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Goodbye, Joe

I'll never forget The Joe for a lot of reasons, but none more so than it created a hockey fan out of my daughter, which served to strengthen our bond even more.
It was during her sophomore year in high school, so the spring of 2007. I and a friend had tickets to go watch Lake State in the CCHA playoffs at The Joe. The morning we were to leave to make the 5-6 hour trek south, he had to bail at the last second.

Well, this kind of sucks.

Then I had an idea: pull my daughter out of school for the day, and take her to Detroit!

Now, this wasn’t going to be an easy sell. She had no interest in hockey or the Red Wings at that time. She certainly knew of the Wings, seeing just about every game was on TV in our house since she could remember. But, it was simply background noise to whatever endeavor she chose to do while dad, yet again, took over the TV for (sigh) another Red Wings game.

So, I went to the high school office and had the secretary called her out of class (I worked in the same building, so this was the easy part).

“Hey, kid, let’s go!”

“Ummm, where??

“Down to Detroit, for the CCHA playoffs!”

A look of surprise mixed with confusion colored her face. Rightly so.

“Uh, okay.”

So I signed her out, raced home and packed her things, and off we were. She was no more interested in the hockey games than I would have been going to a ballet recital. But, it was a chance to spend the weekend in a big city (most places are “the city”, when you’re from the Soo). They have much better restaurants, and how could we not go shopping at some time? So, she’d suffer through a hockey game or two for the side benefits of being in Detroit. She never told me this, I just kind of sensed it, I suppose.

We got the rink just in time for puck drop. Lake State was playing the first game, a four O’clock start I recall; but I can’t remember the opponent, Bowling Green or Michigan State, I think. Regardless, I had one wish: that the boredom wouldn’t overtake her for at least two periods. I decided if I could get forty minutes of hockey out of her it would be a ‘win’. I would have even used Casino777 to prove it.

By the end of the first period I knew something drastic had occurred: before my very eyes, my daughter was turning into a hockey fan.

Sure, she’d been to a few local games in the past, a high school hockey game here, a junior game there. But that was only because it was a place to see and be seen. The product on the ice, pffft, might as well been curling for all she cared.
But The Joe changed all that.

Watching her fidget in her seat on close plays, stare up at the Jumbotron and smile, and getting really, angry at a particular call against the Lakers late in the game. The impossible had happen: The Joe turned her into a hockey fan (which would turn into fanatic soon).

So, did we get to stay for the third period of the Laker game? We sure did, and the entire next game.

The final buzzer sounded in the game, a Laker loss.

“Okay, ready?”, I asked

“To go where?”

“I don’t know, hit a restaurant, just look around”

She hesitated a bit.

“Do you want to stay for the next game, too?”

Those words were magic to my ears.

We took in all four CCHA playoff games that weekend. Though Laker fans, I’m sure the highlight for her was the championship game between MSU and UM Saturday night. The Joe was packed. The bands played, the people cheered and chanted. In other words, she experienced something she just couldn’t experience back home. 

Yup, she was hooked.

The next step was to get her to a Red Wings game. Certainly if she enjoyed the college game down there so much, the Wings would take it to the next level. And that it did.

We went down to a game that next fall. I can’t remember who the Wings played, not that it mattered. Again, it was the experience, and the bonding that came from that. If she loved the college games at the old barn, the Wings game took it to a whole new level. She was a Wingaholic from that point on.

She soon followed the team religiously, citing stats at times I wasn’t even aware of about this player’s current cold streak, or that player’s penchant for dumb penalties late in the game. She took to Valteri Filppula (go figure), but her knowledge and passion for the game went far, far beyond a simple teenage crush. On some nights I would go to bed early, it was a work night (and school night for her).

“Not going to stay up for the third, dad?”

“No, got work tomorrow, and I’m beat”

“Okay, g’night”

G’night”

And I would lay in bed at times, and hear her sitting alone in the living-room watching the game. I’d hear her cheer at times, lament at times, yell at the refs at times. My heart would fill up with pride/happiness, whatever it was. And to be sure, I got a better game recap from her than most Internet sites the day after.

She is now eight years removed from high school, four years removed from college, married and living in southern Arizona (and, yes, she married a man she met while interning for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He now works for the Tucson Roadrunners…no one was surprised it worked out this way). They flew back to Detroit in February so we could attend our  last game at The Joe. It was a great time, and it went by much too fast.

Obviously she is not at home anymore. But I still can picture her sitting in a chair and watching a Wings game. I can vividly remember the tears in her eyes when the Wings lost out in the playoffs one year, and the same tears when Lidstrom almost…almost…scored late in Game Seven against Pittsburgh in 2009. Most of all, I can still picture her giving me a game recap the next day. It was special to watch a non-hockey fan morph into one, and I have The Joe to thank for that.

That’s why The Joe is not just another building to me.

It is irrational to give inanimate objects human qualities. Well, I’m about to be irrational:

Thanks for the memories, ol’ pal. You will be missed.
 

Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, | KK Members Blog | Permalink
 

Comments

AxeMaster9's avatar

That is the essence of everything Hockey and The Joe stood for.  Great Story my friend.

Posted by AxeMaster9 from Flint, MI on 04/09/17 at 10:42 PM ET

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