This weekend the Detroit Red Wings will play their final two games at Joe Louis Arena, and it’s going to be extremely tough for me to walk out of there Saturday night. I know, I know, it’s just a building, but it’s a building that holds some of my most exciting, most fun, and most treasured memories.
Growing up, the Joe is where I spent each New Years Eve, sitting in the nosebleed seats with my family, watching intently for number 19 to jump onto the ice. It’s where I spent countless hours in my late teens camping out for tickets and sitting on the edge of a little red seat cheering on my beloved hockey team like a true Wing nut. It’s where we took our daughter to her first Red Wings games, where she now cheers for Steve Yzerman (she’s a toddler and no one has the heart to tell to her that he’s retired).
In high school, I put my name on the infinite waiting list for season tickets. My mom thought I was nuts, but I was confident I wouldn’t get the call until I was old and could possibly afford them. Years later, but luckily just in time for Stevie Y’s last season, I finally had my very own two seats at the Joe in Section 204 B.
I was in Standing Room on June 7, 1997, the greatest day in sports history, straight up the aisle from where Darren McCarty scored the game winning goal. In 2002 I got to watch the Wings hoist the Cup for a second time at the Joe, then celebrate ’til the sun came up at the Olympia Club downstairs.
The Joe is where I worked my dream-come-true internship. Somehow I got college credit for writing Red Wings trivia questions and taking radio contest winners to the penalty box to watch warm ups (just kidding, it was a bit more work than that).
The Joe has been home to almost forty seasons worth of exhilarating goals, heartbreaking losses, and incredible celebrations. But for me it’s also the birthplace of inside jokes, so many crazy inside jokes about everything from ice cream & quarters to sharpies & the danger zone. It’s memories of Zamboni rides, getting front row seats for every warm up, eating Twizzlers in multiples of three and other odd playoff rituals (don’t even get me started on how to properly hold a pom pom), and spinning Al the giant Octopus around the ice during the playoff pre-game show.
The Joe has always been the place where I watch the team I love, with people I love, having the time of my life, but it all comes to a close this weekend. It’s going to be terribly hard to say goodbye.