“You got good seats?”
That question flashed across my mind as I parked my car and walked in through the giant door near the zamboni garage at Joe Louis Arena. It’s a door I’ve walked by and through hundreds of times. This time was different, however, because I wasn’t walking in to see or work a game. I was there to pick up some seats. Seats that had endured more than 3 decades of hockey. But why was that specific question in my head? At first I thought it may have been the “First Come First Served” basis of the sale and I was just wondering what I would be handed. I also pondered how a question could be so simple yet so vital. Think of how many dates hinged on the fact someone had seats on the glass! After some processing, I started to look around the arena.
I was standing where ice was once meticulously maintained. The place where players crashed, bashed, flew, and scored. And now in place of that frozen field? Rows upon rows upon rows of seats that wait for their ultimate destination. They had been unshackled from the concrete, finally free to find a home that won’t be imploded or demolished to make way for more riverfront developments. I looked at all of these seats and became, as Linda Richman always is, verklempt.
Much like the first bite of Ratatouille, I was flung into a memory time warp. The woeful lows. The euphoric highs. The just plain regular home win. The smell of the Joe was intact, further amplifying the experience. I’m sure any one of the workers in charge of ripping the seats from the cement were confused to see my face reacting like Dr. Strange seeing all possible outcomes to fight Thanos. Moving to Detroit to witness back to back Stanley Cups. (The photo at the top is the humble brag-est pic from that year.) Steve Yzerman making a ridiculous pass or scoring in the most heroic fashion. Fedorov exerting his will. Kissing a then girlfriend just as the Wings scored. Datsyuk undressing unsuspecting skaters. Dom flailing into oblivion to make a save. High fiving my dad as another pointless shootout is won by Detroit. Cheli leveling a forward into next year. My 21st birthday, enjoying my first real, ice cold Molson Canadian. Hank being an absolute workhorse. Cutting my finger on a broken mirror in one of the suites and getting an entire box of chocolate turtles as a thanks for not suing us gift. Ozzie flashing the glove. Watching the Wings beat the Hawks in OT with my best friend and held up signs to get on TV. Franzen turning the Canadiens inside out. Igor finessing around everyone. Shanny blasting one home. Re-living all of those moments was magnificent and exhausting.
As I scanned the arena, I started to point out where I’ve sat. Center ice. On the glass. High in the corners. The suites. Behind the Wings’ goal. 6 rows from the bench. All of the locations in a building that today, legally, isn’t allowed to be built. They reeeeally packed them in here. Into these seats. Seats that, in this writer’s opinion, look like they physically and logistically can’t be comfortable. Yet time and time again, I slid onto the patterned red leather and felt like I was on my own couch. I could still hear the goal horn blaring us into deafness. This was a visit I wouldn’t soon forget.
I watched as two gentleman pulled a pair of seats from the supply of thousands. Now, the seats were bolted right to the concrete, which meant they would need some additional supports to be working chairs once more. Yes, of course there were higher priced models that had supports built in. No, of course I didn’t spend more to buy something that Home Depot will easily fix. The seats were loaded into the car and I did one more pan of the arena. So much love in this place. So much passion and history soon to be committed to the Arena valhalla where the Olympia and other great venues rest. All arenas start out as just 4 walls, a roof, seats, and a rink. But this one didn’t stay that way. It became a home of Red and White. Funny enough, there really was room for everyone. I hopped into the car and began the drive home. The question that flashed across my mind presented itself once more, only this time I had an answer.
”You got good seats?”
”Nah man...I got great seats.”