In 2012, the Detroit Red Wings first announced plans for a new venue to replace Joe Louis Arena, which they have called home since 1979. Just before the 2014 NHL season got underway, ground was broken on the new arena with completion scheduled for 2017. This allowed the City of Detroit, which owns JLA, to sell off the riverside area in which the old barn sits as part of a bankruptcy agreement. It was soon announced that the Joe would be demolished as part of a revitalization project that should see the Motor City begin to reclaim much of its lost glory. So if you want to see Joe Louis Arena, you should start making plans as you’ve got less than three NHL seasons to do so.
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You will find all your typical arena fare here, with little out of the ordinary. The good thing is that prices are still relatively reasonable for a Big 4 venue. One unique offering is the sandwich stand with six varieties including the "Red Wings Hat Trick" which includes salami, ham, capicola and provolone and is my recommendation, though they are a bit pricey at $9.50.
Should you prefer something cheaper, you will find both national chains such as Tim Hortons and Buffalo Wild Wings and local establishments like Hockeytown Café and Cheli's Chili Bar along the single concourse. Hot dogs are $4, Polish sausage is $4.50, and nachos are $4.75, to mention a few of the possibilities. Of course, Little Caesar's pizza is also available, at $15 for a whole pie, a good deal if you are sharing for a friend. A slice is only $4, not unreasonable for a pro sports arena these days.
Beer is plentiful, with a number of specialty brews particularly tempting. One stand has four different microbrews from four local breweries, including Motor City, Saugatuck, and Griffin Claw. Leinenkugel's has a small log cabin lodge with 20 oz. for $9.75, while regular draft is $6.50 for 16 ounces and $9.25 for 24. Bottled beer is also available for $7.75.
For those looking to stay sober, Coca-Cola products are available with a 16 oz. soda for $4 and twice that size only an extra buck.
Built before the concept of revenue streams came to dominate pro sports, JLA lacks the luxury suites that often push the upper bowl into the stratosphere. This allows them to pack in even more fans than usual; capacity here is 20,027, second in the league behind the Bell Centre in Montreal. Even with such a large crowd, there are no bad seats in the place and it really gives the rink an old barn feel.
Add to that the fact that the Red Wings are an Original 6 team and also the most successful club over the past couple of decades, having made the playoffs in 23 consecutive seasons and counting (with 3 Stanley Cups, bringing their franchise total to 11), and you have the makings of a spectacular evening of hockey.
Red banners hang throughout the arena, commemorating the many titles in the history of the Detroit Red Wings. Retired jerseys hang in the same row with the 11 Stanley Cup banners. The players include icons like Gordie Howe (#9), Terry Sawchuk (#1), Ted Lindsay (#7), Alex Delvecchio (#10), Sid Abel (#12), and Steve Yzerman (#19). Yzerman's jersey banner also has a "C" on it, in deference to him being the longest serving captain on a team in the history of the NHL.
Once you get inside the arena, you'll find your seat to have about average legroom, and no cupholder. The scoreboard is quite outdated by NHL standards; the video screen shows very few replays and has no statistics during the game.
The Joe is located next to the Detroit River; just a few minutes walk from the city center. There is not much in the immediate vicinity of the rink, and the city certainly has a reputation for danger so few fans make the walk from downtown. I had no problem walking about 15 minutes from my hotel along Trumbull Avenue to or from the arena, but other travelers may want to be more cautious.
There are a few bars close by, with Tommy's Detroit Bar and Grill my recommendation. Friendly staff, lots of TVs, and a good crowd both before and after the game make this a good spot to visit. Food here is surprisingly tasty and affordable as well.
Further afield you can find The Hockeytown Café, which is next to Comerica Park. Expect to wait for a table on almost every game day, but you can bide your time checking out all the hockey memorabilia. If you want to include a visit, then make it your first stop and shoot for 2-3 hours before the puck drops.
A somewhat less celebrated place is Cheli's Chili Bar, owned by former NHL great Chris Chelios. Here you will find very reasonably priced bar food, with the signature chili being your best bet.
Another option is to park closer to Greektown and take the Detroit People Mover (the elevated train that costs 75 cents to ride) to the game. There is a stop at Joe Louis Arena, and it is also a fun way to see the city.
When I think of the Red Wings, I think of Octopus. Wings fans are famous for throwing octopi on to the ice, although the tradition is generally reserved for playoff games. If you wish to fit in, you can order some to eat at New Parthenon, a Greek restaurant without pretense. A little saganaki (flaming cheese) is always a good thing too, and they do it with great panache here.
If you like to gamble, then there are several casino options and Greektown Casino is nearby. Many fans park here, gamble on the penny slots for a while to get their parking validated, and then take the People Mover to the game.
Hockey fans in Detroit are a bit spoiled. More than two decades in the playoffs, including three Stanley Cups, can do that to a fan base. You may find more empty seats than you would think, especially during the week and against less successful teams.
There is no doubt though that the fans are passionate about their team, and you will surely hear some acute observations about the team and the game. Red Wings jerseys are prevalent throughout the crowd, and almost everyone there is wearing red and white. It is difficult to spot many fans of the opposing squad in the masses, unless Toronto is visiting. Yzerman jerseys seem to be the most popular, but there is a smattering of Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and even Howe.
Despite rooting for the opposition myself, I had no problems with anybody there and was very impressed with their general etiquette: staying in seats during the action, and staying to the end of the game.
There is a large parking garage right next to the Joe that was the choice of many fans. Others park downtown, although meters are enforced until 10 p.m. Another lot can be found at 645 Washington St. for $10. My advice though is to park downtown and take the People Mover, or stay downtown and walk over.
Inside, expect things to be very crowded. The single concourse is relatively narrow, and during intermissions, moving around is simply not advised. This is even truer when you need to use a restroom. Lines are insanely long, so if you want to drink, get an aisle seat so you can beat the rush. Otherwise, use the TV timeouts to race to the restroom.
The lack of space is a good reason to arrive to a game early so you can navigate to your seats and get something to eat or drink.
I always appreciate a statue in a stadium, and Joe Louis Arena has beautiful statues dedicated to Howe, Lindsay, and Delvecchio. However, these huge statues only serve to make the crowded walkway even more crowded.
There is no reason to buy lower level seats here when the upper level is so close to the ice. Tickets range from $25 to $63 in the upper deck for less popular opponents, a deal for the quality of the team. Expect to pay over $100 when you get to the lower bowl along the sides, with end zone seats costing $96, again for games that see relatively little demand. All prices are before fees and of course, the secondary market provides options as well.
One option that is worth considering is the $59 Fan Pack, which includes two tickets, two hot dogs, and two soft drinks for the low price of $59. Unfortunately this deal is limited to very select games (i.e. those featuring very unpopular opposition) but worth checking out.
Even before entering, you will be reminded of the wonderful history of this franchise. Stanley Cup posters dot a bridge next to the stadium, alumni legends posters next to the Gordie Howe entrance, and a mural inside the ticket office.
The three statues might take up concourse space but they are worthy of an extra point. Also, check out the purple octopus hanging from the ceiling along the concourse. Every little bit of history is remembered here.
The arena is named for Joe Louis, the legendary boxer who hailed from Detroit and died two years after the venue opened. It is one of three NHL rinks lacking a corporate name (Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum are the others) and that merits a point. If you are coming from the east, walk through Cobo Center and take a look at the Joe Louis statue and fight-used gloves as well.
There are TVs on the concourse so you can see the action while getting some food or drink. I liked that they had a college game on during the pregame.
Look for current Red Wings painted along the pillars throughout the concourse.
I also like the curtains that block each entrance to the seating bowl, which keep the ambient noise to a minimum and allow fans in their seats to enjoy the game to the fullest.
Joe Louis Arena is the last bastion of a dying breed of hockey rink. With the Islanders moving to Brooklyn for 2015, only Detroit and Edmonton will have these old-time hockey barns. If you have yet to get to JLA, you are now on the clock. Yes, it is small and crowded, but when you can sit so close to witness one of the best clubs in all of pro sports, you can't complain. You have about 100 games to add this one to your list of venues and no excuses if you fail to do so.
The NHL's most successful team over the last two decades resides in Joe Louis Arena, a drab gray structure that succeeded the classically brick Olympia Stadium in 1979.
Home of the Detroit Red Wings, designers executed a plan to build the city's first waterfront sports arena. "The Joe", as it is affectionately referred to by locals, sits on the Detroit River just a few blocks south of Detroit's dominant skyline piece, the Renaissance Center. When walking up the riverside staircase to enter a game at night, lights from across the river reflect onto the water creating a picturesque view of Windsor. The Red Wings have been the only professional sports team to utilize the Joe for nine years--two professional soccer teams and OHL franchises formerly called this plot facing Canada home.
A stark contrast from modern NHL palaces, Joe Louis Arena will never be confused with a half-billion dollar venue. Its simplicity is resounding. Concourses are expectedly lined with pictures and sculptures of Red Wings past. Stands and booths await passersby, while scorebook sellers dish product behind solid-colored podiums. Detroit's hockey cave matches former MLB parks Veterans Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium in uniqueness. Built in an era when efficiency was valued over aesthetics, the only standout features hang in the rafters above the ice.
The atmosphere around Hockeytown on a Red Wings game day is great, and the fans are arguably the best in the sport. Yeah, the arena is beginning to show its age, but this is still a very special place.
Recently attended a game at Joe Louis Arena with my son. This is a great arena that feels old and cozy. Is it the nicest place in the world? No. But it does feel like a hockey arena, and the fans are as passionate as it gets.
I also found that parking near the Greek Town Casino and taking the people mover to the arena is the way to go. Plus my 4 year old loved going on the train.
The Detroit Red Wings are an Original 6 franchise in the NHL. Not only are they a historically significant organization, but they are also one of the most consistently great franchises in the past two decades. Their arena is simply known as the Joe, short for Joe Louis Arena. The namesake of the arena, heavyweight champ and Detroit native Joe Louis, died two years after the facility opened in 1979.
If you park along Washington Avenue, you may have the opportunity to cut through Cobo Arena, and see a great statue of Joe Louis as well as his "glove that floored Nazi Germany," the right hand glove used in a knockout of Max Schmeling for the Heavyweight Championship in 1938 at Yankee Stadium.
Today you will hear from many that believe that JLA needs to be replaced by a more modern facility. You’ll hear an opposition that feels like the classic arena needs to be protected and cherished. It is hard to read the tea leaves to see what the future may hold, but there is little doubt that a trip to Joe Louis Arena is well worth it not just for hockey fans, but for sports fans in general.
Old, run down, crowded, horrible access and worst restrooms ever. If not for the history and legacy, this would be the worst. That said, I am happy I can say I made it there to see the Wings play, history does count for a lot!
I really love this great arena in the motor city and right across from Windsor and its great place to watch the Red Wings in action.
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