It’s not where the rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings began, but it is where it was elevated into the NHL’s most vicious. In a Saturday matinee, the Avalanche will head to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for the final time.
Located on 19 Steve Yzerman Drive, “The Joe” has been home to the Red Wings since 1979. On March, 26, 1997, it was transformed into boxing gym.
Now in it’s final year, Joe Lewis Arena will host its final chapter in a book full of storied battles between the Avalanche and Red Wings. The rivalry has cooled. The Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference. Tempers no longer flaring, the clubs face each other but twice a year.
“I mean, the rivalry’s dying down from even my first couple years, just because we don’t see them anymore,” Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said.
The team’s longest-tenured player, Duchene joined the Avalanche in 2009. The last playoff series between the Avalanche and Red Wings was in 2008. The Wings moved to the East prior to the 2013-14 campaign.
Nevertheless, Duchene appreciates the history between the Avalanche and Red Wings. He grew up cheering for the Avs, which also often meant cheering against the Wings. For him, Joe Louis Arena means a little something extra however, it was the building in which he scored his first goal.
“That was one of the highlights of my life,” Duchene told Mile High Sports. “Especially, growing up as a kid, loving the Avs, and watching that rivalry.”
Making it all that much more sweet for Duchene, he scored the goal against Chris Osgood. Not only was Osgood the second Red Wings goaltender that Avalanche legend Patrick Roy squared off against; he was also a goaltender that Duchene had faced before, in a surprising place.
“Actually, my uncle coached Chris Osgood in the minors when I was four years old,” Duchene said. “I shot pucks on him in practice one time. Then, that was the guy I scored my first NHL goal on. It’s a pretty cool memory and pretty cool thing that happened.”
Avalanche rookie J.T. Compher also scored his first NHL goal against the Red Wings. His came in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory at the Pepsi Center. The last time he played in Joe Lewis Arena, it was as the captain of the Michigan Wolverines. Now, he will head there for the first and last time of his professional career.
“It’s going to be special,” Compher told Mile High Sports. “They’ve had a good farewell tour. They’ve had good crowds every night. It’s a special place. I got to play there in college a bunch of times. It’s going to be fun. I’ve got a lot of friends and family that live out there.”
Saturday’s game will mark the first time Avalanche coach Jared Bednar’s first time at “the Joe,” but the significance of the arena isn’t lost on him either.
“It’s going to be fun going into ‘the Joe,'” Bednar said. “I’ve never been there, personally. I know the history. Our guys will be excited to go in there.”
And they should be. This might be the closest thing to a playoff atmosphere that Avalanche experience this season. The Pepsi Center was rockin’ on Wednesday. Wings fans came out and cheered loudly in the beginning. By the end however, the Avalanche faithful let their voices be heard, resurrecting an old favorite.
“Red Wings suck.”
With two consecutive games against each other, there might be a little carry over. There probably won’t be another goalie fight (though my fingers are still crossed), but hopefully the intensity will run high. It’s what the fans deserve. It’s what “The Joe” deserves. Tune in to Altitude on Saturday. The puck drops at 11:00a.m. MT.