By @MichaelCaples –
Things change a lot in life.
We make friends and we lose friends. We go to school and then we go to work. We grow up and we grow out of skates.
Life’s weird, right?
That’s why we cling to consistency. We like tradition. We like familiarity. We like feeling at home.
For hockey people in Michigan, that’s Joe Louis Arena.
You knew you were going to pay $20 for a pizza that usually costs you $5. You knew you were going to have to wait in line for half a period to pee in a trough (at least for the guys, not sure how it went for the ladies). You knew it was going to smell. Oh that smell.
You also knew that for the next few hours, everything made sense.
You knew you would be watching Pavel Datsyuk do something ‘Datsyukian.’ You knew you would be watching Nick Lidstrom control the game like no one else could. You knew you would see Steve Yzerman lead his team to victory or die trying (not literally, but you know what I mean).
And you knew you would be watching with 20,000 of your closest friends.
For a lot of us, The Joe is the only NHL building we’ve ever known.
Yes, we know, it isn’t perfect. It’s in the middle of nowhere and its space is limited. The amenities certainly don’t match with state-of-the-art facilities. Heck, we all know the story about how they literally forgot to put in a press box.
It’s perfect to us, though. Call it blind loyalty, call it dumb, call it whatever you want.
The Joe was perfect.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the new building. In 30 years, hopefully other hockey writers are writing the same thing about Little Caesars Arena as I’m writing about JLA right now. It will have all of the things that The Joe doesn’t have.
It won’t be The Joe, however.
It will never be The Joe.
It won’t have the seat you saw your first Red Wings game from. It won’t have the spot where you spilled your beer all over somebody else. It won’t have the spot where you saw another chapter of Hockeytown history play out before your eyes.
It won’t have your memories.
And that’s OK. We’re going to love the new building in time (I hope). Those of you still bitter about the name will realize it could have been a lot worse (Guaranteed Rate Field) and that it’s as close to being a hockey-related name as we will get (seriously).
We will start to see the same things in the new building that we see inside The Joe. It’s not about the actual construction or the actual layout of the place. It’s that when we go there, we see our heroes play our sport while we run into our former teammates on the concourse. We see an old friend or we are reminded of an old memory from a photo on a wall.
We will have all that at the new building. Give it time.
For now, we say goodbye to The Joe. Thank you, Joe, for being our sanctuary, our second home, our welcomed relief from whatever else was going on in our lives.
We say goodbye to you, now. We thank you for all the memories. There were so many, all special to each and every one of us.
Thanks for that, Joe. Thanks for everything.