The Canucks didn’t practice Wednesday in Detroit, so arriving at the rink Thursday morning was their first chance to take a final look around Joe Louis Arena.
The Joe, which opened on December 12, 1979, will be demolished after this season as the Red Wings move downtown to Little Caesars Arena. It’ll be new, it’ll be fancy, it’s be swanky, but it won’t be The Joe.
As players and staff made their way to the bench before skate, memories were everywhere – some not so fond.
“I got knocked out cold here once,” laughed Doug Jarvis, Canucks assistant coach. “I was at centre ice taking the puck down to score in the empty net and their defenceman got me good. I woke up in our locker room and had already been stitched up!”
The Canucks have played 61 games all-time at Joe Louis Arena and Canucks president Trevor Linden was in 28 of them, scoring two goals and adding 13 assists. Being here for Vancouver’s last regular season game brings everything full-circle for Linden.
“As a kid, I remember the Joe opening and they had the all-star game here in 1980,” he said, gazing at the banners hanging from the rafters. “I was watching it and thinking ‘wow, brand new rink, how exciting.’ Scary thought to think that now it’s in its last year.”
Linden said playing his first game at The Joe in 1988 was historic for him, but the battles the Canucks and Red Wings had in the early 2000s are his favourite memories.
“We had a super exciting team led by the West Coast Express and had Ohlund, Jovanovski and Cloutier, that great group. I remember talking to the reporters when we’d come here and they’d be just thrilled to see us because they knew they were going to see a great game. It was two skilled-based teams playing a high-octane game. We had a reputation of Canucks vs. Red Wings being a highly entertaining, back and forth game.
“It’s always been a hard building to play in. They’ve had some great teams here, obviously through the 90s and 2000s. For me it’s a special building.”
Asked what his memories are of The Joe, Dan Cloutier, Canucks goaltending coach, chuckled. “The goal horn going off. Shanahan, Fedorov, Hull, Lidstrom, Robitaille, Yzerman, Larionov, Chelios, Datsyuk. Their power play was insane.”
Detroit’s red light has gone off a few times at the hands of the Canucks over the years as well, mainly because of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who are fourth and sixth all-time for most points at The Joe among active visiting players.
Loui Eriksson has also done some damage at eighth overall, and fourth overall in goals with 10.
“I always loved playing in Detroit,” said Henrik. “They play hockey here the way it is supposed to be played and it’s just fun. The history here and the rink, the ice is good, I love the boards here, it’s fun walking into this rink and it’s always brought out the best in us because they’ve always had good teams here.
“You knew you had to be prepared, to not be destroyed, when coming here. I’ve been part of games here where we’ve been up three or four goals going into the 3rd period and they just put that extra gear in and comeback and win.”
Why does Henrik love the boards at Joe Louis so much?
Alex Burrows also had a warm smile when discussing this historic rink.
For good reason.
Burrows scored the shootout game-winner in a 4-3 win over the Red Wings on February 23, 2012, to make the longest home winning streak in National Hockey League history exactly that – history.
“I remember Lu coming out of his crease with one knee down and fist pumping and all the boys were jumping on the ice,” recalled Burrows. “It was fun, it’s always fun here. There’s this buzz in the building, it’s really something special.”
It’s the final stop of a long road trip – here’s hoping this special building is silenced tonight!
For me, two memories come to mind about The Joe.
Second, this is the building where the healing began for my brother, Kurt. He had his jugular severed while playing hockey for the Brock Badgers in a game against the Windsor Lancers at Windsor Arena in late 2008. His life was saved at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor.
I flew out to see him as soon as I could and it just so happened the Canucks were playing in Detroit while I was with Kurt. He was able to get a hospital pass to come to the game, and, joined by our dad Wayne, they watched the game together. Afterwards they came down to meet some of the guys, including Roberto Luongo, who pepped up Kurt like only he could.
Thanks for the memories Joe Louis!