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Ashley Woods shares Red Wings memories amidst talk about Joe Louis Arena’s inevitable demise

Joe Louis Arena isn't too long for this world. The Wings' follow-on facility will all but ensure that the Joe will be demolished at some point to either add to Cobo Hall's convention space, or perhaps the City of Detroit will sell an incredibly valuable piece of riverfront real estate to a commercial or residential developer who wants to take what is really a "dead zone" of the city and revitalize it.

Put bluntly, Joe Louis Arena's footprint is far more valuable than the aging facility, and one way or another, its exit sign from the Lodge Freeway and perhaps some relics will join the "Olympia Stadium" exit sign looming unseen by the public on the Joe's ground floor.

A TMR reader kindly sent me toward an article that got lost in the follow-on-facility shuffle, and it matters because it was written by both a resident of the city and someone who's had a unique perspective on the rickety rink's lifespan in Huffington Post columnist Ashley Woods (whose father, Paul Woods, is the Wings' radio color commentator):

{i]t wasn't excitement or curiosity that I first felt when I heard the news Wednesday. Thinking about the new arena is like picturing your childhood home meeting the business end of a wrecking ball. My dad is a former Detroit Red Wings captain and the team's current radio color commentator. My mother managed the arena's suite level when I was growing up.

When there was no babysitter, we went to Joe Louis. When Mom was scheduled to work what seemed like 12 consecutive performances of "Disney On Ice" over a long weekend, we went to Joe Louis. Or whenever we could be quietly left in somebody's suite, we went to the Joe, because we truly loved those Wings, especially my brother, Blake.

Now that every sports team in Detroit has a new or renovated home, it's strange to remember how hockey games were like social events in the 1980's and '90s. They wouldn't even allow you in the Olympia Club wearing jerseys or jeans. Suiteholders would hire interior designers to lavishly decorate their spaces. It was one of the first arenas built with an entire level of luxury boxes, and the cuisine matched the setting. It seemed like then-Detroit mayor Dennis Archer visited all the time, and guests would line the hallways to shake his hand.

When the Ringling Bros. circus came to town, they used to keep the animals on the first floor near the locker rooms. You'd walk downstairs, and an elephant or horse would amble by. I remember that their trainers even slept with them, and it would smell like elephants for days. I brought Nancy Kerrigan extra ice that night she sat watching the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships after being clubbed in the knee. We sat at Magic Johnson's locker after an exhibition game and once rode around the stadium parking lot in Hulk Hogan's limousine.

We were lucky, and we knew it. Once in a while, octopi-wielding Zamboni driver Al Sobotka would let us skate after the team's morning practice session. I remember Wings' enforcer Bob Probert spitting out his water at me, and how hard I fell the first and only time I wore figure skates. The carpeted suite level was my brother's arena for ball hockey games, and we had a cupboard in suite 8 to hold our toys. Having something of a vivid imagination, every box took a turn as my first grown-up apartment. When our dad would leave for a long road trip with the team, we'd go find his picture in the concourse. His portrait is on a column, right next to Mr. Pita.

She continues at length, and it's a helluva read.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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