Red Wing

Detroit Junior Red Wings

Arena Name: Joe Louis Arena
Capacity: 20,058
Built: 1979
Last OHL Game: 1995
Address: 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit, Mich., 48226
Telephone No: (313) 396-7600
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Website: http://www.olympiaentertainment.com/JLA/home.asp
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OHL
Joe Louis Arena
Joe Louis Arena
What was the Arena Like?
Joe Louis Arena is the place where I saw my first NHL game in 1988, when the Red Wings took on the mighty Oilers of the 1980s. It was the season after Gretzky was traded but most of the big guns were still there, including Messier. Detroit, meanwhile, was going nowhere fast. And somehow, the Red Wings won the game, 5-2. After seventeen years of layoff I finally made it back for another Red Wings game in January 2006.

Joe Louis Arena is one of only six remaining NHL arenas that was built before 1990 (the others being the two New Yorkers, the two Albertans, and Pittsburgh), and as a result, even though it is only a little over twenty-five years old, it is already one of the grandfathers of the NHL. From the outside the Joe is wedged along the Detroit River beside Cobo Hall, Detroit's convention centre, and is a tall building covered in bland aluminum siding. The main entrance is located halfway up the building, which means that in order to attend games it is necessary to climb a huge flight of concrete steps.

Once inside the Joe you find yourself in a wide, utilitarian concourse that serves both the lower and upper bowls. There is no segregation by economics at Joe Louis Arena; everyone uses the same washrooms, buys the same food, and visits the same souvenir stands, regardless if you're sitting at ice level or the back row of the arena. Once inside the Joe's seating bowl the magnificent sight of 19,000 red seats stares back at you. The Joe shares with no one - there is no NBA team here, no college sports, no anything but Red Wings hockey. As a result the place feels like NHL hockey personified. There are winged wheels everywhere, and the colour red is the only one allowed. Moreover, even though the Joe is one of the NHL's largest buildings, it was constructed in the days before luxury suites started pushing the upper decks higher and higher in the NHL, and so even the cheap seats aren't bad. The scoreboard is old but still works well, and its presentation is excellent. The Red Wings are one of the few teams that realise that real hockey fans don't want laser shows or sound effects or canned nonsense - at the Joe you get a hockey game, presented professionally.

I never made it to the Joe for an OHL game. It apparently was a good experience in its time - the Junior Wings actually sold out the building a couple times, and it has been speculated that their success was among the reasons that the Red Wings kicked the junior team out. After being kicked out, following a couple years in limbo, the renamed Whalers ground themselves out a real identity and a built suburban home to call their own, where they draw their OHL-sized crowds every week. The Joe, meanwhile, still opens its doors for the NHL, and does it with a spartan charm that is all too rare in today's corporate "sports and entertainment" world.
Arena History
The Joe was built in 1979 to replace the aging Olympia as the home of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. Widely derided for its spartan accomodations when it opened, the Joe has slowly become one of the NHL's older arenas and the atmosphere has improved with the Red Wings' fortunes on the ice. There is an excellent Joe Louis Arena history at Ballparks.com.

How To Get There

From the North: I-75 South to the Lodge (US-10). Follow the Lodge to the Jefferson/Joe Louis Arena Exit. This exit will lead you directly to the JLA/Cobo Parking Garage.
From the South: I-75 North to Rosa Parks Boulevard/Joe Louis Civic Center Exit. Turn Right on Rosa Parks, this will merge into Jefferson. Follow Jefferson to JLA/Cobo Parking Garage.
From East: I-94 West to the Lodge (US-10) South. Follow the Lodge to the Jefferson/Joe Louis Arena Exit. This exit will lead you directly to the JLA/Cobo Parking Garage.
From West: I-96 East to I-75 North to Rosa Parks Boulevard/Joe Louis Civic Center Exit. Turn Right on Rosa Parks, this will merge into Jefferson. Follow Jefferson to JLA/Cobo Parking Garage.
From Canada: Take tunnel from Windsor and turn left on Jefferson Ave. Follow Jefferson to JLA/Cobo Parking Garage.
What's It Used for Today?
Joe Louis Arena has been the home of the Detroit Red Wings for almost 25 years, and will continue to be long into the future. The Detroit OHL team was forced into the Joe for a few seasons in the early 1990's when Olympia Entertainment decided not to continue maintaining an ice pad at Cobo Arena. The team name was changed to the Junior Red Wings, but after the 1994-95 season they were unceremoniously thrown out of the Joe and told never to come back. They played one year jointly from the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Oak Park Ice Arena before moving into the current Compuware Sports Arena in 1996.
Inside Joe Louis Arena
Joe Louis Arena

Feedback

If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at email and I'll update the guide.


 

 


Copyright Kevin Jordan 2002-06.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: January 6, 2006