Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Like many, I was saddened to learn the city of Detroit will raze Joe Louis Arena and give the land to a creditor as part of a settlement in the city’s bankruptcy case.
Not that the old Joe wasn’t getting long in the tooth.
In one of those isn’t-it-amazing-how-time-flies scenarios, it seems like only yesterday I made my first trip to JLA to watch the Detroit Red Wings play a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. I was actually covering junior hockey for the Peterborough Examiner and the Petes had a game in Windsor on a Sunday afternoon. The team went down a day early and attended the Red Wings-Flyers game as special guests of Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman, of course, played two seasons in Peterborough before departing for the NHL at the tender age 18 and promptly became the Red Wings’ leading scorer in his rookie season. He was soon to become the youngest captain in NHL history and would wind up having a Hall of Fame career, during which he won the Stanley Cup three times. Joe Louis Arena is located at 19 Steve Yzerman Drive.
What I remember most that day is being positioned in the penalty box to take photos for the feature I was writing about Yzerman and how fast the action was at ice level. I also recall my old pal, radio announcer Bill Bennett, tripping up the stairs while carrying a beer in each hand yet not spilling a drop.
Over the years JLA has been a significant arena for me in that I attended 15 of the 16 Stanley Cup final games played in Detroit since it opened Dec. 12, 1979. More than that, it has special meaning because my sons, Chase and Darryl, were lucky enough to attend Cup final games there, too.