Ode to the Joe: Past, present Blackhawks remember Joe Louis Arena

Ode to the Joe: Past, present Blackhawks remember Joe Louis Arena

Troy Murray remembers those nasty days of the Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings rivalry, especially those games at Joe Louis Arena. Given the animosity between the two teams, it usually didn’t take much for emotions in those games to boil over. But one particular night at Joe Louis, Ed Belfour decided to add fuel to the fire anyway.

"A scrum happened beside the net and Eddie Belfour hit Bob Probert with his blocker, just sucker punched him, and it didn’t faze him. Then everything broke loose," Murray said. "Keith Brown and I both had Bob Probert, and I basically was on his back and Browney was in front of him. Probert just peeled me off his back and pulled me around, and had both me and Keith Brown strung out [at arm’s length] like that. Me and Browney are thinking, 'Now what do we do?’"

Thanks to the realignment, the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry is pretty much a thing of the past. By the end of this season, Joe Louis Arena will be, too.

The Joe was never the prettiest building in the league. It’s dank. There’s a smell that can only be described as a cross between disinfectant and stale beer. Their press box looks more like a bar, although considering it caters to sportswriters that may have simply been genius design. Still, there’s something special about that type of building. It’s small and intimate. Fans are right on top of the action. There’s no such thing as a bad seat – the press area included.

As coach Joel Quenneville said, "It was always a hard building to play in. The octopus was a regular visitor. Joe Louis had that feeling. It reminded me, of the smell of the place and existence, of the Old Stadium."

It’s definitely the last of a dying breed, and Blackhawks past and present will always remember it.

Eddie Olczyk’s memories of The Joe range from his own scuffle with Probert – "I just grabbed Probie by the waist and held on" – to his playoff overtime winner against the Wings when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. For Olczyk, Joe Louis is right up there with Chicago Stadium, the old Igloo in Pittsburgh and the original Boston Garden.  

"Those are places that I looked at as a kid, and then I got the great privilege to be able to play in them. But The Joe is the last one. It’s the one that still connects the past to the present, when you think of all the players," Olczyk said. "The vivid memory of going into the Joe was a feel of more than just a game. It was an event. It was a great place to play, the crowd right on top of you. I don’t want to steal a phrase from Slap Shot, but it’s old-time hockey."

For current players, it would be easy to look back at that 2013 playoff series, especially when Brent Seabrook skated over to give Jonathan Toews a penalty-box pep talk. But for most of the veteran Blackhawks, their 2009 postseason series against the Wings, who were then still the cream of the NHL crop, loomed larger.

"We had a good playoff series the first time we went to the conference final and kind of fell on our face," Toews said. "We learned a hard lesson with a team that had a lot of experience winning."

Seabrook looks back at that 2013 Toews talk as, "just a thing that happens throughout games. Not trying to do anything other than win the game." His fondest memories of Joe Louis go further back.

"I think the feelings I had, being able to watch them for so many years, what they were able to do when I was a kid was the cool part. Being able to play there my first couple of years, it was such a great team when we first got into the league and they usually kicked our butt. But there was always something about that building," Seabrook said. "It was cool to be in the league and be a part of it."

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From a hockey standpoint, we’d be remiss to mention JLA without talking about those springy end boards. There isn’t a visiting player or goaltender who’s struggled to figure those things out. Tanner Kero, who played in the Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis while he attended Michigan Tech, said it took time to get used to them.

"We’d always have one practice before the tournament started. Our coaches would always point that out, take shots from the point, see which directions they’d bounce and get a feel for it," Kero said. "The history of the Joe is pretty tremendous. Growing up, watching the Red Wings, you got a feel for all the teams that went through there. It’ll be a pretty emotional thing for the community to see that transition, but it’s a new step, a new direction."

Yes, all good things must end and all old-school arenas eventually make way for shiny new ones. The shiny new ones are big and pretty. They have more amenities, more luxury boxes. They also have less character. Joe Louis Arena isn't pretty. But for hockey fans, from its octopus to its boards to its intimate setting, it will still be one of the most memorable arenas long after it's gone.

"There are a lot of great memories and the history goes way beyond my time in the league," Toews said. "It’s cool to play in that building. And you appreciate it a little more when you’re playing your last game there and that team’s moving on."

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Predators: Jordin Tootoo provides early spark

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Predators: Jordin Tootoo provides early spark

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Blackhawks will likely welcome this break more than they did their bye week. They’re still winning, certainly, their 5-3 decision over the Nashville Predators their 12th victory in their last 13 games. But they’re banged up right now.

So four days off is looking like a beautiful thing. Coach Joel Quenneville said these four days will be used wisely.

“Some [players] will get a couple more days off than the rest,” he said. “It’ll be good for us to try and recapture, stay focused, keep pushing forward. It’s been a good stretch for us, fun, but enjoy some time off for some guys here and let’s come back energized for the last stretch. Because we’re busy.”

We’ll get back to busy later. Now, onto the notables.

What Worked: Jordin Tootoo-Cody McLeod fight. Not sure if McLeod challenged Tootoo or vice-versa, but this was a good thing nevertheless for the Blackhawks. It didn’t matter who won the fracas. Up to that point the Predators were dominating the Blackhawks with zone time and shots on goal (10-1). The Blackhawks responded post fight, outshooting the Predators 10-4 the rest of the period and getting Patrick Kane’s power-play goal for the 1-0 lead after one.

What Didn’t Work: The Blackhawks’ response after second-period goals. Tootoo gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead 11 minutes into the second period. A little more than a minute later the Predators cut that edge to one thanks to Viktor Arvidsson. The one that stung the most came in the final minute, however. Just 14 seconds after Jonathan Toews gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead, Calle Jarnkrok cut it to 3-2. The Blackhawks have responded well following their goals over the last few weeks but not so much in the second period on Saturday. 

Star of the game: We’re going with Tootoo for this one. He had the aforementioned momentum-shifting fight, drew a penalty that resulted in a Blackhawks power-play goal and scored his first of the season. Tootoo hasn’t played much this season. But against his former team, he had his best game of the season. 

He Said It: It’s looking like it’s 3-3 and you’re going to overtime, and maybe getting the extra point there and all of a sudden it’s 4-3 and they have to defend their empty net. I thought it was a great play overall that last goal. But I think just the last couple games, [it’s] just having that belief to the end, no matter what happens throughout the game, stay patient and hang in there and have that belief.” — Kane on the Blackhawks’ finding ways to win.

By the Numbers:

400 – Career points for Brent Seabrook, whose two assists on Saturday night helped him reach that milestone.

8 – Consecutive road victories for the Blackhawks, a new franchise record. Their previous seven-game road record was established Dec. 9-29, 1964.

268 – Career goals for Toews, thanks to his second-period goal. Toews is now tied with Tony Amonte for seventh all-time in Blackhawks history.

9 – Goals, in his last five games, for Kane. That includes two goals on Saturday against the Predators and hat tricks against Arizona and Pittsburgh.

Power play goes quiet: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Oilers

Power play goes quiet: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Oilers

OK, another team lost coming off the bye, the Blackhawks taking a 3-1 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. But this wasn’t a bad-off-the-bye loss. Not even close.

The overall numbers of how teams are faring out of these bye weeks won’t improve. Tampa Bay lost coming out of its bye week, too. But you wonder about the individual cases, especially when the Blackhawks did so much right and came away with nothing.

Anyway, onto the notables.

What Worked: Most of the Blackhawks’ game. Coming off that long break you wondered how long it was going to take the Blackhawks to get their legs going. Not long at all. They challenged Cam Talbot throughout the game. They had momentum through most of it. They finally got a late third-period goal. They just couldn’t get another one. Coach Joel Quenneville thought the shot selection near the net could’ve been better, and it probably could have. But the Blackhawks wanted a 60-minute effort and got it.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. The Blackhawks were getting on a roll on the road in this department, going 6-for-12 on the advantage in their last five games. But on Saturday it was quiet. They had two power-play opportunities in the first period when they were dominating the Oilers. Nada. Same went for a third-period chance, when they were trailing 1-0. The Blackhawks were starting to gain steam on the power play on the road. It fizzled in this one.

Star of the game: Cam Talbot. The Oilers goaltender didn’t have a great game when these two met last Saturday but he made up for it in this one. Talbot was sharp from the start, stopping 38 of 39 shots, and what rebounds he did give up his teammates cleaned up for him.

He Said It: “I know we have so many games left to narrow that gap. We have them coming up this week. They’re ahead right now. It’s a good hockey team and they’re playing extremely well. We’d like to give them something to think about but coming off a great run off the road and let’s go back out there and try to get it going again.” Coach Joel Quenneville on still trying to catch the Minnesota Wild, who they’ll play on Tuesday.

By the Numbers:

900 – Career regular-season games for Brent Seabrook. The defenseman also had four of the Blackhawks’ 22 hits against the Oilers.

600 – Career points for Jonathan Toews, who recorded the primary assist on Richard Panik’s third-period goal. It was Toews’ 25th assist of the season.

26 – Blocked shots for the Edmonton Oilers. Andrej Sekera had six of them.

19 – Faceoffs won, to five lost, for Toews against the Oilers.