Tuesday, March 14, 2017
As I've mentioned in previous posts, when this weekend trip was planned, the Red Wings/Rangers game was scheduled for 12:30 on Sunday afternoon, allowing me to book an evening flight back to NYC. When the game was pushed to the evening by the evildoers at NBC Sports, I had a decision to make. Should I fly home Sunday and sell my game ticket, or stay an extra night? In the end, after adding the Windsor game to the itinerary, I decided to stay and see Joe Louis Arena one last time.
So after crossing back into America with no difficulty (the CBP officer laughed when I told her that I was in Windsor for hockey and going to Detroit for hockey), I drove around downtown looking for a parking spot, since street parking is free on Sunday. After a few minutes, I found a perfect spot near a People Mover station, so I left the car on the street and walked over to the Joe. Along the way, I had a great view of the Renaissance Center (below), where I stayed on my first ever sports road trip back in 1986, when three friends and I traveled to see the Jays play two games at Tiger Stadium (they split). What I like about this picture is the sculpture of a fist in the bottom right corner - it represents the fist of Joe Louis, and the story behind it is quite interesting.
I wrote in detail about the rink last time, so won’t cover those points again. I walked through the Cobo Center to get there and really appreciated the sign below. A unique font for a unique arena.
There are some small differences from two seasons ago, such as commemorative photos on exterior doors…
…and small “Farewell Season” stickers on the concourse floor.
I also noticed a display case with several miniature Stanley Cups and other memorabilia. I always appreciate when a team honours its past like this and hope this display finds its way to the new arena too.
The Joe remains much the same as it did when it opened in 1979, with a few additional banners honouring the team’s ridiculous record of success over the past couple of decades.
See how close the upper bowl is to the lower bowl. Just a few feet separate the two. Pretty sure that’s gonna change when the team moves to Little Caesars Arena next season.
My favourite thing here is the $2.50 box of Timbits (donut holes), possibly the cheapest Big 4 food item around. Along with the small soda courtesy of the designated driver program, it was a very affordable, though rather unhealthy, dinner.
The Joe will certainly be missed; it is the last of the old-time hockey venues. Only MSG is older as an NHL rink, and the recent renovations there make it seem brand new. The Wings are not going to make the playoffs, so if you want to see one final game here, you better do so quickly. It will be well worth the effort.
The Red Wings have fallen hard and fast and are now in last place in the East, while the Rangers are 4th in the conference, and 4th in their division too. Yes, the Atlantic is so bad that the top team (Montreal) has a worse record than the 4th place team in the Metropolitan. Anyway, I hoped that the Red Wings would put on a show for this prime time affair featuring the last visit of an Original 6 rival, but that was just silly of me. With seconds left in a choppy first period and Detroit on a power play, the Rangers broke away on a 3-on-1 and Ryan McDonagh finished off by poking home a pass from Kevin Hayes.
Detroit tied it in the second on another power play when ex-Islander Frans Nielsen completed a fantastic four-way passing play to beat a helpless Antti Raanta, starting for an injured Henrik Lundqvist. But that was the highlight as the Rangers scored two quick ones late in the frame, including another from McDonagh, and added a clincher on a power play with about 4 minutes to go in the game as they won easily 4-1. A rather disappointing end to the trip for me, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
Fans were booing heartily (spoiled brats), but it is obvious this team is in need of a rebuild. Henrik Zetterberg is far past his prime, and with other perennial stars having retired, the club has to start from scratch again. The recent passing of owner Mike Ilitch has added a bit of uncertainty, but given the way the team has performed in the past, I expect them to be back in contention for the playoffs very soon.
During the national anthem, somebody threw an octopus on the ice. The tradition dates back to the days when 8 wins was needed to take the Stanley Cup, and grew in popularity during their Cup runs, but these days, it is just a sad reminder of how things used to be.
That’s the last road trip for a while as I’m going to hang out in NYC for the next few weeks. There’s always plenty of see here, and I’ll be going to games here and there, but the next out-of-town adventure will be in late April to see the Jays visiting the St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, plans change, so check back on occasion to see what I’m up to.