The Joe

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.

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5 Comments on “The Joe”

  1. […] El-Bashir confirms that Olaf Kolzig will start, while’s Mike Vogel has a nice piece on JLA and the Wings’ locker room. – […]

  2. matt Says:

    great write up Vogs. I’m in the vegas airport checking fir updates on the score and this was a nice piece to read

  3. Janet Says:

    Congrats to the players for such a good result against the NHLs top team. Its too bad about the SO but the team played well and earned themselves a point that no one thought they would get!

    So we should expect to climb our way back!

  4. Tom in FL Says:

    I thought Holmstrom kicked in that first one. He turned the blade a bit and ever so slightly lifted his skate and edged the puck into the net. All in all it was a great game. Versus has a clearer picture on my High Def TV than the games I normally watch over the Center Ice package (having transplanted to FL, I don’t get Home Team Sports or whatever it’s called directly). Can’t wait until everything is High Def, it certainly makes a big difference in clarity. The few games I’ve seen it’s just like watching in person in the old Caps Center if you were sitting in the last row of the lower bowl, between the blue lines. Those were perfect seats, just below the cameras. Caps keep playing like this and they will make a serious playoff challenge (Red Wing players were very complimentary towards the Caps in interviews). Kozlov needs to improve his skating (a glacier moves faster) and Poti needs to get some goals. It’s nice that Semin got one, maybe he can get a streak going. Backstrom keeps getting better. Olie made some really great saves. Gotta be happy with that point. Need to get both though on Thursday. Maybe Boudreau should send Kozlov out for skating practice while dragging a 20-lb weight. This guy looks like he is just one notch out of sync and someone needs to get the gears aligned.

  5. Brian Says:

    Reading this made me think of the old Capital Centre, a building in which I had countless fond memories of when I was growing up. I still look for that popcorn/beer smell everywhere I go — a stadium, an arena, an airport, a playground (ok, maybe not the playground, but you get the idea.) I have yet to find it, but Midway Airport in Chicago came close about a decade ago. Aaaahhh…the memories!

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