The Red Wings-Penguins game yesterday was the first leg of two Detroit sporting events I attended yesterday and, despite the game turning into a blowout, I was impressed with Joe Louis Arena. It's an old facility (the third-oldest in the NHL) and you feel that when you're inside. With a retro scoreboard and an intimate setting, where every seat offers a pretty good view, watching a game there feels a little bit like stepping into a time machine. Of course, there's a reason that a new arena is being built and that's evident as well. Parking is a nightmare, the concourse is crowded, and the building simply looks old and outdated on the inside. Maybe that's part of its charm because even with shoddy infrastructure, Joe Louis Arena remains a great place to watch a game.
Atmosphere: 6.5/10: This is tough to judge because the Red Wings got blown out and it wasn't competitive after the first period. When the team plays badly, the crowd is going to react accordingly and this crowd was no different. People started leaving after the second period and after Pittsburgh took a 5-2 lead in the third, the crowd left in droves. However, it’s tough to blame them for doing so. The Red Wings were playing terribly, getting outshot, outhustled, and outplayed by a Penguins team that seemed superior. If you're a Red Wings fan, it's understandable why you wouldn't want to stick around and watch more of that. And when you factor in that the crowd was into it during the first period, when the Red Wings were winning and playing well, you get a decent score in this category. It was a near sellout crowd when the puck dropped and people were into it. Chants started without the help of the PA announcer, Sidney Crosby was booed without fail every time he touched the puck, and it was tough to find an empty seat if you looked across the way. It's tough to make an argument that, if not for the nature of the game itself, this score wouldn't be a lot higher. When you consider that, 6.5/10 almost seems low.
Quality of Facility: 6/10: The retro feel and history of Joe Louis Arena outweighs any deficiencies it may have in terms of amenities for me. It's not a modern arena by any stretch of the imagination, if you're someone who wants to sit in a suite and have people wait on you as you watch the game, don't go. You have to be a hockey fan to enjoy Joe Louis Arena because, although it lacks modern amenities, there’s an unmistakable history about it. There's the retro feeling that comes when you look at things like the scoreboard and the closeness of the seats to the ice that leads to an appreciation for the history that happened in that arena. When I sat down, I was struck by the banners, the sheer number remind you that the Red Wings are an Original Six team with a history of success. Though I don't like that they hung banners for fairly pedestrian achievements like playoff appearances (something that should be above a franchise that has won 11 Stanley Cups), history isn't lost on anyone who walks into Joe Louis Arena, and that matters more than anything else.
Quality of Game: 2/10: This game was competitive for the first period, but from the second Pittsburgh tied things up at 1 (which happened just 20 seconds into the second period), the Red Wings looked lost. The end result was a 7-2 Penguins win, a 41-23 shot disparity, and both Detroit goalies (Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard late in the second period) being somewhat embarrassed by a Penguins team that looked vastly superior. This was no unimportant game either. The Red Wings are tied on points with the Flyers for a playoff spot having played one more game. With less than 10 games left to secure a playoff spot, you'd think the Red Wings would show some urgency, but apparently not. This was a pathetic performance from a team that needed a win and a fairly dominant performance for a team that's fighting more for seeding than a playoff berth. The effort was lacking and the play was even worse from the Red Wings. After having watched that, I can't say I expect them to do much in the playoffs.
Other Things to do in the Neighborhood: 4/10: This would be much higher if transport to and from the game wasn't a complete disaster. There's good food a short distance from the arena which is a huge plus, but the parking at Joe Louis Arena is among the worst I've ever seen. From what I could tell, there's just one, gigantic parking structure to house everyone, leading to rampant traffic and an overflow of people walking in and out of the arena at a given time. As far as I'm aware, there isn't much in the way of public transport which leaves the fans to navigate a cesspool of traffic in a hellish parking garage.
Random Jersey Sighting of the Day: A Brett Hull jersey at a Red Wings-Penguins game! Hull won the 1991 Hart Trophy with the Blues and led the league in scoring three times while he was in St Louis. He played there for the bulk of his career and his #16 is retired by the Blues.
Overall: 18.5/40: The game itself really hurt this score, but seeing a game at Joe Louis Arena is something all hockey fans should do, especially with it closing soon.