Hockey Night in Hockeytown
A cup from the Joe
All the way to Michigan and back in less than 24 hours, and all I've got to show for it is a Hockeytown mug.
Last night's Red Wings-Coyotes game was actually my first trip to Joe Louis Arena, which has become a mecca for any hockey fan. Me and a pal picked up two $40 tickets at the box office right around puck drop, and sat up in row 20 of the upper bowl, not all that far from the Norris Division banners.
In years past, hopping in the car and heading to a game in Detroit without tickets in hand wasn't possible. This season, the team's ducat-selling woes have been well-publicized, however, and despite the fact a near-sellout was announced, we were accompanied by several thousand empty red seats.
Even so, the atmosphere was terrific, as I haven't seen a game in an old barn like the Joe since the days of the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. Unlike the cookie cutter rinks we've seen built in the past 10 or 15 years, Joe Louis certainly has character, including an old organ belting out classic tunes and legendary public address announcer Budd Lynch kept fans abreast of the action.
The trough urinals in the men's room are a nice touch, too.
The building's concourse is an old-school setup, running along underneath the seats, and there's a distinct octopus funk throughout. I was priced out of getting a Zetterberg jersey, instead settling for the $12 mug as a memento.
The game itself was interesting more for the opposition than the Red Wings; Phoenix hustled all game long and held a distinct advantage in shots on goal by the halfway point. A brutal giveaway by Niklas Kronwall midway through the first resulted in a nice goal by big rookie Martin Hanzal and a 1-1 tie, and Ed Jovanovski scored from the point for the second period's only goal to put the Coyotes in the lead.
The Desert Dogs' young lineup even had the Red Wings on the ropes a bit in the third period, hemming Chris Chelios and partner Derek Meech (a really terrific skater) in the Detroit zone for quite a while in the third.
Ultimately, experience won out, and it was Nicklas Lidstrom leading the charge down the ice as the Red Wings potted two quick goals midway through the third period to win the game. Phoenix certainly deserved at least a point but, then again, Ilya Bryzgalov faced 39 shots and was outplayed by Chris Osgood at the other end.
Kronwall, meanwhile, is going to be out about 10 days after a shoulder injury suffered on a hit by Daniel Winnick, who had a great game for Phoenix.
It was nice to see the Coyotes up close. Phoenix's work ethic really is second to none, and Tuesday was essentially a test of youthful exuberance against veteran savvy. With Kyle Turris and a few other youngsters on the way in, and 19-year-old Peter Mueller well on his way to becoming a big-bodied 35-goal man, this should be a team on the rise the next few years.
Heck, as it stands now, they're right in the thick of the playoff hunt — and didn't have any problem skating with the best team in the league.
On the whole, a great experience — although I can certainly understand why fans in Motown might want a new downtown rink in the near future.
Forty-one games of octopus funk might be a bit much.
Labels: Red Wings