BROSSARD - When Jeff Petry was back home in Detroit this past summer, he drove by Little Caesars Arena on the way to catch a Tigers game at Comerica Park.
The Red Wings' new home - which also houses the NBA's Detroit Pistons - wasn't open for business just yet, but the unique exterior design of the eight-story facility certainly caught Petry's attention.
"It's a cool looking building. I'm excited to get in there for the first time," said Petry, who will have that opportunity on Thursday night as the Canadiens take on their Atlantic Division rivals in the opener of a home-and-home set. "After playing in Joe Louis, it's going to be different walking into the new arena, but I know it's an exciting time for the city."
It definitely is - and Little Caesars Arena is at the heart of it. The rink is one of the pillars of a project called "The District Detroit," which according to its website envisions the development of "50 blocks of thriving businesses, parks, restaurants, bars and event destinations" in the downtown core.
While there is still work to be done, the 29-year-old Ann Arbor native couldn't be happier to see things steadily taking a turn for the better in his hometown.
"It's great to see that the efforts are going into it because there were times when I was growing up, and I went down to games, you'd park as close as you can to the stadium and then get out of there," recalled Petry. "Now, everything's going in there and you're going down there and making a day out of it, going to lunch before a game or dinner. It's really taken a lot of steps over the last couple of years. It's crazy how much it's changed."
That is a real source of pride for the eight-year NHL veteran, who spends his offseasons in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield with his wife, Julie, and young sons Boyd and Barrett.
"Every year, they've made improvements and there's growth. Just from leaving one summer and going back the next, there are more things that are attracting you to go down there," mentioned Petry, who has high hopes for the city's future. "I hope in my lifetime I can see it come back. You see the abandoned buildings and you immediately picture what it was. You see pictures of the streets just filled with people and how well the city was doing in the past. I hope things continue to grow and continue to get back to where they were."
There's no denying Petry's fervent support for the Motor City's revival.
"I love it. Growing up there, you say the word "Detroit" and everyone just immediately tunes you out. But, I think it has a lot of character - what the city was, what it became and what it's going to be," concluded Petry, who proudly sports a tattoo featuring an outline of the state of Michigan on his upper back. "I think you ask anybody from Michigan and they'll have pride in where they're from."