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Stanley Cup Final

Booth finally gets chance to play at Joe Louis Arena

Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 2:36 PM / NHL Insider

By Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

There will be a lot of focus on streaks and Joe Louis Arena heading into Thursday's first-place showdown between the Canucks and the Red Wings. Vancouver forward and Detroit native David Booth has both in mind, but in a much different way.

For Booth, a Detroit native who grew up watching the Red Wings and saw them clinch the 1997 Stanley Cup from ice-level seats, it will be his first game at The Joe in six NHL seasons.

"The Joe is the only arena I have never played in my career," Booth, who was 12 years old when he saw that Stanley Cup victory in person, told NHL.com. "I grew up watching the Wings with my family, even when I was in college, going to the games for the longest time. It was always special when we went down to The Joe and watched the Wings play. They have a great organization and it was great growing up with them."

That it took until career game No. 344 for Booth to experience Joe Louis Arena from the other side of the glass is a function of scheduling and bad luck – during five-plus seasons in Florida, the Panthers only visited twice and both times he got hurt shortly before the games.

That this visit finally comes with a team modeled after the Red Wings feels a bit more like fate.

The bad luck started in December 2007, when Booth hurt his knee just four days before a scheduled visit and was forced out of the lineup for eight games (he only missed nine all season). Then in October 2009, he was knocked out by the infamous Mike Richards blind-side hit less than a month before the Panthers played in Detroit.

Booth didn't become a Canuck until nine days after their first visit to his hometown on Oct. 13, and was out with another knee injury when the Red Wings visited a few days before Christmas, before finally getting to play them in Vancouver on Feb. 2. It was just the third time he'd played the team he grew up cheering, and Booth's excitement that day was tangible, but nothing compared to his thoughts of playing his first game in Detroit.

He went into the season with Florida's visit to The Joe circled on his calendar, but even that date, April 1, seemed a cruel joke. Given his luck getting there it's understandable that Booth was hesitant to talk for too long about his first visit before the Canucks left on their current six-game road trip. But he had no problem sharing his favorite memory.

"Front row for that Stanley Cup win," Booth said with wide eyes and a huge smile.

With the chance to finally make a new favorite memory in front of friends and family, don't be surprised if Booth's smile is even wider before Thursday's game.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery