Just came back from the morning skate at Joe Louis Arena, and it is one terrific barn. After the Wings finished skating, we went into the Detroit room and it’s really something special.
There are three locker stalls there set aside for longtime Red Wing legends Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio. Along the top of three of the walls of the room just below the ceilings are 26 framed photos of Red Wing legends, including the aforementioned threesome, plus Sid Abel (Brent Johnson’s grandfather) and a host of others. There were a few with Capital connections: Larry Murphy, Dino Ciccarelli and Roger Crozier. A 27th photo shows Howe, Lindsay and Delvecchio exiting the locker room to go on the ice at the old Olympia, the Red Wings’ previous home building here.
The fourth wall has likenesses of each of the 10 Stanley Cups the Red Wings have won.
Many NHL rooms have magnet or dry-erase boards with the league standings. The Red Wings do, too, but they take it a few steps further. They’ve got boards that track the power play and penalty killing “standings” around the league as well as the goals for and goals against standings (expressed in average per game) from around the league. It goes without saying that the Wings rank high on all five of those boards.
The walls of the hallways leading into the room have recent team photos and lists of players from those teams. Five members of this year’s Red Wings were also members of the 1997-98 Stanley Cup championship team that defeated the Capitals in the finals: Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Osgood.
The building brings back good memories to Johnson, whose grandfather brought him here frequently when he was a young boy.
“Fond memories,” he says. “Honestly, just the smell of this arena just brings you [back]. The aroma. Maybe it’s the beer downstairs.”
I know what he means. The smell of decades of stale beer and cheap cigars that permeated the seating bowl in the old Chicago Stadium is something I’ll never forget, and something I still miss.
Johnson was asked if he gets goosebumps when he looks up and sees his grandfather’s No. 12 hanging from the rafters.
“Oh yeah,” he admits. “My mom and I were talking yesterday. She bawled she said, the first game I played here and I was right underneath his jersey.”
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock, who is well on his way to becoming the first NHL coach ever to win 50 games in each of his first three seasons with a team, talked briefly about his team’s dominance at the Joe, where they are 14-2-1 this season.
“You have to be dominant at home,” he says. “The team getting off their flight has to know there is no chance for points.”
The Caps hope to prove otherwise in a few hours. It’s Dominik Hasek for the Wings tonight, and Olie Kolzig for the Caps.