Three years is a long time! Since the Habs haven’t faced the Wings at the Joe Louis Arena since December 2010, we wanted to make sure we soaked up as much of the atmosphere as possible during our visit to Hockeytown. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait until Friday to get a feel for hockey at the Joe, with a rivalry game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University on tap on Thursday night. With Habs prospect Mac Bennett captaining the Wolverines, Canadiens alumni Red Berenson at the helm and former Michigan forward Max Pacioretty in the stands, we decided to root for Michigan, although with Chris Chelios’ sons Dean and Jake in the lineup for State, it was a bit of a tossup.
The Wolverines and Spartans may have been playing on a bigger stage than they’re used to – Joe Louis Arena’s capacity is bigger than Yost and Munn Ice Arenas combined – but with dueling bands in the upper bowls and fans from both sides gleefully singing school fight songs throughout the game, there was definitely a college hockey atmosphere in the rink. The only thing missing was a solid tailgate party.
There’s nothing like a night of college sports. We got to watch Bennett work his magic on the penalty kill – perhaps a look at what Habs fans will see in Montreal down the road – and thanks to a late third period goal by Phil Di Giuseppe, Michigan won its 10th game in the last 11 meetings between the two teams at the Joe. That’s one win for the good guys in the books (sorry, State – we like you too); now we’ll just need one more come Friday night.