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Just what are you up to, Michael Babcock? A demotion, a trade and new rink talk for Red Wings

Let’s see…I return to work after an excused but unhappy absence and the Red Wings waive and demote Ty Conklin, decide to remove the proverbial pebble from Pavel Datsyuk’s foot before it gouges a hole in removing “debris” from Datsyuk’s knee to ensure that he won’t be hobbling come playoff time, they bring back Kyle Quincey (something tells me Holland isn’t quite done yet), and, via Paul, Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose request for a Zamboni for Clark Park after Saturday’s outdoor practice almost makes you wonder which Ilitch cut the cheque for an ice resurfacer that afternoon, happens to let it slip that the Red Wings have big plans for downtown, and they involve more than building a much-needed follow-on facility to Joe Louis Arena.

Here’s what the Detroit News’s Louis Aguilar reports Babcock said on 97.1 FM:

“A new facility, no question,” Babcock said Tuesday morning on a 97.1 The Ticket sports radio talk show, when asked if he preferred that the Wings continue to play at Joe Louis Arena or at a new arena. If we want the city to come back, we got to revitalize downtown. And a big part of that’s going to be the new arena, and the mall and the stuff going around it,” he said. “And that’s very important. That’s why we need the state to jump onside. The sooner the better, if we’re going to revitalize Michigan. It’s got to start right here in Detroit.”

An Olympia Entertainment spokeswoman did not have an immediate comment.

Wings owner Mike Ilitch, billionaire founder of a pizza, sports and entertainment empire known as Ilitch Holdings, has said for more than five years that he wants to build an arena downtown for the hockey team. He has indicated that financing is one of the snags in constructing such a facility.

Ilitch received $115 million from the city of Detroit, Wayne County and corporate investors and paid the remaining $185 million when he built Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, in the 1990s. The state financed infrastructure improvements. Economic experts and a Michigan pollster have said Ilitch won’t get as much public funding for a new hockey arena.

Babcock’s reference to “the mall” feeds into speculation that a shopping center might be connected to an arena development plan — particularly in the swath of blighted and empty properties from Woodward Avenue to Cass near Temple. There has been a real estate buying frenzy in the area, which is several blocks north of the Fox Theatre, headquarters of Ilitch Holdings Inc., as well as Comerica Park and Ford Field.

“Of course, everyone assumes this is where the new arena will be built, but now I’m hearing (developer Al Taubman) wants to build a mall next to the arena,” Temple Bar owner George Boukas said in October 2010, after he had turned down a bid to sell his establishment. The bar, at the corner of Temple and Cass, is in the middle of the mysterious land acquisitions. I know all that sounds crazy, but look at all that unbelievable stuff that’s gone on already. Someone is thinking big.”

As Aguilar suggests, everybody with their ear anywhere near the ground more or less knows that the Ilitches will probably build the follow-on rink—barring some City of Detroit, Wayne County, State of Michigan or other private assistance—on the plot of land adjacent to Woodward Avenue just north of I-75, which may or may not be a stop on the controversial M1 rail line.

Here’s 97.1 FM the Ticket’s blurb...

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock wants his record-winning team to have a new place to call home, right in Detroit.

Babcock joined Stoney & Bill with Sara Tuesday morning, and talked about a number of different subjects, including the team’s league-record home winning streak, the depth of the team, and the upcoming game against the Blackhawks in Chicago.

Toward the end of the conversation, Sara asked Babcock to share his thoughts on the current state of Joe Louis Arena. She asked the coach if he would prefer The Joe be rehabilitated or replaced with a new arena.

Without skipping a beat, Babcock said he would prefer “a new facility, no question.”

“Detroit, if we want the city to come back you’ve got to revitalize downtown … A big part of that is going to be a new arena, the mall, the stuff going around it,” Babcock said, adding, “The sooner the better, if you want to revitalize Michigan, it’s got to start right here in Detroit.”

And here’s the interview:

Download file


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RorSchach's avatar

Wondering, if they get a new arena built.. will they keep the lively boards?

Posted by RorSchach from Datsberg on 02/21/12 at 08:30 PM ET

scotts0's avatar

Wondering, if they get a new arena built.. will they keep the lively boards?

Posted by RorSchach on 02/21/12 at 06:30 PM ET

I’d think they’d have to.  What would Pierre and Doc have to talk about whenever they’re covering a game if they don’t?

On a side note…big thanks to The Captain for giving us something for nothing.

Posted by scotts0 from New York on 02/21/12 at 08:33 PM ET


I’d think they’d have to.  What would Pierre and Doc have to talk about whenever they’re covering a game if they don’t?

...the fact that Jim Howard attended the University of Maine. Christ. I’m surprised Emrick doesn’t still find a way to mention Brett Lebda/Notre Dame at least 10 times during Wings’ games.

Posted by godblender on 02/21/12 at 08:55 PM ET

RorSchach's avatar

Posted by godblender on 02/21/12 at 06:55 PM ET


Posted by RorSchach from Datsberg on 02/21/12 at 09:02 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

Ever since Old Tiger Stadium came down, I’ve been kinda hoping the new arena gets placed there. That area needs some help.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 02/21/12 at 09:27 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Had a crazy busy day. Got home and saw this. Wow!  Bet nobody saw this coming. I sure didn’t.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 02/21/12 at 09:27 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I mean the Quincey thing.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 02/21/12 at 09:29 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

I still think that Pavs injury was a Sniper, LOL.  Young Good D are hard to find, IMO And can’t have too many. Another lefty, hmmm!

The Guru Bob McKenzie thinks this years draft gets thin after the top 2 Russian Forwards!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 02/21/12 at 09:49 PM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

Wondering, if they get a new arena built.. will they keep the lively boards?

They mentioned on the NBC broadcast that SJ just changed their boards to be more lively, like ours.

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 02/21/12 at 10:51 PM ET


As always, Georgie, Love that Kenny and Mike have their Eyes on the Prize. June hockey is always the goal for HOckeytown. Glad Pavel is getting a rest and a scope. I feel bad for Conks, I do. If I thought there was another club that could actually use him and would give him good ice time- besides Columbus or (gah…) the flyers- I’d be happy to see him get some play, and sad he had to go. But Goaltending in Detroit is tough!

the Quincey thing gave me pause too- but only ebcause he’s been hurt this yera and also on a cold streak, and being tossed around the league. But I guess we are not ready to rely on Emmerton and Mursk, in the post season. I’m ok with that. Still, Quincey- is that the best we can do? I think he’s a crap shoot at this point.

I also think the team deserves a new arena- YESTERDAY. Yes I have a LOT of great memories at the joe, almost ALL of my hockey memories, in fact. But this team and franchise are the best of the best, and that is what they deserve.

Posted by LA Juice on 02/22/12 at 12:42 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Regarding the rink funding?

Don’t forget that the State of Michigan has emergency financial managers in several major cities, with Detroit looking like it’s the likely target of the largest city to declare bankruptcy in U.S. history…

And that Rick Snyder couldn’t push a bridge that really would have paid for itself through the legislature, and especially given that Wayne County’s executives are under the same kinds of federal investigative scrutiny that Kwame Kilpatrick still finds himself facing.

There’s not much funding to go around, and at this point, the Ilitches are loath to dip into their casino revenues, but given the money they already have to repay various lenders for Copa, they may very well have to tap the golden goose.

What is clear in all of this is that we’re talking about a facility which will probably include a rink and a practice/secondary venue of some sort, that there will be some sort of urban development to link it to the Foxtown area (even if that’s just a covered walkway across I-75), and that until Al Sobotka keels over, the end boards at this new rink will always be reinforced with more plywood every two or three months.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/22/12 at 01:13 AM ET


I would think that the rink would be beyond Detroit’s ability to finance too. Their bonds are rated as junk status. However, Detroit would lose about $2M annually according to Crain’s.

Wayne County’s Stadium Authority might be the most logical choice anyways, but Ilitch is going to have to come up with most of the financing anyways. Of the 300-400M I would think he would have to come up with $200-260M. That likely means JLA until 2015-2016 season anyways unless a major repair bill hits then the Wings play in Auburn Hills for a year or two.

But the good thing is that it is a matter of when and not if they will build a new arena. Too bad the nose-bleed seats won’t be as close in the next one.

Posted by dca from back in MI formerly Alexandria, VA on 02/22/12 at 10:40 AM ET

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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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