Detroit River when you exit the main enterence.

    But I hope a few things for the new Arena.
    -Better have at least 3 Parking Garages FOR THE NEW ARENA ONLY. It sucks having to park in Greektown Casino’s parking garage and walking to the Joe.
    -Roomy Seats. You have little leg room at the Joe IMO. Hope you have at least 6inches of leg room whe you are sitting.
    -Bigger Concourse. Way to small at JLA.
    -A good Jumbotron. (ofc, it will be a new one. but hope it shows some stats. on it)

  2. Sight lines and atmosphere I’m right with ya. You can be last row and not feel like you are a mile away. Comparing it to a place like the Palace, where when you are in the last row of the lower bowl you can feel far away. However, I’ve been to some newer places like the ACC and Nationwide and both of those places don’t feel as big. Not The Joe mind you, but architects have become a lot more aware that sight lines are important.

    The atmosphere will be missed. Yeah the seats are small but a big playoff game, you don’t pay attention. My best game I went to, wasn’t even a home game. Watched the Wings beat the Caps in game 4 of the 98 Finals, watching it on the big screen.

    In saying all of that, it’s time. Like I mentioned the seats are small and cramped, especially in the corners, the bathroom situations leaves much to be desired, more than two exits for 20k people would be nice, and only one concourse. To be able to have the people spread out over two concourses like at some of the other new arenas, will be great. You feel like you can’t avoid people when you are just going to your seats before the game. While I’m sure getting into the first home game in 2017 will be tough, I plan on being there very early in the season to see this beautiful new place.

    • You’re right it’s definitely time for sure. The seats are brutal especially if you are sporting a few extra lbs…not much room to move around. I think the new location for the new rink will be a really cool spot too. Still part of me is sad to see these old classic barns like the joe get left behind. I just love the old time hockey feel of those rinks. Guess it just reminds me of what it felt like watching hockey as a kid I don’t know. Either way it’s still exciting for the city of Detroit and I’m looking forward to it. Just gotta enjoy the time left at JLA now! Thanks for reading man.

  3. Jordan – went there last year for the first time. While it can be said that it is quite an old and run down arena, it’s one with character and history that you can’t just throw into a new building. The same thing happened to Yankee Stadium and the New Yankee Stadium. They still honour Thurman Munson’s locker spot in the new dressing room, but he’ll NEVER have actually sat there like he did in the old stadium. It’s a sad time for that arena to close, but hopefully the new one can bring the city back and get it on track for future growth. Good piece!

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