This week's Big Question: What's your favorite memory of Joe Louis Arena?
Steve Ott, Montreal Canadiens: "Being able to play in front of friends and family there this year, just going in there knowing I grew up watching the Red Wings, having the success they did, Steve Yzerman and that whole era of greats, those were my heroes. Having the opportunity to play in that same building and just think of my heroes all the time was pretty special. I tell you what, the last game of the year for Detroit, I couldn't be more proud of [Henrik] Zetterberg -- knock on wood. Playing in his 1,000th game would be unbelievable."
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens: "For me, I played for Little Caesars, so I got to play at the Joe growing up. So that was special. I think my favorite memory, though, would be my first NHL game at the Joe. It's something where you had watched these teams play there, then you go to college, work your way up, to actually be on the ice in an NHL uniform and playing against some of the guys that you watched for so many years, that was one thing that stuck out."
Dave Poulin, former Philadelphia Flyers player: "We went in there for a game in the mid- to late-80s; the Red Wings were really bad still. We were going to the West Coast after the game in Detroit; we had like [three] days off in L.A. We were losing [6-4 after the second period] in Detroit. [Coach] Mike Keenan came in, and I remember exactly where I was sitting in the room at Joe Louis Arena, and he said, 'You don't deserve to go to L.A. We're going back to Philadelphia -- this is awful.' And he walked out. I stood up and said, 'Gentlemen, we're going to L.A.' You can pull the box score: it was sometime in the mid-80s; the final score of that game was Philadelphia 11, Detroit 6. We ripped off [seven] straight goals. ... I just remember thinking, it's January, we're going to L.A."
Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators: "My first years in Columbus, we played in the same division [as Detroit]. We came here a lot. The first year Columbus made the playoffs, it was against Detroit here and they swept us in four games. I wasn't playing in that series; I was hurt. But just to see the atmosphere here, when you walk in the building, you kind of smell the Joe Louis Arena. So much history behind the team. So much success. Original Six team. Those years they had there in the '90s and early 2000s, really good players -- some of my favorite players when I grew up: [Sergei] Fedorov, Yzerman, [Nicklas] Lidstrom -- you name it. It's a special place. It's a cool place to play. Really good fans."
Mike Babcock, former Red Wings coach: "Lots of them. In all the big games we played here, we won 50 games four years in a row. We were in the playoffs 10 straight years after the lockout; no one else [did that]. I always remember the energy of the fans at playoff time. They expected you to be in it. They brought it themselves, they brought the energy, they wanted you to win. They were behind you; they pushed you. That's something I'll never forget."
Scott Bowman, former Red Wings coach: "Probably the biggest memory would be the first Cup in '97 at home against Philadelphia. That was pretty exciting at the time. We had won the first two in Philly, then came back and won the next two [games] at home. My last Cup, too, I remember that because I knew it was going to be my last, and we won that at home, too, in '02, so that's a big memory.
"It's a very noisy building. The acoustics are such that it was always a loud building for me, especially for the home team. The atmosphere in there was always [great] because of the hockey-related people, and all the people that worked in the building, you knew them all. It was easy to get around the building. You'd park right beside the building, walk in the door, and the offices were there and the dressing rooms were down the hall. It was pretty compact and pretty easy to get around.
"The very first time I ever coached in the Joe, I'm pretty sure, was the All-Star Game in 1979, when Gordie Howe came back from Hartford to Detroit to play in that All-Star Game. That was a great ovation, probably the loudest and longest I've ever heard. He was 51 when he came back to play the first time in Detroit since he left in the '70s.
"Yzerman scored a playoff goal in the second overtime to win the conference [semifinals against the St. Louis Blues] -- that was another big one. Fedorov scored five goals one night [against the Washington Capitals]. That was something; I think he scored the winner in overtime. There are a lot of memories, but the Cup wins -- the first one and the last one -- are the biggest."
Mike Knuble, former Red Wings player: "Growing up in Michigan, I think the first time I was on the ice, I won a little regional skills competition, and you got to go on if you advanced to the finals. I think I lost to a kid from Royal Oak. I was probably 10 or 11 years old and they were playing the Bruins, and we got to get out there between periods ... on that ice and see how high those seats went. People were milling about, going to the concourse to get something to eat and drink and use the restrooms and stuff, but there were enough people there. To stand out on the ice, and I don't know if I've ever been as petrified as that. And then playing in Michigan, [in] the Little Caesars league playoffs, we made the finals a couple of times, so [I] got there to play there as a 13- or 14-year-old again. And then to play at [the University of Michigan], we played at the JLI [Joe Louis Invitational], so I played a ton there. Obviously, my biggest and brightest moment would be my first game there, my first NHL game, which happened to be that Detroit-Colorado game, which the anniversary just happened. That was my first NHL game. Everybody remembers their first pro game, but obviously that was my first game and all the circus that happened. Then, when they clinched the Stanley Cup. I was a Black Ace when they beat Philly in the finals, and they won the Stanley Cup there in 1997 in Detroit. That was a really big thrill.
"It always felt like home. It always felt like you were coming home. I had created some memories there and had history in that building, personal history in terms of the amount of games I'd play there and the time I'd spent there. I mean, those long playoff runs I was a Black Ace, and there were a couple, two, three seasons there, so I spent my hours in that rink. It had a certain smell, whatever that cleaner is, the smell of hot dogs, the spilled beer, the funk in there that just happened over the years. It had a certain thing. You know, they have the names painted of the Stanley Cup guys on the wall and I'd always talk a little smack with my teammates on the road [when he played for other teams], and I'd make them pause in front of that and make them have a look and take a picture and just kind of have fun with that. They're right where the players walk. You get off the bus and cut through the underneath area in the back halls, so I'd kind of make everybody stop and look at it. And they had to listen to me because I was a veteran guy. They had to listen to me."
Brendan Shanahan, former Red Wings player: "Your first Stanley Cup for all players is always most special, and we were fortunate as a group to win a few. The emotion mixed in with the very first one, which erases a lot of doubt -- you're always wondering when you're playing, especially when you start getting on in your career whether or not it's going to happen, so to get that close and successfully finish it off here at home [was a good memory]. On that team in '96-97, other than Mike Vernon -- who won a Cup in Calgary -- and Joe Kocur -- who won a Cup in New York -- we were all first-timers. We all had that sort of excitement, but insecurity as well, that we wanted to get the job done."
--Scott Burnside, Craig Custance, Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald