When Joe Louis Arena opened in 1979, it replaced a Motor City legend of old, the Detroit Olympia.
The Olympia, home to the city’s Red Wings since the 1920s, saw its surrounding landscape cripple in appeal amid the 1960s riots in Detroit. But it remained a staple of hockey history in town, hosting games when, decades ago, Detroit’s puck movers were known as the Cougars and Falcons.
Now, in 2017, Joe Louis Arena will take its own place in the line of beloved landmarks not only for the Red Wings franchise but for the entire spectrum of professional sports.
With an April 9 contest slated to be the final regular-season game in the near-40-year-old arena, let’s take a look back at 10 moments to remember from Detroit’s longtime run at Joe Louis Arena:
Red Wings beat Hurricanes in 2001-02 Stanley Cup Final
What a grand finale for a postseason that began with back-to-back losses at the Arena. The Red Wings, in fact, became the first team in league history to win the Cup after opening the playoffs 0-2 at home. They also, of course, extended a dynasty of sorts in Motown by winning their third Stanley Cup title in six seasons. It was their 10th championship overall.
Detroit snaps a 42-year Stanley Cup drought in 1997
Talk about home-ice advantage. The Red Wings made history nearly 20 years after Joe Louis Arena opened its doors, bringing the Stanley Cup back home for an eighth time in the franchise’s existence and the first time in more than four decades. And they did it in unforgettable fashion, sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers in four games.
Motor City gets the 32nd NHL All-Star Game ...
The Arena was tasked with hosting the league’s All-Star showdown in February 1980, and Red Wings defenseman Reed Larson represented Detroit at the game. The crowd, though, with more than 21,000 in attendance, was a high for the NHL at the time.
... and both Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky were there
The 32nd NHL All-Star Game also marked the final All-Star appearance of Gordie Howe’s iconic career, as well as the first for future great Wayne Gretzky. Howe, of course, spent the first 25 years of his 26-year NHL career suiting up for the Red Wings, cementing his name among the game’s all-time best. His reunion at the Arena came while he was playing for Hartford, but his Detroit connection was unbreakable.
Wings, Avalanche go blow for blow in brawl for the ages
This 1997 donnybrook solidified a bitter rivalry and, on a grander scale, was a pillar of hockey’s signature side act of in-game scuffles. The Avalanche and Red Wings didn’t hesitate to unload on each other in an unofficial follow-up to heated hits from their 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs bout. The Red Wings’ Darren McCarty and Avalanche’s Claude Lemieux were among the many skaters to swing -- and take down -- each other in this game also known as “Bloody Wednesday” and “Fight Night at the Joe”.
Detroit retires Steve Yzerman’s number in January 2007
The Red Wings welcomed back longtime captain Steve Yzerman midway through a season that would finish with them as runners-up in the Western Conference to retire the Hall of Famer’s No. 19 jersey. It was a historic recognition for the career of a three-time Stanley Cup winner who hung up the skates as the longest-tenured captain of any team in major pro sports.
Al Sobotka headlines the octopus throwing
How can you not appreciate a little sea-creature handling? Sobotka, the building operations manager long known as the Zamboni driver at Red Wings games, has also been the unofficial catalyst for collecting and twirling octopuses that are thrown onto the ice during Detroit’s Stanley Cup playoffs games. With more than 30 years of service to the Red Wings, Sobotka and his octopus twirling, regulated by the NHL for roughly the past decade, are a trademark of Joe Louis Arena antics.
Red Wings log two shutouts in ‘08 Stanley Cup Final
Detroit did not win its latest title on Joe Louis Arena ice, but the Wings did put themselves in position to do it in Pittsburgh, running over the Penguins 4-0 in Game 1 of the Finals at home before earning a 3-0 victory in Game 2 at the Arena two days later.
Nicklas Lidstrom scores 200th career goal
Four-time Stanley Cup winner Nicklas Lindstrom, a Hockey Hall of Famer drafted by Detroit in 1989 and a lifelong member of the Red Wings, was at home, sweet, home when he logged his milestone goal in a March 2, 2007, showdown with the rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Fans, players gather for Gordie Howe visitation in 2016
Four days after Howe died, roughly 15,000 people flocked to the Arena for a 12-hour visitation featuring Gretzky and other hockey legends. It was a touching scene not long before Joe Louis Arena’s own scheduled closing.