For several years I broadcasted the Red Wings' pregame and postgame shows at Joe Louis Arena from a womens bathroom, which I fondly called Studio P.
It was a great location because its just outside the Wings dressing room.
Before each game began, the Wings would line up to go onto the ice and I could see and hear them through the doorway of the bathroom.
Many times players would look at me and nod or laugh because of my location. But what really stands out was how the Wings would yell encouragement to one another just before they took to the ice.
For a guy who grew up in Detroit, that was as close as I was ever going to be to fulfilling my childhood dream of playing for the Red Wings.
Joe Louis Arena holds many great memories for me. From my interactions with the players, the management and the arenas staff to my many conversations about life with Scotty Bowman. From staying on the air all night from Studio P after the Wings won the Cup in 2002, to having breakfast on the ice with Mike Babcock and a couple of fans, it truly is an endless stream of lifelong remembrances.
Even today, before the start of every Red Wings game, my Go Wings! is played in the arena to fire up the crowd.
So, it doesnt take a genius to conclude that I love the old JLA.
But, in all honesty, Joe Louis Arena is a dump.
Despite all the tireless efforts to keep the antiquated structure up to the gold standard of sports arenas (an impossible task), this eyesore on the Detroit River is close to being relieved of its duties.
Whether or not you agree with Wednesdays announcement of the planned 650 million Red Wings arena and entertainment complex, its going to happen.
You cant fight city hall, is an old adage. My cynicism seems to grow each and every day: If the powerbrokers want it, its a done deal.
Detroit needs help. We all know that and Im sure there are hundreds of better ways to use public funds. But in a pure hockey sense, the Red Wings need a new home.
Todays NHL is a hard cap league. Gone are the days when throwing around money would solve all your teams problems. Every team has the same budget and if a big-name player makes it to unrestricted free agency, well, lets just say that the recruiting process would even make the SEC blush.
Imagine being a highly sought-after free agent being shown around the fortress on the river, aka Joe Louis Arena.
Detroits workout facility is circa 1960s Jack LaLanne inspired. The wivesgirlfriendsfamily lounge is like a doctors waiting room. The ancient scoreboard is from Cobo, the new video screen is not state-of-art and the out-of-town scoreboard never worked. The suites are a hundred miles away, you have two levels that empty into one concourse and the Olympia Room resembles a prison dining hall. There isnt one window in the entire place and its located on the riverfront.
I cherish the unique charm of the Joe, but to a high-rolling free agent that has his pick of the litter, the Joe is a perfumed scrapheap.
In order for the Wings to attract top-notch free agent talent and keep their marquee players, they must play in an ultramodern arena. The landscape of todays NHL dictates that it must be so.
My only hope for Olympia II (or whatever the new place is going to be called) is that its not slapped together as an afterthought like Joe Louis Arena was.
The Joe deserved better and now is the time to make it right.