Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Columbus Blue Jackets 2 at Detroit Red Wings 1 (SO) - November 11, 2017

The newest addition to Club 123 is Detroit's Little Caesars Arena and as it houses both the Red Wings and Pistons, a weekend where both clubs were in town would be the ideal time to visit to retain my membership. This past weekend was just such an occasion, and my buddy Andrew from Philadelphia joined as he is trying to get back in the Club after taking a year off. We stayed just across from the rink and after a stop at the Town Pump and their $10 pitchers of Molson, we made our way over to LCA.

At first glance, the building looks nothing like a typical hockey rink, resembling a newfangled office complex instead. Little Caesars Arena is the centerpiece of The District, a new entertainment area that is still under development, but the arena's style mixes quite well with the surrounding residential areas. As mentioned in a previous post, there is free parking east of Woodward on the side streets, but you have to get there very early. These pictures were taken about four hours before game time, but when gates opened at 5:30, there was a good crowd on hand.

Single tickets can be found at the box office along with a few pairs (upper deck from $75-95, lower from $130-165), but Andrew and I chose to negotiate with some scalpers, acquiring a couple in the lower bowl just inside the blue line for a bit less than face. These were great seats and worth the splurge, particularly as they were also season tickets with a special design for Military Appreciation Night, as it was Veterans Day.

Andrew is not an arena tourist, so he went to another bar while I made my way in. There are four main entrances, one at each corner, and I found ingress was very quick as the crowd comes from all directions and gates are open a full 90 minutes before scheduled puck drop. It took just two years to build Little Caesars, an amazing achievement, and it still has that new arena smell. There is a lot to see here, so much so that it took me both visits to experience everything.

If you enter either the northeast or southeast gates, the first thing you will notice on the lower concourse is the large area set apart from the curvature of the rink known as the Via, after the Roman roads. This area is also open to the public on most days, though security must still be traversed.

The open concept on display here is unique among downtown venues, which are usually compressed due to space restrictions. Several eateries such as Mike's Pizza and Kid Rock's Taste of Detroit have entrances from the Via as well. It really helps speed the flow of foot traffic before the game.

However, at one end of the Via, as you return to the typical concourse, you will see a huge TV screen, known as the Fan Experience, that shows fans gawking at themselves, along with overlaying videos of players from the Wings. This can be a bit of a bottleneck, as fans stop and stare at themselves on TV for a few seconds. And yes, I did it too.

As you continue to walk around, you will see several historical displays. These combine both Red Wings and Pistons memorabilia, along with brief explanations of their significance. Given that the Pistons did not decide to move here until well into the building process, they did an excellent job in securing space for their items as well, as you can see above. I particularly enjoyed the Terry Sawchuk jacket and stick - look at the crest of US and Canadian flags.

Many of these displays are quite small and can be hard to spot when the concourse is full of roving fans. On the other hand, the giant mural of Gordie Howe is pretty obvious, as long as you are looking up.

Another interesting touch is the interactive displays that allow you to explore the history of the teams and other information.

As I was navigating through the Trophies and Awards section, I found that they had misspelled Lady Byng (perhaps confusing the trophy with Pistons great Dave Bing).

I tweeted to the Red Wings and to their credit, they responded immediately.
I'm not sure if it has been fixed yet, but some fellow sports travelers will be checking for me throughout the season. (Update: it has been fixed). Another surprising find was a bit on Brian Kilrea, who spent 35 years as the coach of the Ottawa 67s and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame for that incredible achievement. But he played a single game with the Red Wings during the 1957-58 season and is therefore included here. Shout out to the Red Wings for such attention to detail.

The statues of famous Red Wings have been moved over from Joe Louis Arena and are scattered about the concourse.

You can even see Alex Delvecchio from the upper level.

Once you get to the second level, look up to see how the building is enclosed, quite an interesting set up with the roof, which lets in light during the daytime. As well, those are screens above the portals that change the ambience of the area depending on which background colour is being used. The concourse here is very spacious as well, and has more historical displays.

Note that the numbers 43 and 44 in the photo above are portals, not sections. At LCA, you should look at the portal on your ticket first, then section, then row, then seat. Portals 1-20 are downstairs, 21-72 are upstairs. I believe this helps people from entering into the wrong side of the section and climbing over 15 people to get to their seat on the other aisle.

Inside, the seating bowl is entirely red, as you would expect.

There is one level of suites, and then a mezzanine section before you reach the upper bowl, as you can see below.

There is also a gondola section at the very top, but I did not get up there. The shot below is from the top row of the upper deck. Note that the scoreboard is obstructed by the gondola, so you have TVs to keep you updated.

You can see the suites in the foreground below, and the mezzanine above it, with a few rows of the upper bowl at the very top of the frame.

Seats at this level are not that bad at all.

The Wings start their pregame show early and it is pretty impressive. I was caught upstairs when it began and watched quite a bit of it before heading downstairs to my seat.

This is the view from my seat in Section 124. A few seats over was the Club, one couple tried to climb over the railing during the intermission to make a quick exit and were quickly told to go back the way they came.

A view from the end zone in the lower bowl.

The roof here is lighted and it seems like different patterns can be created. For Military Appreciation Night, the American flag was on the ceiling for the whole evening. Both Pistons and Red Wings banners are hanging from the roof as well, though not easily visible in the shot below.

The scoreboard is possibly the best in the league, with high-definition live action that sometimes distracts you from the action on the ice, particularly if you are sitting upstairs. If you are downstairs, you get more information underneath, such as who is on the ice at the moment.

Concessions are plentiful, though not particularly interesting. A Coney Dog (comes with chili, cheese and onions) is possibly the most tempting item, while Little Caesars pizza can be found everywhere, and at $4.25 for a big slice and $15 for a whole pie, it is not outrageous. They even have at least one Little Caesars stand that sells only square slices and pies (near Portal 71 if you care). The designated driver program requires that you download the app for the team and use the Fan Zone section to register. This is where one of the problems comes to the fore: lack of connectivity. An LTE signal is nearly impossible to find (at least with T-Mobile) when the arena is packed, and Wi-Fi, though present, is also slow.

Overall, LCA immediately becomes one of the best rinks in the NHL. It is a shame that an old barn like Joe Louis Arena is no longer in use, but it is hard to complain when you see this place. The club has created a dynamic venue that does a great job preserving history and celebrating championships while offering a wide variety of amenities that will appeal to almost every fan. I will revisit for a Leafs game in the future when The District is fully developed, by which time this could be one of the premier destinations in the Big 4.

The Game

The Columbus Blue Jackets were visiting the Red Wings to complete the colourful day for me (having seen the Golden Grizzlies and Redbirds earlier). Once again, the Red team had a Green player, this one being Mike Green. Columbus came in at 9-7-1 while Detroit was just a couple of points behind at 8-8-1. The Red Wings wore special warmup camo jerseys for Military Appreciation Night that were later auctioned off. That's starter Jimmy Howard below wearing one.

Sergei Bobrovsky manned the cage for Columbus and was given a quick lead when Artemi Panarin (#9 below) drifted in untouched and slapped home a pass from ? just 67 seconds in. But that was all the scoring in the first two periods, which moved quickly as there was only one penalty called.

Near the end of the period, Green hooked Josh Anderson on a breakaway, leading to a penalty shot that was stopped by Howard to keep Detroit close.

Fast forward to the third period, and Detroit finally beat Bobrovsky early, as Andreas Athanasiou snapped home a loose puck from close in to tie the game. Both netminders stymied the offenses the rest of the way and we went to overtime with just over two hours having passed, a remarkably quick game helped by few whistles. In overtime, both teams had chances including Detroit with a 2-on-0 that Bobrovsky miraculously stopped by flicking his skate out while flopped on his belly. A silly penalty (only the second on the night) to Detroit's Dylan Larkin with 15 seconds left gave Columbus a short opportunity to avoid the shootout, but they were unable to do so. In the skills competition, Frans Nielsen scored for Detroit on their first attempt, while Panarin notched one for Columbus on their second. After that, the goalkeepers took over, stoning shooter after shooter until we entered the 9th round. Jack Johnson did the honours for Columbus and beat Howard low to win the game for the visitors. An outstanding goaltending battle had to end sometime, and both goalies were part of the Three Stars, as was Johnson for his winner. A very entertaining evening and one that took just 2:39. Given that the intermissions totalled 40 minutes, that means that the 65 minutes of action plus the shootout took less than 2 hours.


The record for the longest shootout is 20 rounds, between Florida and Washington in December, 2014. We did not even get halfway.



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