Thursday, October 26, 2006

10/25 DETROIT 2, sharks 1

My flight into Detroit and my walk through the funky underground hallway were pretty surreal due to the fact I had been up for so long, and it was still early. Unfortunately, I was all too awake for the evening; an evening that saw a building with mystique, and a sight seen by Shark fans all too real and all too often before. So much mystique in fact, that an already poor 2-23-1 all time record at the Joe was reflected perfectly with the effort on the ice. The Sharks let a slim 3rd period lead slip through their sticks. Evgeni Nabokov had 37 saves, let in only two goals, and still received the loss.

Joe Louis Arena is nicely tucked behind the COBO Arena and multi-level convention center, right on the banks of the Detroit River, serving as the border between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The building itself is a pretty shade of dull gray, but is oddly shaped, with parts of the roof/upper part of the building jutting out in every which direction. The doors, the signs, and even the surroundings won't let you forget who plays in this plain colored building, as the gray is quickly overshadowed by bright red doors, a large black sign welcoming you to the Joe (home of the Detroit Red Wings), and a display on the pedestrian walkway from the parking garage to the north entrance upstairs, right next to the Lodge freeway, proudly boasting the 10 (yeah, that's a lot) Stanley Cup Championships won by this team, ranging from 1935-36 to the most recent in 2001-02.

The inside of the building won't let you forget where you are either. Within 5 seconds of entering, you are quickly surrounded by 17,000 of your closest friends (assuming you're wearing red), and thrust into the concourse with people and noise and giant hanging purple octopi wearing Wing jerseys. This was the first encounter on my trip this year where, upon entrance, all those in attendance must walk through metal detectors and the standard bag check found in all arenas.

Walking through the concourse, there's a bit more room. However, there are tons of things placed in the middle of the otherwise semi-wide concourses, making them really no larger than most other buildings, and makes maneuvering through the crowd pretty tough. The food is standard; hot dogs, kielbasas, other sausages. There are two walk-in Little Caesar's Pizza's, where you can get individual size all the way up to a large.

As if the history wasn't enough, the JLA attempts to add some old time-y effect when entering the seating area. Curtains. Well, giant vinyl fabrics hanging from the ceiling. As there is one concourse, each entrance way is home to just two choices, up or down, both of which are shrouded in mystery until passing through the red fabrics.

The seats themselves are pretty nice, pretty wide, pretty soft, and overall comfortable, but my real gripe with the JLA comes from the sight lines. I sat upstairs, 215, row 17, about 5 rows from the top. The top, in my particular section, was the luxury box of the owner, Mike Illitch, who, I assume, was not in attendance. His Tigers were supposed to play Game 4 of the World Series in St. Louis, but were eventually rained out. Now, sitting in row 17 of the upper deck, you assume to be up a little high. To steal from my favorite Saturday morning college football crazy man, Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend". Because there are no luxury boxes between the lower and upper bowl (only maybe 15 feet separate the highest lower bowl seats and the lowest upper bowl seats), there is no real huge slope difference between the lower and upper bowl. And because there is no real huge slope difference, it is much easier to block someone's view, as the seats are not staggered that severely vertically.

The overall experience was pretty good. The history hanging from the ceiling was enough to impress anybody, because, solely as a fan, the video board is old and discolored, the shot clock is high up and easily obstructed by speakers, and, as I said before, the sight lines aren't the greatest. The music was spot on to whatever was going on, whether it be an announcement or something in the game (example: PA Announcer :"Tigers in a rain delay" followed by music "Rain Drops Keep Fallin' on My Head"). The crowd, as a whole, was pretty docile, but probably into the game so much that there was no time for chants. There were a few groups of people starting periodic "Let's Go Red Wings" chants, and a few futile attempts at the wave, but, directly following the Robert Lang goal that gave the Wings a 2-1 lead late in the third, that's when the fans woke up.

As I sit here, I ready myself and my stuff for a taxi ride to the airport, and then a 90 minute plane ride to Nashville, TN, for tonight's second leg of the back-to-back, against the Predators. Game time is 7:00 CDT, 5:00 for those of you in the PDT. Tonight, for a second try, is Game 4 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. I should be back tomorrow, with, hopefully, a better (from the teal POV) game and result.

Go Sharks (Go Tigers and Go sunshine)

The Joe, in all its gray glory.

So much history, it makes you either want to cry in awe, or puke in disgust.

Center ice in Hockeytown


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