Hello Chicago! I’m back from my weekend trip to Detroit and settling back into my work week here. I was switched to a Sunday through Wednesday 6 a.m. shift, so “settling” is a pretty strong word… especially since my new schedule started right along with Daylight Saving Time. I guess I wouldn’t say “settling” so much as “reluctantly getting pushed into.” But, it’s good to be back home, and hey! It’s my Friday.
My trip to Detroit was a whole big bag of emotions. I was pretty happy, because, well, I absolutely adore the Motor City, and it was so good to hang out with both Chicago friends and Metro Detroit friends for the weekend. But I was also pretty sad because the whole reason we went this time around was to say goodbye to an old friend: Joe, aka: the Joe Louis Arena.
I grew up absolutely loving hockey. My dad was a diehard Detroit Red Wings fan, and that’s something that always stuck with me. I would sit on his lap as a kid while he watched the games, and my mom would always joke that one day, I was going to go through the ceiling when Detroit scored and he jumped out of his chair.
Keep in mind that I grew up in the ’90s… so Detroit scored a lot.
When I was in middle school, my grandma gifted me with my first Red Wings bobblehead. Those things were the shit back then, if you don’t remember. My grandma gave me Kris Draper, and gifted my brother and sister Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby. If you’re a Detroit fan, you definitely know what the significance of that pairing was*. My dad followed up my grandma’s gift with matching jerseys, giving me a beautiful red-and-white No. 33. It hung on my bedroom wall and only came down for prominent game days… so, basically, any time a face-off was scheduled against the Colorado Avalanche.
*If you’re a non-Detroit fan, 1. I implore you to refine your taste, and 2. Draper, Maltby and Kocur/McCarty comprised the Grind Line. Google it.
It’s safe to say that, growing up, the Detroit Red Wings — and by default, the Joe Louis Arena — were a big deal in the Shaffer household. I’d watch games broadcast at “The Joe,” and would nonchalantly flip through my favorite coffee table book, marveling at the behind-the-scene photos of my hockey team and their arena. I first visited the arena as a child and, of course, I was attending games at The Joe as often as my teenage budget would allow as soon as I was old enough to drive.
In fact, I’ve never seen an NHL game played anywhere other than The Joe.
So, saying goodbye to the JLA stings a bit. It’s definitely no Detroit Olympia or Tiger Stadium, but it’s still sentimental to me, and a lot of other Red Wings fans I’m sure.
Like I mentioned above, I had my chance to say goodbye to the Joe this past weekend. Mando and I compared schedules a few weeks ago and ended up picking the March 10 game against the Blackhawks for my very last visit to the Joe, which also happened to be Mando’s first!
We left Chicago for Detroit at about 6 a.m. Friday. I always love to stay at the RenCen when I visit, but it was completely booked. We ended up staying at a Marriott in Dearborn right by the Ford World Headquarters — aka the Glass House. Apparently Southeast Michigan had been having some pretty strong winds lately. There were a lot of areas in town that were without power, and the giant Ford logo had actually blown off the headquarters building.
We settled in and then took an Uber over to Detroit’s Midtown to meet up with our coworker Tony, also a Michigan native, and his girlfriend Nicole at Motor City Brewing Works. Two of Tony’s friends from college were there as well, and we spent a few hours hanging out.
Then, Mando and I dipped out to head to the Joe. We grabbed some beer and took a second to walk around the concourse and take it all in for the last time before plunking down in our (very terrible) seats.
I wore the aforementioned Draper jersey. It was only fitting.
We definitely messed up and forgot to get tickets back in February when we first made the decision to attend the game, so the price had completely skyrocketed. We ended up completely overpaying for two seats at the very, very top of the arena. I’m talking, like, six times what these tickets were originally listed at, and 10 times more than I’d pay for those same nosebleed seats any other year. Yunno, back when this team was Stanley Cup contender-level good.
But, it was totally completely 10,000 percent unquestionably worth every penny.
And, it’s a good thing the Joe is so small that every seat has a decent view, I guess?
The game itself was so good. In case you live under a rock, Detroit is in the bottom three of the league this year. It’s kind of a bummer because Detroit made the NHL playoffs for the 25th year in a row last April. Nobody is expecting the Wings to keep that streak going this year, which is a huge disappointment, because the last time Detroit missed the playoffs, I was in diapers and my siblings weren’t even born yet.
However, my boys had it in them to come from behind and unexpectedly win 4-2 over the Chicago Blackhawks, an Original Six rival team that I’m really not a fan of.
I know, I know. I live in the wrong city.
After the game, we walked over to Grand Trunk Pub for drinks with Tony, Nicole and my brother who drove over from his apartment in Warren to hang out.
I always, always, forget how expensive Chicago is until I’m in another city receiving a bill for an entire tray of food and a round of drinks and it’s like, $40 for five people.
We headed back to our hotel after Grand Trunk, and called it a night. The next morning, we grabbed brunch at Hayden’s in Canton with my high school best friend Kim, and then went back in the city to hang out for a bit. We stopped at Great Lakes for some coffee before wandering around Midtown to pop into some of the stores in the neighborhood, including Shinola, of course.
Then, after a quick visit to my mom and dad, we were back on the road to Chicago.
I think I cried about six times during this trip, no joke. I get really emotional about hockey! I started crying when Detroit took the lead, and then again at Detroit’s last goal, aaaand then again when the game ended. I also teared up a little bit on the way there, and back.
Seeing that old dump of a barn one last time was definitely the highlight of my trip, and I’m gonna miss the hell out of it.